You wouldn’t know it from all the olive oil being poured into tiny saucers at Italian restaurants across America, but the makers of fine extra-virgin olive oil are worried. At a time when demand for their product is booming around the world and modern techniques have made it possible to bottle some of the best oils ever, the author of a fascinating new book on the subject argues that cheap, fraudulent products are making it difficult, if not impossible, for the good stuff to be profitable.
That’s because, writes Tom Mueller in Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (Norton, $26), most people don’t know what good-quality olive oil should be. Early in the book he quotes one expert, after tasting a poor-quality oil labeled extra-virgin, as saying, “This is what nearly everyone in the world thinks is extra-virgin olive oil! This stuff is putting honest oil makers out of business.”
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