Book Review: Extra Virginity

I was chatting to my neighbour once, telling him about the oil mill which I am making, and explaining my plans to market my olive goods as a single estate product. I started explaining how my oil, by virtue of a rapid from-picking-to-press process, would differ from the rest. He explained with an outburst there are only two types of olive oil: good and bad. All this hype about virgin and extra virgin, and the other categories which they periodically introduce: all constitute lies and deception. Now, we are all aware that there is nearly always some element of deceit in advertising, and many councils and institutions are set up simply to promote trade. I did a little digging and came across Mr. Tom Mueller. He has written a really good book about the olive oil industry called ‘Extra Virginity’. It is obvious Tom has thrown himself into his research, and he really does deserve credit for his exposé. I was compelled to write to him through his Truth in Olive Oil website. Here is a copy of the letter:

Dear Mr. Mueller,
Earlier this year I read Extra Virginity. Your book is an education, and you deserve recognition for your bravery in exposing marketing deceit. I would recommend the read to anyone as an eye opener into just how meaningless a label on a food container can be, and indeed, how ignorant we are when it comes to malpractice within the food industry. What I find particularly noteworthy is the way the farmers you met in the course of writing the book buy into the hype: they seem to revel in the olive oil romance. Farmers I know seem to be down-to-earth, cynical, and conspiracy theorist, so those you interview somewhat surprise me. I am an olive farmer, of sorts, and my experience is that farmers concentrate more on their operations and keeping up with nature, than trying to convince themselves or their immediate families that olive oil is some precious gift of which they have a sacred duty to produce its raw material. As an exponent of raw and whole foods, and guided by the maxim ‘too much of a good thing is bad for you’ I consider liquefied olive oil itself to constitute fraud.

Any concentrate or preserved foodstuff coming via an industrialized process undoubtedly introduces some element of deceit into the food chain. This could be monetary, in health, or by depriving a citizen of employment, the list goes on. I have one particular problem with your book, and I think it demonstrates my point. You may just put it down to semantics, but I cannot grasp your concept of eating olive oil. Simple fact we don’t eat liquids aside, the oil contains no fibre or bulk by which it may be identified as a complete foodstuff. I thought about whether we eat butter: if we do we never really consume it in large amounts like, say, potatoes. Generally we apply olive oil as a condiment, along with something which we do recognize as being able to be eaten.

But on the other hand neither can I consider that one drinks olive oil. Try drinking the stuff and you’ll soon realize that your body will only absorb so much of it, and leave the rest to pass through you, in quite an uncomfortable manner. There is something not right – bodywise – about overgenerous amounts of oil in one’s diet.

You could have used the continental form take, but then you would not convey the message I think you were trying to: that the oil is a whole food. I have found many proclamations that it isn’t. Indeed, there are some scientists warning that liquefied oil is bad for you in the same way as is refined sugar.

I do believe oil of olives is good for you. I have observed a detergent quality in liquefied olive oil when applied to the skin, far more potent than sunflower oil. I dare say olive oil has a similar surfactant property when inside the body too. However, I believe the oil should only be consumed as part of the whole olive. By eating the whole olive your oil intake is always moderated, and easily integrated into a balanced diet. Obviously, I’m not referring to eating jarred olives preserved in brine etc. Nutritionally, they are seriously degraded, virtually void of straight oil, and rather high in sodium content. Neither do I refer to simply picking them from the tree and eating them, for that is quite a challenge. I’m talking about the raw, dehydrated type which are practically unprocessed by human intervention. I’m sure during your travels you have come across these. They are palatable, tasty in a phenolic and resinous way, and quite oily. I call them ‘tree olives’. I have spent years in discovery, and finally, after much experimentation, I have learnt how to produce them myself. I market them through my own enterprise Olia Borruix. I’m selling them directly to persons wishing to include them in their diet, and there are no middle agents in my operation.

Practically unprocessed by human intervention, and with no middle-man in the sales operation, this truly is fraud free olive oil.

Johnny Fitzsimmons

 

Have you heard of ‘tree olives’?

When you say ‘olives’ most everybody conjours up sensory perceptions of the salty processed sort you see in jars, plastic sachets, tins etc. That edible olives also come raw, shriveled up, and unadulterated is much lesser known. In putting this website together I’ve come to realize this is problem. By way of simple analogy: if I wanted to market dehydrated grapes I would simply call them raisins, which is what you would search for if you wanted dried up shriveled grapes. Catch my drift?

Borruix dehydrated olives are crying out to be shared, and in need of a familiar term – something which might one day become ‘household’, so to speak.  There seems to be no short noun to distinguish our tasty olives from those bland and tasteless commercially processed type. Borruix olives are neither tree-ripened, at least not in any extraordinary sense, nor sun-dried. ‘Dry-cured’ accords to my logic. However, this term describes layering olives and salt alternately – and this is not what we do –  far from it. ‘Date olives’ isn’t bad. No doubt this term was inspired by the shriveled up resemblance dehydrated olives have to dates. The Peruvian ‘Botija’ type come from a single family owned estate. I understand the family apply a 400 year old secret curing method. Perhaps here at Olia Borruix we have discovered the same technique. Even if we have, it would be quite misleading to market our produce under this geographical banner. Borruix olives are self-cured through their own biology, so we could call them bio-cured olives. Err, that’s a little too scientific.  ‘Olia Borruix’ was conceived primarily to convey the message that our olives are produced and marketed as a single estate product. I strive to perfect the curing process. Constantly experimenting, in order to produce the sweetest olives. When mastered, perhaps ‘Borruix olives’ will mean something to the larger world.

I was disappointed when I learnt ‘raisins’ is Latin derived and simply the French way of saying ‘grapes’. I was hoping the term had a far more interesting origin which might inspire me. Alas not.

. …………………(some time later).

I have found a term which I feel is well suited. Nobody helped me – it’s my own doing. I submit this (drum roll please): ‘tree olives’. That’s ‘tree olives’, as opposed to ‘nutrient reduced factory olives dubiously processed in order to taste nice’. Tree olives. I’m going to say it again because after a day of pondering it still sounds good: tree olives, the new name for natural raw olives.

Johnny Fitzsimmons

14th November 2014

Hi, we are tree olives ! We came from a tree - not a factory.

Hi, we are tree olives ! We came from a tree – not a factory.

 

Azada – The Mother of Spain

using one of these gives you an excellent workout. I wear glaziers gloves to reduce the grip required. This enables me to plough away for hours at a time. 30 seconds on, then 45 resting

using one of these gives you an excellent workout. I wear glaziers gloves to reduce the grip required. This enables me to plough away for hours at a time. 30 seconds on, then 45 resting – 30 – 45 …

Do not underestimate the power and versatility of this machine. A tractor does untold damage to the structure of the soil, and it’s underground biology systems. I swear by this implement. They come in several styles, depending on your task, but I generally rely on just two types. Regular sharpening ensures relative ease of use.

I met my farmer neighbour, Vincent, in a bar one night: “I hear you are doing your finca the old fashion way – that azada’ll kill you, you know?” “Thanks for the warning amigo. Hang on – your the one who introduced me to the damned thing in the first place.”