Extra Virgin Suicides is an interactive graphic from the New York Times about the global business of counterfeit olive oil. The NYT graphic is pretty slick, too.
"We're encouraged, foodwise, to pay attention to contrast and balance: a little bit of salt to balance out intense sweetness, a little bit of acid to balance out a lot of rich fat, a bleach-haired goober with sunglasses on the back of his head hustling Donkey Sauce-drowned garbage-food on two different cable channels every nine minutes to balance out any confidence you had that success in life accrues to the deserving, and so on." Deadspin d/b/a Foodspin teaches us that sometimes too much is just enough.
A lack of federal rules has made the nation the dumping ground for cheap, adulterated and even dangerous oils. With many consumers in the U.S. becoming ill after consuming "olive oil", the USDA is finally moving to create standards defining what is "virgin olive oil". These are supposed to come out in the fall. Except 'the new rules are voluntary — not mandatory — so the prospect of more slick shenanigans continues'. Meanwhile, the FDA 'which oversees most food-label accuracy issues, said the agency does not regularly test olive oils for adulteration, and that it relies on tips about problems from the public, trade groups and others'. [more inside]
Caltech students spent Friday, Nov. 2, harvesting olives; the 130 olive trees on campus are expected to yield 100-200 gallons. The idea was born last October when biology major Ricky Jones and physics major Dvin Adalian were observed picking the fruit by university president Jean-Lou Chameau--who promised "he would prepare them a home-cooked meal if they could figure out how to turn the olives into olive oil. They met the challenge using blenders, concrete blocks, window screens and a centrifuge." [more inside]
In the past, various possible treatments and methods have been suspected of helping combat AIDS, which have later been proven correct. Other, less reputable treatments have also been claimed to work, the likes of which descend towards malpractice, pseudoscience and criminal negligence. But in a turnabout, the olive oil element of South Africa's controversial treatment, deemed to be "Africa's Solution", actually helps as well.
Is Salt The New Olive Oil? The New York Times [registration required] thinks so and Peter Hertzmann, on his superb a la carte website, offers an expert analysis of the difficulties of seasoning well. Even the greatest chefs feel insecure with salt, even though most of them would consider it to be, by far, the most important ingredient of all. At least those I've asked. [I always ask them what 3 ingredients they couldn't do without]. It's cheap; it's essential and there are now so many kinds to choose from. Will this current brouhaha be enough to convince the larger population that much is lost in using only the industrial, refined stuff? [Of course, for someone from Southern Europe, olive oil and good sea salt aren't exactly new, so take this with a grain of you know what.]