Extra Virginity is a rich, fluid and evocative account of the history and alchemy of olive oil, and of how the finest artisanal oil-manufacturers - in the deep south of Italy, around Australia, the Mediterranean, in California and beyond - are endangered by the widespread fraud of one of mankind's oldest and most versatile products.
The best oils are made by authentic artist-craftsmen, who marry centuries-old agricultural wisdom with cutting-edge extraction technology, and now produce the finest oils in history. However, these producers are being steadily driven from the market: extra-virgin olive oil is difficult and expensive to make, yet alarmingly easy to adulterate. Skilled oil criminals are flooding the market with low-cost, faux extra-virgins, reaping rich profits and undercutting honest producers, whilst authorities in Italy, the US and elsewhere turn a blind eye.
From the feisty pugliese woman of sixty struggling to keep the family business afloat to her industrialist neighbour who has allegedly grown wealthy on counterfeit oil, to Benedictine monks in Western Australia and poker-playing agriculture barons in northern California who make this ancient foodstuff in New World ways, Mueller distils the passions and life stories of oil producers, and explores the conflict, culinary vitality and cultural importance of great olive oil.
Tom Mueller lives in Liguria, Italy, with his wife and three children. Educated at Oxford and Harvard, he is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, and also writes for National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly.