Food Riot Rewind: The Scandalous World of Olive Oil

This is a repost from Food Riot that I thought might be a bit apropos for our discussions here. And who doesn’t love a bit of scandalous oil? Happy Friday!


I know, right? *points to title*

I saw that on Tom Mueller’s Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and was all, “Tell me MOAR.” Because there is nothing more exciting than highly loved Mediterranean foods and a scandal. I’m imagining adventure on the high seas style. Sex with the wrong person style. Government conspiracies style.

Did it deliver to those expectations?


Did I learn a shit-ton of stuff about olive oil I never knew before?


Did it make me drink a small shot glass full of olive oil at 8 PM on a Wednesday night?

Um, yes.

Moreso, was I satisfied?


Overall, Mueller presents a really fascinating look at olive oil from its historical origins, its current production, medicinal uses, flavor characteristics, and really quite a bit more. In the book, you’ll journey to the Mediterranean where olive oil was first produced and then to Spain and, surprisingly, Australia where new techniques and methods of cultivation are being used to create the stuff.

As he promises with the title, Mueller really does delve into the seedy underground of olive oil production nowadays. Enough to make you reconsider purchasing that $7 jug of EVOO that, as he writes, is really a bit too fantastical of a price to believe its true. Enough to make you second guess that charming guy at the boutique to make sure that it really is olive oil produced in Italy (but, if you’re like me, you’ll hold yourself back before asking about the specific region).

Mueller’s love of olive oil does permeate the book, however, and as you read it, you too may begin to gain a deeper appreciation for the oil that is prized by so many.

Before reading it, I was totally all about the $7 jugs (full disclosure here). Now, I may not always buy boutique and I may not always buy organic, but I do take some time to figure out where the oil’s from and to make sure that it’s really extra virgin. I’m planning to also take a trip pretty soon to a local place in Arizona–Queen Creek Olive Mill–to get some of my own locally produced stuff.

More though, I really learned some great everyday tips in the final section “Choosing Good Oil” on how to find the best olive it, how to store it, and how quickly to use it before it goes bad.

Have you read Extra Virginity yet? Have a sudden hankering to sip on some olive oil? (I won’t judge.)

About nikki_steele

Freelance writer and editor. Creator of BookPairing blog.
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  • Savvy WorkingGal

    I saw this book on display in an olive oil store here in Milwaukee. I love the premise of the book, but in two attempts I’ve never been able to get past the first 100 pages. I have an unpublished post I started covering books I couldn’t finish. Here is what I wrote about it:

    I love reading a book that discloses a good scandal or fraud. I’ve now attempted to read this book twice, but can’t manage to get past 100 pages. It is disorganized and repetitive. I keep waiting for Mueller to provide the meat of his story and instead feel as if he’s taking me in circles.
    Though your review does make me want to pick it up again.
    BTW: After cooking with good olive oil I don’t think I can go back to the $7 jug.

    • Nikki Steele

      It is a bit dense to start out, for sure. I think the lessons learned were good and I’m glad I finished it, but there were definitely some repetition issues in the book, as well as disorganization.

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