Above: a screen shot of Nicholas Blechman’s half-hearted mea culpa. I’ve copied and pasted the text below.
I’m still feeling sick over Nicholas Blechman’s sensationalist, fear-mongering olive oil cartoon, published recently by the New York Times. And I’m feeling even worse about his half-hearted mea culpa, which now appears at the very end of the cartoon (image above, complete text below).
As my friend and colleague Pete Danko pointed out yesterday on the Facebook, the retraction was longer than the original piece!
Why, on earth, did the editors of the Times op-ed page invite someone like Blechman to write about olive oil? He’s a supremely talented and wildly successful illustrator and editor, no doubt about it. But I can’t find any credential that points to his would-be authority on gastronomy.
The bottom line, as one reader pointed out, is that if a bottle of olive oil costs so little that it seems too good to be true, it probably is…
Just have a look at olive oil authority Tom Mueller’s post on a flight of olive oils he tasted from the Trader Joe’s selection.
There is plenty of adulterated olive oil out there. But high-quality bona fide olive oil is also widely available to us here in the U.S. (San Giuliano from Alghero, Sardinia is our house olive oil; it costs about $14 at our local gourmet market for a 750 ml bottle).
In other news…
It chronicles the bureaucratic and political obstacles and challenges faced by four Italian grape growers and winemakers — La Stoppa (Colli Piacentini), La Distesa (Castelli di Jesi), Pacina (Chianti), and Cascina degli Ulivi (Alessandria) — as they pursue their dream of growing grapes without chemicals and making wines without additives.
In bocca al lupo, Jonathan! Or better yet, in culo alla balena!
Nicholas Blechman’s retraction as it appears on the New York Times website:
An earlier version of this graphic contained several errors.
Olives that are used in substandard oil are typically taken to mills days, weeks or even months after being picked — not “within hours.”
The graphic conflated two dubious practices that can be found in parts of the olive oil industry. Some producers mix olive oil with soybean or other cheap oils, while others mix vegetable oils with beta carotene and chlorophyll to produce fake olive oil; the two practices are not usually combined.
Olive oil bottled in Italy and sold in the United States may be labeled “packed in Italy” or “imported from Italy” — not “produced in Italy” — even if the oil does not come from Italy. (However, the source countries are supposed to be listed on the label.)
A 2010 study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that 69 percent of imported olive oil labeled “extra virgin” did not meet, in an expert taste and smell test, the standard for that label. The study suggested that the substandard samples had been oxidized; had been adulterated with cheaper refined olive oil; or were of poor quality because they were made from damaged or overripe olives, or olives that had been improperly stored or processed — or some combination of these flaws. It did not conclude that 69 percent of olive oil for sale in the United States was doctored.
Finally, the graphic incorrectly cited Tom Mueller, who runs the blog Truth in Olive Oil, as the source of the information. While Mr. Mueller’s blog and other writings were consulted in preparation of the graphic, several of his findings were misinterpreted.