The figurative language of Tom Mueller…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors and similes from Tom Mueller…

I’ve long considered myself a bit of a foodie and when I heard there was a great book exposing deceit and duplicity in the olive oil market, I knew I wanted to read it.

That  book is titled Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and it’s written by Tom Mueller (pictured above), a freelance writer with an international education (Oxford, Harvard) who has lived and worked in 48 countries.

The deceit in the olive oil business is so pervasive that a friend of mine who’s allergic to canola oil — and thus cooks primarily with olive oil — always puts her oils in the fridge, to see they solidify, as they should if they are the real deal. Frequently, she discovers, they don’t.

Mueller explores all of these issues with extraordinary vigour and even manages to work in some fine figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • They took a mouthful of oil. And then as if they’ all been stricken by an oil-induced seizure, they began sucking in air violently at the corners of their mouths, a technique known as strippaggio.
  • Tasking these oils was like strolling through a botanic garden, touring a perfume factory, and taking a long drive through spring meadows with the windows down, all at the same time — equal parts scientific analysis and lingering, attentive hedonism.
  • Olive trees grow close to the runway, and line the road on either side into town; many are ancient, corkscrew-trunked giants right out of the forests of fairy tale, with long limbs reaching horizontally and ending in drooping, witchlike fingers, a pruning method called “the chandelier.”
  • The ancient obstacle is an olive tree, squat and thick-trunked like the local farmers, its partially exposed roots gripping the soil like a pair of old hands.
  • We climbed the berm and surveyed the terraced olive groves and pasturelands beyond. A reddish swatch cleared by the dozers ran through them like a scar.
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