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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil [Hardcover]

Tom Mueller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 2012
The best Italian extra-virgins are made by authentic artist-craftsmen, who combine traditional farm wisdom and cutting-edge extraction technology to produce the finest oils in history. Despite the unprecedented quality and popularity of their oils, however, top Italian producers are being steadily driven from the market by fraud. Extra-virgin olive oil is difficult and expensive to make, yet alarmingly easy to adulterate with inferior grades of olive oil, cheap seed and nut oils, or worse. Skilled oil criminals are flooding the market with low-cost, faux extra-virgins, reaping rich profits and undercutting honest producers. Yet the Italian government does little to fight this corruption. Extravirginity introduces olive oil's saints and sinners, whose conflicts, over the next decade, will determine the fate of quality olive oil worldwide: a feisty pugliese woman of sixty struggling to keep the family business afloat; her mafiosa neighbour who has grown wealthy on adulterated oil; a terminally-ill manager from Milan who is dedicating his last years to preserving high-quality olive oil; and a Catholic priest in Sicily who harvests olives and makes oil on lands confiscated from Cosa Nostra, despite regular death-threats. Extravirginity is rich with classical allusion, with the integral cultural significance of olive oil, and the passion of those who produce it.

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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil + The Little Book of Olive Oil Tips + Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848870043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848870048
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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'Eye-opening, a brilliantly researched expose of the industry' --Sunday Times

'This fascinating investigation shows there's no trade more slippery than olive oil' --Observer

'Mueller has a gift for balance, celebrating olive oil and inspiring the consumer to be more oil-aware' --The Times

'Admirable and enjoyable... The author's revelation of olive-oil crime is alarming' --Irish Times

`Mueller writes about olive oil with passion and style, and offers many surprises. Who would have thought that the world of olive oil could be so full of intrigue and crime?'
--Literary Review

About the Author

Tom Mueller lives in Liguria, Italy with his wife and three children. Educated at Oxford and Harvard, he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, and also writes for National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loving an endangered species i 22 Jan 2012
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
An interview with author Tom Mueller on NPR's "Splendid Table" program led me to buy the book. Mueller is just as passionate in person about his subject--great olive oil--as he is in his writing. He is equally strong in chronicling his outrage over what the greed of producers and distributors is doing to undermine the quality of the product. All of this is laid out at length in "Extra Virginity". And it is the extensive investigatory reporting on the greed and criminality that makes the book drag considerably. Still, it does make his warnings and buying counsel to consumers of olive oil the more convincing, even if it makes the book more difficult to read.

What I (gratefully) did get from this book were some great sources to find authentic extra virgin olive oil and a persuasive argument that quality in the product does matter for culinary and health reasons. These are two good reasons to buy Mueller's book. And here's a tip to perspective readers who might, like me, tire of the long passages about Italian oil criminality or semi-cryptic descriptions of olive oil's chemical makeup: you can skip to page 221 of the book where begins Mueller's detailed Appendix, and where you will find all of the information you need to locate, buy and appreciate authentic extra virgin olive oil of any origin. It includes what to avoid as well as how and when to purchase. I have used the information and bought my first Mueller-recommended oil--a Spanish label, Castillo de Canena, that is every good thing that Mueller promised it would be, including crushingly expensive.

Finally, here are few things that I learned from this book: most extra virgin olive oil sold in the U.S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extra star 9 Feb 2012
By Narwhal
I agree with the view and analysis of the first reviewer of this book .. it is at times turgid in its detail and unstructured. However the message regarding the historic abuse of olive oil, as exemplified by the current misuse of the "extra virgin" tag, is of such importance that I am happy to give Tom Mueller's book a 5 star rating. Perhaps a difficult read at times but an excellent reference book to anyone who cares what's inside a bottle of olive oil


