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0.4 by Mike Lancaster
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
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Dog Days by Dave Ihlenfeld
The Exterminator's Want Ad by Bruce Sterling
Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller
Finish Line by James Ross
From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning
Home of the Brave by Allen Say
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Libyrinth by Pearl North
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My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen by Mitali Perkins
Opur's Blade by James Ross
Red Glove by Holly Black
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman
Restoring Harmony by Joëlle Anthony
Robopocalypse (audio) by Daniel H. Wilson
Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Spectra by Joanne Elder
Tall Blondes by Lynn Sherr
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
The Wayside School Collection (audio) by Louis Sachar
The Wrong House by Stephen Jacobs

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5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
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3 stars: Average
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Comments for Extra Virginity

Extra Virginity: 03/12/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller starts with the fact that not all "extra virgin" labeled olive oils actually are. From there it goes on to explore the business, history, culture and mystique of olive oil. According to the UC Davis report from July 2010, "69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin oil failed to meet the IOC/USDA sensory (organoleptic) standards for extra virgin olive oil." Living in California, where 90% of our domestic produced olive oil does pass the test, my reaction to the book is, understandably somewhat jaded.

Mueller's book when speaking of the historical aspects of olive oil is a fascinating page turner. The olive groves and olive oil has been a part of Italy all the way back to the Roman empire. He includes discussions of literary texts, like the Odyssey, where he asks why is it that the olive tree on the hill is what signals home to Homer? To that he answers with his own experience of living in Italy and learning the landscape by the olive trees.

The modern day olive oil industry, especially the family run farms, are suffering. Mueller points to two culprits who are destroying it: distributers watering down quality oil with inferior oil and California's wine industry influenced techniques to increase the harvest and yield of quality oil.

Curious about that claim, I looked at the numbers of California olive oil production. As of 2004, it accounted for less than one percent of total U.S. consumption. Most of the olive oil consumed in the United States is imported. Spain and Italy make up 75 percent of the world production. So while California is making the most of its acreage to produce oil, most of it is consumed domestically and most of that consumption stays within the state.

Extra Virginity is still worth a read for any foodies or anyone interested in a very focused piece of Italian history and culture. There are tips in the endnotes for selecting quality oils and for recognizing a quality oil.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars.

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