Sep 042012

At the beginning of the summer I finished reading Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, a book I began in December when it was published. I took it slowly, reading and re-reading chapters. It was a like a good meal and I wanted to savor it.

I found Extra Virginity intriguing and the treatment of the subject compelling. There was a lot going on in each chapter. I wanted to absorb and analyze as much as possible so I could better understand the world of olive oil production and trade. I’m not saying that Extra Virginity gave me all that insight, but it helped.

If you haven’t read it yet – you must.

This summer my husband, Tom, completed Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, From 9/11 to Abbottabad by CNN National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen. While Tom was reading Manhunt he sent me an email with a link to an article on CNN‘s website featuring an excerpt from the book. The excerpt catalogued some of the things Bergen saw as he walked through the bin Laden compound: Medications, Just for Men hair dye, a chicken coop, a vegetable garden, a bread oven, and “large empty cans of Sasso olive oil.”

I found the olive oil entry the most interesting, not just because it is the brand of olive oil that may have been in the digestive tract of Osama bin Laden at his time of death, or because the author bothered to mentioned it, or that some of the other “finds” when combined with olive oil would make a tasty meal, but because Sasso was also mentioned in the book I had just finished reading.

Here is some of what I know about Sasso olive oil. It is a brand sold by Deoleo, a large food company formerly known as Grupo SOS. Two of Grupo SOS’s brands Bertolli and Carapelli are prominently featured in Extra Virginity as failing chemical and taste evaluation tests. Those tests found that both brands were selling as “Extra Virgin” – olive oils which were either low-quality olive oil or not olive oil at all.

Sasso is mentioned in Extra Virginity as a brand that sold olive oil purchased in bulk from olive oil supplier Domenico Ribatti. Ribatti was identified by European authorities as the ring-leader of a large, multi-national, fake, olive oil scheme featuring hazelnut oil sold as extra virgin olive oil. Ribatti was forced out of business but the taint of olive oil corruption lingers on.

It is interesting to note that Sasso is sold in India and the location where bin Laden was found to be hiding, Abbottabad, is only 20 miles from the border of India. The courier that bin Laden employed to communicate with his cohorts, the same guy who’s slip-up led to finding bin Laden, also picked up supplies needed for the residents of the compound. To communicate with the bin Laden network the courier would turn on his cell phone once he was a good 100 miles from Abbottabad. For years this guy drove great distances in Pakistan, which isn’t very big, trying not to use his cell phone in the same place. I didn’t read the book and forgot to ask my husband if the courier crossed into India, but I would put money down that he did.

As details of the bin Laden killing come to light maybe there will be articles in the future entitled, Antioxidants in olive oil found to destroy terrorism or International killer slips-up in puddle of olive oil.

May the sun shine through your branches.