Jan 302014
 
As soon as I finish ironing this shirt I think I'll slip into the washing machine. Won't that be fun?

As soon as I finish ironing this shirt I think I’ll slip into the washing machine. Won’t that be fun?

I just loaded up the washing machine and remembered an article a friend sent me recently. It’s about a 20-year-old Australian fellow who wedged his nude body into his top-loader hoping to pop out and surprise his significant other. Chuckle!

There were surprises in store for him and all. He got stuck and the emergency services had to use his best olive oil to get him out. Tee hee!

Here is the story written by the Associated Press and found on Yahoo News: Olive oil frees naked man stuck in washing machine. Giggle!

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Jan 292014
 
I hope I get a good grade cuz I want to wear this great hat.

I hope I get a good grade cuz I want to wear this great hat.

Ever since returning from San Francisco where I attended the Italian National Olive Oil Tasting School (O.N.A.O.O.) mini-class I’ve been looking into different published sources on sensory and chemical evaluation of olive oil. Articles are abundant, but I’ve never before stumbled upon a U.S. student paper on the subject (more on the paper in a few paragraphs).

Olive oil quality and the health benefits of olive oil are definitely top issues these days. Not only do professionals disagree on many aspects surrounding what determines quality and health value, but the testing of quality and content are major battlegrounds. This lack of agreement and coordination, which is due to territoriality and money-making, causes confusion in the general population. Most certainly the losers in all this are the consumers of olive oil since they are being bombarded with a plethora of inaccurate, biased and sensational information ranging from ‘what constitutes extra virgin olive oil’ to ‘the higher the phenolic content the better the olive oil.’

A great example of the quality-confusion messaging comes from the New York Times in a slideshow entitled “Extra Virgin Suicide.” While the infographics are kind of cool they are also dangerously simplistic, using inaccurate and incorrect data to support the activities depicted in the final few slides.

Yes, some olive oil is adulterated (mixed with non-olive oils). Yes, olive oil from other countries is milled and then bottled in Italy. Yes, some extra virgin olive oils are mixed with inferior olive oils. No, the Italian police do not regularly raid refineries. No, the price of olive oil has little to do with any of the actions described in the slides, but is part of a complicated bigger picture.

There IS a problem with quality but there is a worse problem with correctly educating consumers and the general public. Why? Because you get the paper below, an example of what will pass into the world of publications to be found on the internet as facts regarding the health benefits of phenolic compounds in olive oil.

Yes, the phenols found in virgin olive oils provide health benefits in humans, but the only strong evidence involves eating unrefined olive oil in combination with certain foods, hence The Mediterranean Diet. The evidence that higher concentrations of phenolic compounds in olive oil are better for people does not exist (if there is such a study, I invite you to send it to me). What I found most interesting about this paper is the assumption that higher phenolic content equals greater sensory appeal and by default better health value.

Here is where I present the paper mentioned in the title. It is called Quality of Olive Oils Available Locally: Chemical, Sensory and Market Investigations and is by Madeleine M. Gould, a B.S. Nutrition student at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Abstract link

Paper link

After reading this paper I found that I could not fault the student for her assumptions since there is so much incorrect information out there. However, I do place blame elsewhere. I place it squarely on the shoulders of the scientists who fudge the data that places their ‘miracle’ food on grocery shelves. I blame the olive oil producer that sends tons of rotted fruit through the mill and instead of refining it and selling it as ordinary olive oil adds coloring agents. I blame the ambitious naifs whose conceit and greed leads them to blindly blunder about altering political and economic landscapes just enough to allow all those who wish ill to shove a foot in the door. I blame those who by action or inaction promote olive oil fraud.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Jan 062014
 
Crispy space fries

Crispy space fries

What do olive oil and space exploration have in common? So far, two things, frying and food safety.

When sending people into space, food preparation is important. What is more important than making sure space explorers have some of their favorite comfort foods available, fried in olive oil of course?

For decades we have been assured that astronauts are well fed. Remember the Tang commercials? Even the most imaginative among us probably can’t envision them dining on fresh fruits and vegetables or even juicy burgers and fries. I know my imagination is limited by my ten years of Army field dining that involved freeze-dried nibbles encased in thick plastic enjoyed while securely anchored to planet Earth. I can safely assume dining in Earth orbit isn’t much better.

Recently, those intrepid foodienauts at the European Space Agency (ESA) conducted the first of a series of experiments on deep-frying in different gravitational conditions. In the first experiment potatoes were cut into thin strips and placed in a centrifuge with hot olive oil. The potatoes were then spun at several times Earth’s gravity (supposedly to mimic Jupiter’s gravitational pull, however news outlets differ on the gravity data). At some point in the process the potato strips had to be turned over to crisp on the other side (I’m guessing the centrifuge was stopped for the fry flipping). The results weren’t so great. The crispy bits on the top sides were delicious but the bottoms of the fries were soggy since the water in the potatoes was escaping and keeping the hot oil from cooking the watery parts. I bet a lot of the problem was using a centrifuge for frying since it does more than mimic gravitational forces, I’m just sayin’. The results of this study will be published next month in Food Research International.

