Adopting a healthier Mediterranean diet led free-lance writer, Alice Alech, to olive oil and to many interesting people in the olive oil business. In An Olive Oil Tour of France, she takes readers behind the scenes of the olive oil industry in France, exploring the history of olive oil production, the art of olive oil tasting, the many different flavors olive oil can have based on where it's grown and the ripeness of the olives used, and the spirit of cooperation among many of the family-owned olive growing businesses in France. She also explores the health benefits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet in general, as well as the many different health and beauty uses for olive oil. Additionally, the author includes several of her favorite French recipes that use olive oil, from main dishes, to bread, to desserts, making this little book a nice complement to any cook's kitchen library.
When Alice Alech contacted me about providing a review for her book, An Olive Oil Tour of France, I hesitated at first, mainly because I'm not really a foodie, nor am I much of a cook. However, not in the habit of turning authors down for reviews, I eventually accepted, figuring that I did like olive oil and was a little curious about where it comes from and how it's made. As it happens, An Olive Oil Tour of France certainly satisfied those curiosities and taught me a few things I didn't know before reading it. It is a relatively short but concise book that focuses solely on the olive oil industry in France. The author gives a brief history of how olive oil production began and has grown throughout the years in France, the cultivation of olive trees, and an overview of how the oil is produced.
I was a little surprised to discover that the people who are in this business take it very seriously, and olive oil production seems to rival wine production in its attention to detail. Olive oil can have different flavors based on the region of France where the olives are grown, the ripeness of the olives used in making the oil, and how the olives are processed. In fact, just like there are professional wine tasters, there are also professional olive oil tasters, as well as olive oil competitions. The olive oil industry in France is very tightly regulated with strict requirements that must be met in order to receive the official government labels. I finally learned the difference between ordinary olive oil, "virgin," and "extra-virgin." I was also surprised to find out that most olive growers in France produce a relatively small amount of oil per year, leading many of them to form cooperatives to help off-set the production costs. The author takes the reader inside the lives of a few of these growers as well.
I've always known that olive oil is considered to be a healthier oil with which to cook than regular vegetable oil, but until reading An Olive Oil Tour of France, I had no idea that it actually has health benefits. Studies that have been done regarding the benefits of the oil as well as the Mediterranean diet are presented in the book, in addition to a list of ways in which olive oil can be used for health and beauty purposes. The author also discusses uses for olive oil outside of cooking, such as a very old brand of soap that has been around for centuries.
All of the things I outlined above comprise just a little more than half of the book. The remaining pages contain several recipes using olive oil, everything from main dishes, to bread, to desserts, some of which are accompanied by color photos (if, of course, you have a color eReader, which I don't, but I opened the file on my computer to take a closer look.:-)). Some of the recipes sounded interesting, but the measurements are given in European (metric) measures, which I'm not talented enough to try to convert. However, much more experienced cooks than myself will probably have no trouble with them. Overall, I'd say that An Olive Oil Tour of France would make a nice addition to the kitchen library of any cook, chef, gastronomist or anyone who has an interest in learning more about olive oil and it's uses.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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