Monday, August 13, 2007

Italian food disillusionment

One of my books to read on the cruise was Heat by Bill Buford. It's a wonderful account of a former New Yorker editor's quest to learn Italian cooking, first from Mario Batali and then in Italy itself. His obsession is so great, he learns the Tuscan way of butchering. It's a wonderful read, especially to me since Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain and Top Chef have made me such a foodie.

It gave me a craving for all things Italian, especially pork and pasta. And olive oil. I had been savvily buying olive oil from Literi's, the wonderful Italian deli near our home even before reading Heat.

Well, I just finished reading an article in the New Yorker about the extra virgin olive oil ripoff going on in Italy. They import Tunisian and Turkish oil -- not even olive oil, but sometimes hazelnut and other things, and even the dregs of olive oil that's used as lantern oil -- and mix it into the olive oil, then sell it as the real deal. It's hurting small farmers in Italy because it's the big corporations pulling this stunt and choking out the little guy trying to make an honest living. The EC is trying to crack down, but not hard enough. And of course the US doesn't have the manpower to investigate and relies on trade association evaluations -- and of course, these companies are on the trade association board. Guess I'll avoid Italian and try Spanish or Greek next time.

Here Bill Buford built up my romantic views and how quickly they're demolished!

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