The first cold-pressed, extra virgin juice of the olive
When it comes to olive oil, I have never used anything but Greek extra virgin olive oil in my cooking. From a very young age, my father had impressed upon me the notion that all other olive oils were inferior. Indeed, he would often go as far as stating outright that most other commercially available so-called “olive oils” were counterfeits. Our food shopping excursions were always illuminating in this regard. Wheeling me along in the shopping cart, he would nod at the neat stacks of canned Italian olive oils in the supermarket and mutter “vegetable oil” under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear and understand. It is almost four decades later and my father's words are reverberating in my mind as I write this posting.
Now, I am not a stranger to olive oil. Indeed, I have tickled olive tree roots, trimmed olive branches, and harvested our family’s olives to press our oil. As a result, I do have a producer’s firsthand knowledge of the subject, as well as the inquisitiveness of a dilettante with a penchant for research on the topic. Add to this the fact that my family has never purchased a single drop of olive oil from a supermarket, and I guess I can claim to be something of a private expert on the matter.
Armed with this knowledge and related experience, I feel obliged to pass along any important news pertaining to olive oil that may come to my attention. Thus, I am compelled to share that just over a week ago, on April 22nd 2008, as reported by the BBC and other news sources, a large ring of Italian "olive oil" producers -some forty individuals or so- were rounded up and arrested for creating and selling (largely for export to North America and Europe) a significant quantity of fake “olive oil”. According to the story, these enterprising folk were in the business of taking vegetable oils imported from the
I guess I was not entirely surprised when this news item broke. After all, I am my father’s son and this latest news was not the first time Italian olive oil production practices had been called into question in the mainstream media. In its August 2007 issue, New Yorker magazine published an illuminating piece on the scale of such olive oil adulteration operations in
Being curious by nature, I launched a small investigative mission of my own with respect to what sorts of “olive oils” are being sold in the macro-marketplace here in
A picture worth a thousand words...?
Though I must commend them on the honesty of their label, unfortunately Costco’s clear indication of the source(s) of their signature “Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil” does not inspire confidence in my estimation of the ultimate origin and quality of said product. But then again, that is my own personal take on the matter and after all, who am I to call into question the stated certification of the ‘Consorzio per il Controllo Prodotti Biologici’ anyway?
Now, to be clear, I am not knocking the many legitimate producers and sources of Italian olive oil. Nonetheless, the fact that Italian olive oil marketing efforts have captured the lion’s share of the world’s olive oil consumer market, and yet,
So, to wrap this up, this morning I happened to be going through the sheaf of advertising flyers that are delivered to our door along with one of our locally distributed weekly community newspapers, and I noticed something interesting indeed. It seems that suddenly there is a glut of cheap Italian “olive oils” appearing in the advertisements of the large and small supermarkets here in
And so, my fellow eaters, all I can counsel when it comes to buying olive oil is “caveat emptor” (“Buyer Beware”) as the Romans would say.
If you have any doubts, consider reaching for the Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil instead.
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
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