The sacred history and profane present of a substance long seen as the essence of health and civilization.
For millennia, fresh olive oil has been one of life's necessities-not just as food but also as medicine, a beauty aid, and a vital element of religious ritual. Today's researchers are continuing to confirm the remarkable, life-giving properties of true extra-virgin, and "extra-virgin Italian" has become the highest standard of quality.
E.V.O.O. just got a whole lot more complicated. Tom Mueller's Extra Virginity is about as explosive as an expose can get, at least if your subject is liquid fat. The road from tree to table, it turns out, is fraught with corruption, fraud, and laboratory interventions. Mueller shows how and why the trade in adulterated olive oil is about as profitable as the trade in some hard drugs, and with a lot less risk, too. There are equally entertaining detours into olive oil's long history, the politics of regulation and enforcement, and even debates over the best way to taste it (swirl, aerate, spit, or just swig?). All in all, it's a great read not just for foodies, but also for anyone interested in the complexities of global trade and organized crime. --Darryl Campbell