Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food: When It Comes to Olive Oil, Ignore the Labels and Follow Your Taste Buds

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food: When It Comes to Olive Oil, Ignore the Labels and Follow Your Taste Buds

Article excerpt

Many people live in a state of some confusion when it comes to olive oil. Food writers encourage us to believe that only the best--and most expensive--varieties will do, but the evidence of our taste buds doesn't always justify such preciousness. Most [pounds sterling]4 supermarket varieties seem adequate, so why bother with something more expensive? The belief that we "should" consume high-grade olive oil stems in part from our culture's idealisation of all things Mediterranean--it goes with dreaming about that second home in Tuscany. Yet the quality of olive oil consumed in Italy varies hugely.

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High-grade olive oil, it is also claimed, has significant health benefits--and here, perhaps, the foodies have a point. Olive oil classification is notoriously hazy. The tags virgin and extra-virgin (awarded on the basis of acidity) are supposed to apply only to oils produced from the first and second pressings. But, increasingly, manufacturers are finding ways to tamper with the acidity of oil so that even oils that have been extracted from later pressings can be made to qualify as virgin and extra virgin.

None the less, I don't believe one needs to be too fussy. For most purposes, modestly priced supermarket bottles are fine. The one I buy most often is made by Filippo Berio. Usually costing [pounds sterling]3.99 for a 75cl bottle, it's got quite a strong olive flavour, and is therefore good in salad dressings, where you want the oil to have some bite. …

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