Extravirginity: Of Olive Oils Sacred and Profane, and the People Who Make Them

Tom Mueller

Extravirginity: Of Olive Oils Sacred and Profane, and the People Who Make Them
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Extravirginity: Of Olive Oils Sacred and Profane, and the People Who Make Them

Tom Mueller

Extravirginity is a rich, fluid and evocative account of the history and alchemy of olive oil; and how the finest artisanal oil-manufacturers - rooted in the deep south of Italy - are endangered by the international-wide corruption of the billionaire oil barons who are destroying the reputation of one of mankind’s oldest and most versatile products. 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. This book is suitable for readers of The Orchid Thief , Liquid Memory , and Gomorrha .

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