Thursday, August 11, 2011
Because the Bottle Looks Classy
The heirloom tomatoes are beautiful. The basil leaves are bright and fragrant. I was out of olive oil.
Have you been to the olive oil aisle lately? My eyes started swimming. Or maybe it was my brain that was gasping for air. Faced with rows of choices, I made up some quick basis for elimination. These ones are too expensive. Those have too much extraneous stuff: I don't need citrus-infusion and twigs of thyme in the bottle. Greek olive oils are too strong for this dish. These bottles are too big. Those are too small.
And still there are too many choices.
Pretty soon, I am rejecting bottles for random reasons: the label color is too trendy, the font is trying too hard to be old-world, the description has too many exclamation points.
All I want is a good-quality olive oil. Short of tasting every single bottle, how was I to decide? Are the oils described as" vibrant" the same as those described as "fresh?" What does "harmonious" mean? And how is "distinct" a helpful adjective? Why can't I remember any of the brands that I'd read in Cook's Illustrated or some other olive oil survey done in Simple Magazine?
In the end I bought an unfiltered extra virgin olive oil from Italy. I am sure I chose it in part because of ridiculous reasons: the pleasing shape of the bottle: straight sides, skinny; its plain label in a muted green and well-placed letters in a sans serif font; and descriptions that are devoid of hyperbolic claims and exclamation points.
Publishing is supposedly doing fairly well in the face of all the uncertainties of the industry and the wider economy. Books are still being published, lots of them. But when I browse in a bookstore, not even necessarily a big one, I feel the same way as I did in the olive oil aisle. How do I know?
In the end, I go with award winners and honorees, I go with authors I've read before, I go with recommendations from other readers, bookstore employees, librarians, blogger friends, I go with captivating titles and intriguing subject matters. I am sure book covers play a role in my decisions, unfortunately. I've come across many fine books but I can't help but fee las if I am missing out on some gems because they haven't managed to call themselves to my attention.
My olive oil tasted fine, by the way. Subtle and mild but not bland. But I wonder about that other bottle with the trendy label or the one who surely looks too common to taste good.