Grateful for “Extra Virginity” by Tom Mueller
As we read “Extra Virginity” by Tom Mueller, we are relieved that Jo carries her own bottle of oil with her at all times. We are grateful for the growers dedicated to quality olive oil.
If you haven’t heard or read about the book already (at our December event with Micaela Alfonsi, everyone was talking about Mueller’s interview the day before on WBUR’s “OnPoint“), “Extra Virginity” relates the story of olive oil from a historic, cultural and business perspective. From a food fraud perspective, it is truly frightening. From a food lover’s perspective, it gives my drizzle new appreciation.
The fact of the matter: some olive oil producers will mix who knows what in “extra virgin olive oil.” There’s been sporadic media attention to this reality over the years. Government consumer and food protection agencies realize this, but have little power and resources to grapple the issue. Most consumers do not realize the extent of the olive oil dilution problem.
Salt and pepper, oil and vinegar: nearly every Italian displays these condiments on their table (We offer some lovely sets in the Bella Frutta and the Limoni patterns). It’s a standard! The quality of those essential seasonings should not keep us up at night. Goodness, can’t we take some things for granted? Throughout “Extra Virginity,” Mueller or his interviewees frequently use the word “Caveat Emptor” the Latin phrase for “let the buyer beware.”
Thankfully, there are many olive oil producers who are committed to quality. They take the utmost care in harvesting, processing and bottling the oil.
Iolanda Griego of Frascati took pity on me in the mid-90s, a freshly transplanted resident of the Castelli Romani. “Oil is the essence of your home now,” she declared. None of that supermarket stuff, except to polish your furniture, protect your silver and wood utensils or to drizzle a concoction of oil mixed with coffee grounds around the corners of the house to repel ants. Whenever she visited her native town in Campania, she’d return with a 5 liter wine jug filled with olive oil. I obediently hid it in the cupboard of the coolest room in the house, refilling the servers used in the kitchen as needed.
“Don’t keep it in the kitchen. It changes flavor more quickly.” Ideally, I would have kept it in a large ceramic or terra cotta jug to further protect it from temperature fluctuations, but that was before my days with Giardini di Sole. Thanks to Iolanda, I’ve been careful about my oil for a long time.
Whenever we travel with Jo, her personal bottle benefits us all! There are restaurants where she doesn’t need to discreetly pass the bottle around the table, but “Caveat Emptor,” right? Last week, when Lisa stopped by the showroom, she had the brilliant idea of using a flask. Now that’s an idea…
We’re pleased to offer wonderful olive oils from Quattrociocchi, Tenuta Colle Maria and Casale Sonnino, as well as beautiful ways to serve and store this oil. Stop by the showroom on Saturday, January 28 from 1 to 5 pm to taste them all.