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Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is a staple of the Italian diet and once you try authentic olive oil you will understand why. This is not the flavorless oil you buy at the grocery store, but authentic olive oil has a strong flavor, like one with a grassy taste with slight peppery finish, that compliments any salad or dish. The key to a healthy diet is not that it is necessarily low fat, but what is more important is the type of fat. Extra virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy fat unlike trans-fat and polyunsaturated fats. By switching to using olive oil it can lead to weight loss, especially belly fats. It can also help to reduce bad cholesterol and is packed full fiber which keeps you full. It is also linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and helps keep your heart healthy[1]. This is one of the many reasons the Mediterranean diet is so highly regarded as being one of the healthiest diets. By purchasing authentic extra virgin olive oil you are ensuring that you receive all the nutrients and antioxidants found in the oil.

After touring Rome my family and I traveled to Abruzzo where we stayed at a culinary school resort to learn about authentic Italian cooking and the processes by which the ingredients are made. On one of our first days there we were told we would be touring an olive oil factory. I watched a lot of cooking shows growing up and especially loved the ones where it was shown how products were made; so based on that I envisioned a huge plant with automated equipment and loud noises filling the air. What I didn’t expect was row after row of olive trees were on our left with a building on the right with a small storefront. Olives can only be processed for a short time after harvesting and up until that time there is a lot to do to care for them. Instead of using machines that would harm the tree when it came time to harvest, nets would be put around the tree and the olives would be handpicked. This would ensure only the olives that were ready to be harvested would be picked and the others could be given more time to mature. This allows for the purest and best tasting oil to be produced.  What I found the most interesting is that after they pressed all their olives locals would line up with the olives they grew on their own property to run through for a small fee. I never had thought that people would grow their own olives just to make oil.

After a tour of the facilities they said we were going to taste the oils. My brother and I expected maybe bread or pasta with different oils, but the man gave us little plastic cups with about a teaspoon of oil in them. We stared at him as he showed us how to properly taste oils. He then proceeded to have us taste the various oils. We thought it would be gross drinking oil as we imagined it to taste like the stuff we buy at the store, but were surprised to taste a grassy, almost peppery oil. I was shocked at that what I was tasting was what the stuff we buy at home claimed to be. There is no comparison in my mind.

Working at Santisi I have learned more about the olive oil manufacturing process and the fraud that takes place in the olive oil world. As someone who loves food I was upset that products can be passed off as extra virgin olive oil in America when in fact they are a blended product of many oils. Before traveling to Italy I had no idea that what I was using in my dishes was not truly extra virgin olive oil and I was missing out not only the health benefits provided by extra virgin olive oil, but also all the flavor imparted by the true product.

 

 

[1] “The 6 Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs).” All Body Ecology Articles The 6 Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats MUFAs Comments. N.p., 20 Aug. 2008. Web. 08 June 2016.