Salad Dressing, The Beginning of the End

When I came to this country, twelve years ago, I started wandering through the supermarket with amazement. I couldn’t help stopping at all the bounty of products that I had never seen before. In particular, the unlimited offerings of salad dressing fascinated me because I thought: who would buy that disgusting looking liquid, with pieces of unknown material floating in cheap plastic bottles. I never bought a salad dressing in my life and I am very proud of it! But I still wonder… who buys it and why?


Today, the selection of salad dressing is even larger. I was in my small neighborhood supermarket today and noticed an enormous amount of space devoted to dressings. Needless to say, “Italian” dominates: Robusto Italian, Fat Free Italian, Family Recipe Italian, Light Italian, Italian Regular, Viva Italian, Creamy Italian, Zesty Italian. I didn’t even look at the innumerable versions of “Caesars” which, supposedly, have an Italian connotation in this country. Sadly, while I was staring at the shelves, a lovely young couple leaned over, grabbed one Italian Balsamic Vinaigrette and one Italian Roasted Garlic Balsamico Salad Splash, put them in their cart, walked away. I didn’t have the courage of asking them why?


Because they are cheap? Not really. With a price that ranges from $4 for the smallest bottle to $20 for the fanciest bottle with the Jean Georges blessing… they don’t look cheap to me! Because they are good? Impossible, the base of the infusion is never olive oil but soybean oil, hydrolyzed soy protein, alpha tocopherol, potassium sorbate, high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum… what the heck are these things?


The answer is people seem to believe that bottled salad dressings are convenient. Like a Hallmark card, it is another sad byproduct of convenience when even the deepest emotion is left to others to express – a killer of creativity, honesty and sincerity. How inconvenient could it be to mix extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, vinegar or balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice, or mustard, or whatever?


Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the major fat source of the Mediterrean diet for thousands of years  is good for your health because it is totally natural, it comes from olives that are cold pressed, with no chemicals or heat used in the process. It has an acidity level of less than 1% that reduces cholesterol and the incidence of heart disease.


Our extra virgin olive oils are even more special. Made on family farms, where the olives are picked by hand – which ensures that the fruit is not bruised and that it is at its optimum ripeness – cleaned and pressed the same day, most of the time in the stone mill located in the same farm.


To choose a specific extra virgin olive oil is an act of creativity. The color, taste, and aroma is dependent on the region where it was produced, the soil, the sun exposure, the distance to the sea, the variety of the olive trees. Our selection comes from all the regions of Italy; try the Gentile di Larino from Molise, the Frantoio and Moraiolo from Toscana, the Carboncella from Lazio, the Dritta from Abruzzo, the Cerasuola and the Nocellara from Sicilia… and then the Bosana, the Morellino, the Pendolino… it sounds like poetry, doesn’t it? Forget the Alpha Tocopherol, please!!!


And you can use olive oil, not only to dress salads and steamed vegetables, but to cook, to fry, to grill, to bake — well, we Italians use it with everything, with exception, I believe, of ice cream. The new extra virgin olive oils are now in stock and the harvest of the Fall 2002 was a great one!  Hurry up!

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  1. Marion Ungvarsky says:

    Hello, I so agree with your judgement. When I came about 5 years ago to the USA (from West Germany), I had the exact same experience as you had. Huuuuge supermarkets here with all kinds of processed food items, and almost none of those I would want to put in my mouth.
    I am still very careful what I buy, and luckily, by now I have found some import sources for german, french and italian foods.
    But it is very expensive, and in order to eat well, we must forsake many things Americans would consider essential to their lives (like cell phones, fast Internet, cable TV etc). But it is definately worth it.
    But I am still wondering why italian foods are so expensive here. I had already mail-ordered italian gourmet foods in Germany, and that was (compared to german supermarket items) already very expensive. Family farmed olie, paste from Martelli, Morelli, Latini etc, they were expensive in my opinion.
    Now here in America they cost even more, like 4-5 times more than the already high german import prices. Why is that?
    Wouldn’t one import (to Germany) be comparable to another import (to the USA)? Why can I get 1kg of Martelli’s pasta in Germany for 4 Euro (which is already very expensive!!!), while half of that (500g) costs 8 $ here? That makes it about 4 times as expensive. Can a plane ticket make it that expensive? I just don’t get it.

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