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. But what if this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt? Starting with an explosive article in The New Yorker, Tom Mueller has become the world's expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud-a story of globalization, deception, and crime in the food industry from ancient times to the present, and a powerful indictment of today's lax protections against fake and even toxic food products in the United States. A rich and deliciously readable narrative, Extra Virginity is also an inspiring account of the artisanal producers, chemical analysts, chefs, and food activists who are defending the extraordinary oils that truly deserve the name "extra-virgin." 8 pages of illustrations
For centuries olive oil has been sought after in the Mediterranean world for its nutritive and culinary properties. Extracted from fruit, unlike other vegetable oils derived from seeds, olive oil has unique properties in taste, flavor and nutrition. With the advent of globalization in the recent decades, olive oil is now gaining new ground across regions and cultures around the world. However, high quality olive oil remains expensive, difficult to make and easy to adulterate.
In the days of the Roman Empire, the precious extract attained the status equivalent to the petroleum industry of today. Unfortunately, little has changed over the centuries when it comes to fraudulent practices seeking to make quick profits by marketing adulterated liquid to unsuspecting consumers. Today, the olive oil industry continues to suffer from adulteration, criminal activities, misleading marketing campaigns, and deceptive labeling tricks.
In Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller complements the historical and business perspectives on olive oil with insights into how recent technological and agricultural advances have improved the making of “liquid gold.”
Tom Mueller is a free-lance writer of non-fiction and fiction. He was educated at Oxford (DPhil, Rhodes Scholar), Harvard (BA, summa cum laude), and Alief Hastings High School in rural east Texas, home of the Fighting Bears. Tom studied classical guitar in Seville, Spain with América Martínez, a disciple of Andrés Segovia. He also worked as an associate in M&A at Goldman Sachs in their London and Frankfurt offices. He has lived or worked in 48 countries.
Tom’s first book, Extra Virginity, is a New York Times best-selling account of olive oil culture, history, and crime. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, National Geographic Magazine, New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and elsewhere, and have been included in anthologies like Best American Science Writing and Best American Travel Writing.
Tom is currently writing a non-fiction book on individuals, corporations and the law to be published in 2017 by Penguin-Random House (in their Riverhead imprint); and completing Subterranea, an historical novel and archaeological thriller set in the physical and psychic strata of Rome. He lives with my family in a small village in northwest Italy, near the French border.
"Mueller builds a convincing case for olive oil as one of the most miraculous and versatile substances in all of nature … Passionately written yet clear-headed."
"Skillfully blending international courtroom drama with the rich history of one of the first commodities.... Fans of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Peter Singer and Jim Mason’s The Way We Eat will find Mueller’s indictment of a slippery trade enlightening and entertaining."
"Mueller reveals the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and teaches readers how to sniff out the good stuff."