In 1991, the E.U., recognizing that laboratory tests fail to expose many acts of adulteration, instituted strict taste and aroma requirements for each grade of olive oil and established tasting panels, certified by the International Olive Oil Council, an office created by the United Nations, to enforce them. According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, which include "musty," "fusty," "cucumber," and "grubby." "If there's one defect, it's not extra-virgin olive oil—-basta, end of story," Flavio Zaramella, the president of the Corporazione Mastri Oleari, in Milan, one of the most respected private olive-oil associations, told me.
--Tom Mueller, "Letter from Italy: Slippery Business" (The New Yorker, August 13, 2007)
This week's New Yorker is a treasure trove of geekiness. There's not only the surprisingly interesting story on olive-oil fraud quoted above, with the Beatrix Potteresque list of adjectives that form our title, but also a piece on a rare self-destructive disease known as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, an NYC-centric update of Aesop's Fables, and a Talk of the Town bit by none other than Oliver Sacks which I fully intend to use as justification for my bryophiliac tendencies for the foreseeable future. (Consider yourself warned.)
I love the New Yorker. And I love my parents, who give me a subscription every Christmas as a gift.
(And, yes, this makes two posts in one day! Don't get used to it.)