Our group discussed Tom Muller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. Stephanie very graciously provided us with some bread and a little bottle of olive oil, so we had a tasting to go with our discussion (thank you, Stephanie!!).
We had a pretty animated discussion, and although we occasionally veered a bit off topic (to talk about food), I’ll try to highlight some of the comments:
- We had some general discussion about the author’s writing style. One person wondered if perhaps his very descriptive writing sometimes was a distraction, but others didn’t seem to mind this as much. Another person brought up how she found that if the author was writing about someone he liked, he used very flattering descriptors; but if he didn’t like the person, then it was a lot of “beady eyes,” etc. In fact, his writing is something that a few readers said was mentioned in the New York Times review of the book – which they agreed with.
- One person did comment that while she liked the book, she felt the author was unrealistic. While she understood his passion, she didn’t feel that it was realistic to assume that all people would have access to the best olive oil (mostly due to the expense of it). We talked about how for a lot of us, a bottle of really good quality olive oil is a treat — but to buy in a larger quantity, it’s a little too expensive.
- We also had some general discussion about the various business practices the author explores in the book. As one person stated, “It’s a big business, but it sounds so dirty!” The author’s explanation of some of the business practices was very eye-opening for some of us (especially the part about the pipe bombs in the olive groves).
- Readers liked that the author wrote about areas other than Italy, and enjoyed reading about the history of various places, along with the current issues facing places like Israel and Palestine. One person stated that she found a lot of the book to be boring, but liked his writing about the ancient olive trees, and the Middle East. We talked about how the author focused on olive oil, but didn’t discuss olives (and considering there are so many types, we had thought he would at least mention them).
- There were a few comparisons made to the previous book we read, Swim by Lynn Sherr. People remarked that both books had a singular focus, and were passionately written. As one person said, “This book is like Swim, but it makes you hungry.” In response, another person said that the book also makes you question a lot — although she said she wished there were more answers.
- Overall, people found this a good read. We did agree, though, that while the author raises many questions, we wished he had provide more answers, specifically about which brands of olive oil to avoid. While we understood why he didn’t do this, we wished he had made it a little simpler. Not everyone has access, or the money, to go into specialty stores for their oil.
- One more little note: someone brought up the yagh gures wrestling …. which led to some discussion about how this should be brought back, specifically to involve people like Hugh Jackman, Jason Statham and Vin Diesel. Hey, this part of our discussion was related to the book ….. it’s just a tiny bit off topic.
We always welcome more discussion — feel free to leave a comment!