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4.2 out of 5 stars21
4.2 out of 5 stars
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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. probably isn't extra virgin oil; to get the good stuff, you have to pay a premium; olive oil is great for your health, if you get the right stuff; the color of the oil doesn't indicate quality; point of origin indicated on the label of any olive oil doesn't relate to quality; there is no single country that produces "the best olive oil".

So, although this may not be the easiest-flowing book, overall it's a fine source of information about an important and interesting food product that is a big plus to quality of life.
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on 9 February 2012
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

Narwhal

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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on 28 May 2016
An enjoyable read. The book is a bit formulaic in the current popular style of American writers (open with an anecdote about you during the research of the book; explain how the journey started; go through the history of the topic; begin the actual story) which I tend to find a bit grating. That shoudl also tell you that the book is really about the author's experience in finding about olive oil, and therefore don't expect a textbook on the subject. THis is more of a memoir. As such, there is a lot of superfluous information which is not strictly about the scandalous world of olive oil, and the book would have benefited from proper editing. Furthermore, the author perhaps paints things a little more enthusiatically than they are - for example he is always mentioning how producers are establishing oleotecas to provide straight to buyer. But try searching for oleotecas in Italy and the picture is pretty scant.

Nevertheless it's a really interesting subject and there is a lot of knowledge in the book. I have learned a lot about selecting an an olive oil from the book and really enjoyed the process of learning.
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on 3 April 2012
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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on 30 December 2015
Having started to incorporate a lot more olive oil into my diet to capitalise on the much touted health benefits I was dismayed to be told of the poor standards within the olive oil industry. This book was recommended by a friend and has been a real eye opener. Nothing is as it seems when it comes to extra virgin olive oil and to ensure that you reap the benefits you need to be very clear what you are buying and consuming. This book provides a compelling case for the use of olive oil but also the pitfalls you will encounter trying to purchase oil of sufficient quality. It also provides links and information at the end of the book which is a useful starting point once you have absorbed the information in the book.
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on 25 February 2014
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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on 30 January 2013
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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on 27 January 2014
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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on 10 May 2012
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. Don't accept wrongly labeled (or worse) oils.
Tom Mueller doesn't hide his emotions, especially when describing the passionate people he has met all over the world. Some of us may not like this; they might have preferred a facts-only book. Yet, once you have tasted real Extra Vergine olive oil ... you cannot but become a missionary.
If you are at least a bit interested in authentic Extra Vergine olive oil, then this book is a must. Take your time and read it page by page. Verify what you read on the internet or even better: in the field. I am sure Mr Mueller won't mind.
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on 7 July 2015
Great work, an education for those of us that do not know what is behind the label.
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