Only it’s not really gold. It’s electric yellow. It’s sonic green. It’s the colour of anti-freeze. Or Gatorade. Or those plastic glow-sticks used at campgrounds and night clubs. It’s now olive oil, and depending on strength of the crop and your processing of it, it’s one of several grades. You find out that by chemically testing, and if we made our imaginary olive oil in Europe, then tasting too.
And here is where things turn as murky as the vegetal water. From the time our imaginary oil leaves the tube until the time it hits a consumer’s table, there are an awful lot of shenanigans that are going to happen to it, statistically, on a scale virtually unseen in any other product. If they did this to our wine, we’d have journalists out there in minutes, police officers in hours and the place would be closed the same day. Yet, this isn’t a single producer but a massive industry. Most likely you have these products in your kitchen right now.
Chris Butler, my friend and co-host of this year’s Olive week in June, always says, ‘I couldn’t even MAKE oil for that price”, when hearing what our students pay for olive oil at large chains in Australia, Northern Europe and North America. What’s implied, are the shenanigans. Someone is cheating along the line. We’re being swindled.
On Tuesday February 12th, in our next newsletter, the final installment, we’ll discuss olive oil quality and what it should mean to you. We’ll teach you how to become a better consumer, how to spend your money more wisely. But for those that are truly passionate about their food, wine and of course, olive oil, we still have space in our class in June, held at the castle. Click here to learn more: Calendar.
Notes: Not everyone thinks that olive oil is like wine, especially Chris, who has a profound knowledge of the subject, borne from years of consulting on more continents than I could point to on a map, working with everything olive-related, from grove selection to teaching Tuscans themselves to prune their own trees. Here is his take on the similarities between wine and oil: ‘ I strenuously disagree that making olive oil can be liked to making wine and, in fact, I stress the difference in all the lectures I do. The making of olive oil is merely and totally the mechanical separation of the oil from the pulp and vegetal water and requires no other human intervention other than attempting to maintain this initial integrity through prompt and adequate storage. The oil maker works on the knowledge that enzymic degradation has begun and the oil’s future is numbered even prior to extraction.’ Our differing opinions on the metaphor of the simularlities with wine making come from the fact that we have such different audiences, his professional olive oil producers that want to improve their quality, mine, serious homecooks that are approaching the subject for the first time. By the way, not only does Chris really does know his field, but he’s also a lot of fun, forever on my short list of favourite dinner companions, as he truly loves food and wine and olive oil, on the same level that I do.