Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

4.5 14
by Tom Mueller
     
 

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The sacred history and profane present of a substance long seen as the essence of health and civilization.See more details below

Overview

The sacred history and profane present of a substance long seen as the essence of health and civilization.

Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner - New York Times
“Mueller reveals the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and teaches readers how to sniff out the good stuff.”
New York Times - Dwight Garner
“Mueller reveals the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and teaches readers how to sniff out the good stuff.”
Time Magazines Literary Supplement
“Tom Mueller is, in turn, chemist, explorer, scholar and bard, infusing the narrative with a sense of wonder.”
Columbus Dispatch
“The New Yorker writer does for his subject what Susan Orlean did for orchids.”
Hollywood Reporter
“... [Extra-Virginity] does for olive oil what Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation did for hamburgers. Mueller traces the history of this valuable product from antiquity to the present, but the really disturbing part is his expose of the inferior quality control and outright fraud among today’s’ oil producers.”
New York Times
“Mueller reveals the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and teaches readers how to sniff out the good stuff.”— Dwight Garner
USA Today
“Mueller builds a convincing case for olive oil as one of the most miraculous and versatile substances in all of nature. . . . Passionately written yet clear-headed.”
Times Literary Supplement
“Tom Mueller is, in turn, chemist, explorer, scholar and bard, infusing the narrative with a sense of wonder.”
Wall Street Journal
“Extra Virginity may make you reconsider the extra you’re paying for ‘extra.’”
Publishers Weekly
Italy resident Mueller, who wrote a piece on olive oil for the New Yorker, is well-situated to interpose olive oil against the Byzantine ways of its present-day production in this intriguing and sumptuously researched book. He begins in southern Puglia at a small, family-run olive oil business, then examines the vastness of Italian farming and olive production and the ongoing struggle for quality oil making. His history takes readers through Europe and eventually around to California and Australia. The book’s organizing conflict centers on current imbalances between trade quality and quantity, and the problematic roles of politics, government, and regulation. Mueller includes specialists in his book from a variety of disciplines, including archeology, classics, and epidemiology. Interspersed historical material follows the oil’s thread out of Mediterranean antiquity through subsequent civilizations and imperiums, into the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Mechanization during the Industrial Revolution, Mueller points out in this engaging story, accelerated production and consumption, but now the industry is plagued by questionable developments that are fortunately offset by the growing artisanal trade. (Dec.)
Bill Buford
“How long have readers been waiting for a book like this? A century? A millennium? Finally, the earth's most poetic food has found its storyteller. Essential, smart, and ridiculously overdue.”
From the Publisher
A Best History, Current Events, Contemporary Issues Audiobook of 2012. "[Narrator] Peter Ganim narrates with appropriate surprise, occasional outrage, and always energy and excitement. His excellent Italian and his deep base voice suit the text. His voicing of the many personalities Mueller interviews and even his reading of the glossary at the end are most entertaining...a must listen..." - SoundCommentary
"[Ganim's] voice lavishes the descriptions of beautiful landscapes of olive groves and delicious olive-oil-infused cuisine with audible love. He gives studied accents to the global range of olive oil producers, farmers, professors, and wholesalers, according to their country of origin." - AudioFile Magazine
Starred review. "Engrossing history, vivid contemporary reporting, and a cogent call to action, expertly blended in an illuminating text." - Kirkus Reviews
3 out of 4 stars. "Mueller builds a convincing case...gives readers the tools to find honestly and lovingly produced product." - USA Today
"...engaging story..." - Publishers Weekly
"Extra Virginity promises a journey into the 'sublime and scandalous world of olive oil' and delivers on that promise. Readers of this book will never again look at olive oil in the same way." - New York Journal of Books
"a sparkling, stylish, sharply observed narrative that entertains and educates." - The Dallas Morning News
"Extra-virgin olive oil is glorious, complex and slippery...that's bountifully clear in Tom Mueller's expansive, fascinating exploration...Mueller manages to fuse the poetry and business of olives into a riveting tale that also sheds light on food politics more broadly. The growing legion of olive oil aficionados are destined to adore it, especially the useful index telling them how and where to buy." - Macleans
"How long have readers been waiting for a book like this? A century? A millennium? Finally, the earth's most poetic food has found its storyteller. Essential, smart, and ridiculously overdue." - Bill Buford, author of Heat
Library Journal
Mueller, a freelance writer based in Italy, expands on his 2007 New Yorker article, "Slippery Business: The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil," with this in-depth look at the world of olive oil production. Skillfully blending international courtroom drama with the rich history of one of the first commodities, Mueller explains that despite its almost universal status as a symbol of peace and prosperity, olive oil has been a magnet for fraud and corruption since antiquity. While the earliest record of oil tampering dates back to 5000-year-old cuneiform tablets, the Romans devised a system that helped curtail such behavior; bottles known as amphorae were stamped or inscribed with notes at each stop on their way to the consumer. Mueller would say that such a system would be a good starting point in today's olive oil trade, where the words "Made in Italy" carry almost no assurance that anything other than the label is from that country. VERDICT Fans of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Way We Eat will find Mueller's indictment of a slippery trade enlightening and entertaining.—Rosemarie Lewis, Georgetown Cty. Lib., SC
Kirkus Reviews
Expanding on his New Yorker article exposing fraud in the olive oil industry, Mueller considers the trade's past, present, and future. The author opens with an olive oil tasting, where experts identify the flavors and fragrances that distinguish high-quality oil from lampante, which can legally be sold only for fuel--except that lax enforcement by the EU has led to an epidemic of oil labeled extra virgin and/or "100 percent Italian" when in fact it is a blend of cheaper oils from other countries. In addition to the slippery (but often surprisingly engaging) rascals whose shenanigans Mueller investigated in the original article, the author visits conscientious cultivators striving to elevate standards with a combination of time-honored techniques and cutting-edge technology. Among them are the De Carlos in Puglia, historic center of Italian olive oil production; the Vaño family in Jaén, trying to improve the generally low quality of Spanish oil; and Gordon Smyth of the New Norcia monastery near Perth, innovative preserver of a tradition established by the Spanish monks who brought olive trees to Australia in 1846. Mueller consults with chemists and government officials on two continents to examine why extra virgin olive oil is so healthful and why attempts to control its adulteration have been so ineffectual. (Short answer: corruption in Italy; indifferent FDA in America.) He intersperses aromatic vignettes from the history of olive oil, which in centuries past adorned the bodies of Greek athletes, burned in lamps in Christian churches, served as a folk remedy for a plethora of ailments and set the civilized Romans apart from those barbarians who favored meat, beer and animal fat over bread, wine and oil. So, "[a]re we witnessing a renaissance in oil, or the death of an industry?" The answer is still uncertain, but lovers of fine food and fine prose will relish Mueller's exploration of the storied byways and modern sanctuaries of the olive, related with supple elegance. Engrossing history, vivid contemporary reporting and a cogent call to action, expertly blended in an illuminating text.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393343618
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/08/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
202,979
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
A Best History, Current Events, Contemporary Issues Audiobook of 2012. "[Narrator] Peter Ganim narrates with appropriate surprise, occasional outrage, and always energy and excitement. His excellent Italian and his deep base voice suit the text. His voicing of the many personalities Mueller interviews and even his reading of the glossary at the end are most entertaining...a must listen..." - SoundCommentary
"[Ganim's] voice lavishes the descriptions of beautiful landscapes of olive groves and delicious olive-oil-infused cuisine with audible love. He gives studied accents to the global range of olive oil producers, farmers, professors, and wholesalers, according to their country of origin." - AudioFile Magazine Starred review. "Engrossing history, vivid contemporary reporting, and a cogent call to action, expertly blended in an illuminating text." - Kirkus Reviews
3 out of 4 stars. "Mueller builds a convincing case...gives readers the tools to find honestly and lovingly produced product." - USA Today
"...engaging story..." - Publishers Weekly
"Extra Virginity promises a journey into the 'sublime and scandalous world of olive oil' and delivers on that promise. Readers of this book will never again look at olive oil in the same way." - New York Journal of Books
"a sparkling, stylish, sharply observed narrative that entertains and educates." - The Dallas Morning News
"Extra-virgin olive oil is glorious, complex and slippery...that's bountifully clear in Tom Mueller's expansive, fascinating exploration...Mueller manages to fuse the poetry and business of olives into a riveting tale that also sheds light on food politics more broadly. The growing legion of olive oil aficionados are destined to adore it, especially the useful index telling them how and where to buy." - Macleans
"How long have readers been waiting for a book like this? A century? A millennium? Finally, the earth's most poetic food has found its storyteller. Essential, smart, and ridiculously overdue." - Bill Buford, author of Heat

Read More

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