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PostItaly's Olive Harvest (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 02/14/16 8:00 am)
Henry Levin (12 February) is right. Last year in Italy the olive harvest was very poor due to unfavourable weather and parasites. I succeeded in making just enough oil for the family, leaving my friends high and dry. Therefore oil from Spain and Greece was brought to Italy. Lately the EU has also opened the borders to Tunisian olives to help the Tunisian economy.
When buying oil in the US, but also in Italy, it is imperative to look with great care at the label and see if it clearly specifies the Italian origin of the olives or if they are a mixture from the EU. The Italian ones are more expensive, but you should get only the originals and not a mixture.
However, which oil is the best? Just ask the Greeks and the answer will be Greek oil, for the Spaniards the Spanish, for me my own, as I am extremely careful to avoid chemicals and choose only the best olives, even if in this way it yields a reduced product.
But in the States, and in many other countries including Europe, the big problem for Italy is food with "Italian-sounding" names. Plenty of products with Italian names are not Italian. In 2012 75% of all the apparently Italian stuff sold in the US was a fraud or at best a poor imitation. Most tomato sauces, oil or vinegar products, canned tomatoes, pasta, etc., are imitations. The worst probably is cheese. Only about 15% of the cheese with "Italian-sounding" names are really Italian.
For instance, the "SAR Vecchio Parmesan" is made in Wisconsin. "Romano" cheese, which in Italy is made with sheep's milk around Rome, is made in Illinois with cow milk. How awful!
Even in the restaurants, "Italian-sounding" dishes may be poor imitations. All the above is a big damage to the economy and good name of Italy.
JE comments: Don't forget Good Ol' Chef Boyardee--or Ragu spaghetti sauce. For those of us who grew up in 1970s America, we rubes in the provinces took Ragu's "That's Italian!" slogan seriously.
To this day, few things spell comfort food better than pasta with Ragu--or as Wacky Packages immortalized it 40 years ago, Raw Goo. Throw on some grated Parmesan from a green cylinder for good measure.
But are these imitators harmful to the Italian economy? I would think the opposite--that "fake" Italian food creates an incentive for gourmands to pay more to ensure they get the real thing.