PS having tasted `Castillo de Canena' served through Paolo Pasquali's `oliveTolive' dispenser (mentioned in the book) I can also agree on the first reviewer's opinion of that excellent oil
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Extra Virginity - the people but not the product 3 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I should have heeded the warning from Washington Blue - this book is long on people but rather short on the product - Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The author himself admits this to an extent in his acknowledgements - "Extra Virginity is as much about the people...., as about the oil iteself". If you're for descriptions of 'barrel chested' people with 'eyes that see right into your soul' then fine but its not for me. Another flaw from my point of view is that the closest the book comes to definitive purchasing advice is based primarily on Californian experience, despite the author being resident in Italy. The book, on occasions is rather repetitive down to the level of the phrases used to describe particular situations. Like Washinton Blue I have some hopes for the appendix on 'choosing a good oil' especially for its provision of a largish number of web sites. Whether a search engine would have proved just as useful I haven't yet had time to tell (as I was reading the book).
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5.0 out of 5 stars A journey to a Virgin Sensory Land 25 Feb 2014
By Felipe
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of travelling around Europe and experiencing for myself some of the charms of the unknown world of olive oil.

Tom Mueller has the exceptional ability to convey thoughts with musical beauty. This book not only takes you through a journey through virgin sensory experiences, sometimes delightful and other times infuriating, it also succinctly narrates with an emotional appeal what a man on a personal crusade was able to uncover.

A must read for anyone even mildly interested in Food, Business and Health. A word of warning: after reading this book, you are likely to never buy an ordinary bottle of olive oil ever again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and infectious book. 27 Jan 2014
By P. Ward
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A good read and it is dangerous in that it takes whatever small interest you had in olive oil and magnifies it into a passion. One of the few books I have strongly recommended to others. Never mind the bit were I start quizzing traders about the provenance and taste of their oil.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read! 21 April 2013
By BJack
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is so well written and such a revelation that has made me more careful about the olive oil I buy. A real eye opener.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
If you have ever bought a bottle of olive oil from the supermarket thinking, "Great, I'm going to start using olive oil because it's good for me", then read this, and get ready for a shock. Because, whilst it's true that olive oil is extremely good for you, the reality is that 99% of the so-called "extra Virgin olive oil" sold is anything but. It's made from inferior quality oils, doctored in the labs and in refineries and made to look at taste like the real thing to the untrained palate/eye. In fact, these oils have none of the health benefits of real olive oil, and yet, that is why you paid 5 times more than ordinary vegetable oil.

So where does all the extra money go? Into the pockets of crooks, who are amassing vast fortunes from these frauds, and with money comes power, political connections, and protection at the highest level of the Italian government.

It's scary! Read the book. This is no conspiracy theory.

How to I know for sure? Because I live in Tuscany, and have spoken to one of the guys who runs one the huge plants that buy cheap nasty oil from N.Africa and sell it back to you at vastly inflated prices with the label "Made in Italy" on it. It is ALL true.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Extra Virginity a long winded wind up
This author is obviously passionate about his subject, so much so that the endless stories of oil snuffling and people coughing and crying from the peppery quality oils, peppers... Read more
Published 13 months ago by A. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
As a buyer and consumer of olive oil I found this book quite interesting although not quite as 'scandalous' as the title would have you believe! Read more
Published 14 months ago by traveller
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read
For a person that starts its olive oil journey, this book is an eye opener. It certainly compels me to conduct my own research of course and it provides the pathway to do so. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Salgeorge
4.0 out of 5 stars A good buy.
A well researched,well written and informative book The only reservation to my mind is that the printing is a bit small in the paperback edition anyway! A good buy!
Published 17 months ago by Mr. Philip Blythin
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing - Frigthening
This book is a genuine call for action. Action against worldwide fraud and for traceable quality.
Action by the consumers: get to know the real stuff. Read more
Published on 10 May 2012 by Geert_at_Herakles.it
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove
This book touches on a myriad of subjects surrounding the history of olive oil, its qualities and its uses. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by Chris Mercer
5.0 out of 5 stars extra virgin
a very good book which extends are knowledge of what to and what not to do with it. good value for money
Published on 9 Mar 2012 by Mr. D. Hinds
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