On the food safety side, a science team’s bad luck may be a benefit for those of us who would like to be assured that our food is real. For the last seven years the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL Space) in England has worked on a laser device to measure carbon and hence the possibility of life on Mars BUT the device wasn’t completed in time to be part of the payloads for the ESA’s Aurora ExoMars launches. The first one goes up in 2016.

All is not lost for RAL Space and certainly not for us, the consumers of food. With funding from the ESA for a Technology Transfer Demonstration project, RAL Space has teamed with another UK company, Protium MS, to develop a small, portable device that will probe for counterfeit foods among some of the most commonly faked – honey, chocolate, and olive oil.

Dr. Damien Weidmann, team lead at RAL Space, explains how the repurposed device works to make sure the foods we Earthlings buy is real. “Each molecule, and each of its isotopic forms, has a unique fingerprint spectrum. If … you know what you are looking for, you can simply set the laser to the appropriate frequency. You take a food sample – a few milligrams of olive oil, chocolate, wheat or whatever – and you burn it. As the sample burns, it releases carbon dioxide you test with the laser instrument. You will know, in the case of olive oil, if it genuinely comes from Sicily or if it is a counterfeited fake.”

At this point Olive Crazy obsesses over Dr. Weidmann’s use of “counterfeited fake.” Is it a double negative, therefore meaning real? Or does it mean another type of fake? Or … STOP IT!

Follow this link to the ESA website for a photographic example from Dr. Weidmann’s olive oil identification research. Very cool.

Even though space travel and olive oil seemingly have at least two things in common now, I believe that if space is our final frontier, olives and olive oil will certainly be along for the journey.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Dec 192013
 

For many months the report on olive oil competition by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has been sitting on my desk waiting to be read. I wasn’t dreading the several days of reading and note-taking that lay ahead. I was waiting – waiting for the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) to weigh in on the report findings (see below for the letter from the NAOOA to the USITC hearing Chair). I simply wanted my reading and assessment experience to be complete.

Why is this important?

It is important because there is a distinct political and economic battle going on in the world of olive oil. It is important because with any battle, knowledge is required: Who are the combatants? Who are their allies? What weapons do they currently have at their disposal? What weapons can they acquire? Where are the battlegrounds and where are they moving? What are supporters and opponents weaknesses and strengths? What will be the collateral damage? Is the battle worth it? …

As I pack my bags for my journey to the Olive Crazy family Christmas gathering, I am preparing a list of questions to ask myself while I read through the hundreds of pages of testimony that led to the USITC report Olive Oil: Conditions of Competition between U.S. and Major Foreign Supplier Industries, the report itself, and the report responses. What was the purpose of the USITC hearing? Who actually influenced the setting up of the hearings and what did they hope to accomplish? What factors separate bias from fact from fiction in the testimony, among the hearing panelists, and among the report authors? Do the report findings match the purpose of the hearings? Why did each individual and organization testify or respond to the report as they did? Why did the NAOOA wait until now to respond to the report? What happens next? …

Of course I bring my own biases to the reading. Those biases can easily be found in my opinion articles. Yet years of political and military training and execution have taught me that long-term success cannot be achieved without a multidimensional perspective free of bias.

Before I place all those pages of documentation in my computer bag and engage in some light holiday reading I make a promise to myself and to you to carry forward with an open mind. It won’t be easy but it must be done.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

NAOOA response to USITC report page 1

NAOOA response to USITC report page 1

NAOOA response to USITC report page 2

NAOOA response to USITC report page 2

NAOOA Response to USITC report page 3

NAOOA Response to USITC report page 3

Nov 052013
 
Logo of Georgia Traveler from Georgia Public Broadcasting

Logo of Georgia Traveler from Georgia Public Broadcasting

My Mom and brother, Joe, were in Savannah enjoying the beach and saw a Georgia Traveler segment about Georgia Olive Farms and the Inn at Still Pond. They called me but I missed it.

I did find it online and here is the link for all to enjoy – Georgia Olive Farms and Inn at Still Pond video.

To all of you who have asked me about making a visit to Georgia Olive Farms, I bet the Inn at Still Pond is a great place to stay for your visit. Berrien Sutton, one of the proprietors of the Inn at Still Pond, is also an owner of Georgia Olive Farms – that’s handy. The Inn is about 25 minutes away from the olive groves. The Inn features an organic farm, relaxation, and some great cooking. Sounds like a good time to me.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com