As I sat down at my computer this evening, I had every intention of starting my homework. I actually did start it by doing some reading for my food writing class. It’s taught by Sheryl Julian, editor of the food section of the Boston Globe, and promises to be a great course. One of our readings is to go over the Globe’s recipe style sheet. Under how to list butter and oil she tells us to always write “1/2 cup olive oil and NOT 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (never extra-virgin).” Unfortunately (for the productivity of my homework), this statement started a little voice in my head to begin a rant about olive oil that I’ve been building up for the last few months.
I normally don’t use this space to rant, but I have to make an exception tonight. To understand the issue, we must back up and bring in a key player: Rachael Ray. I don’t care if she does “30-Minute Meals” or weekend trips under $40. Especially since in reality the dinners take longer than half an hour to make and she only keeps the prices down on her travels by not leaving tips (don’t even get me started on how a TV personality is encouraging people not to tip!).
The point is: some may defend Rachael Ray for encouraging people to start cooking again, but I think it is at too high a price. She pricks pizza dough so it doesn’t puff up as it cooks! Some of the best pizzas I’ve had tasted so good in part because of the dough bubbles. But most importantly, she has introduced the evil acronym “EVOO.” Here is what she says about it:
“EVOO is extra virgin olive oil. I first coined “EVOO” on my cooking show because saying “extra virgin olive oil” over and over was wordy, and I’m an impatient girl-that’s why I make 30-minute meals!”
First of all, impatience does not belong in the kitchen. Secondly, her shortcut doesn’t work: most of the time on her show when she says “EVOO” she has to explain it (for new viewers), so she’s really adding quite a few more letters and words to her already incessant babble.
To my chagrin the acronym has taken hold. People, even in the food world, don’t seem to mind. In culinary school my classmates and I had a long debate over the matter, which ended in a draw. Here in my own town of Somerville, Mass. there’s a restaurant called “EVOO” (let it be known that within the first sentence of their site they define – or defend – the name).
All I’m saying is that I agree with Sheryl Julian: we should go back to the plain and simple “olive oil.” If you really have to qualify it, then say “extra virgin” in front. Save the acronyms for things that don’t have such a long (or desired) tradition, like KFC or SPAM. Why must the age-old process of making exceptional olive oil be given an acronym? Embrace the complexity of Italian dining, and enjoy saying “virgin” in a sentence without it being religious or sexual.