`Still No Standard For Defining 'Virgin' - Olive Oil Times

Still No Standard For Defining 'Virgin'

Nov. 7, 2011
Julie Butler

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A short film hing­ing on the the awk­ward ques­tion What’s vir­gin’ mean?” has gone viral and is inad­ver­tently pro­mot­ing aware­ness of olive oil.

Featuring a mother answer­ing an angel-faced child, a Spanish sub­ti­tled ver­sion on YouTube has had nearly 1.2 mil­lion views in just eight months, not far off an English-only ver­sion which has now exceeded 1.3 mil­lion.


Made in 2008 by award-win­ning U.K. writer, pro­ducer and direc­tor Michael Davies, the com­edy has won six inter­na­tional awards and con­tin­ues to climb in cyber pop­u­lar­ity, lately gen­er­at­ing buzz in the Spanish blo­gos­phere.

It’s even mis­taken by some for an ad. In Andalusian news­pa­per Diario Jaén last week, a piece appeared under the title, Olive Oil Campaign.”

Spoiler alert
As a Spanish viewer wrote, what­ever the con­text, vir­gin is a way to say that some­thing is pure. Another com­mented that the term had long lent itself to con­fu­sion and innu­endo.

Others quipped: What was the mother think­ing leav­ing vir­gin olive oil in the child’s view?”, Virgin olive oil, always wreak­ing havoc in young minds” and Extra vir­gin olive oil, stok­ing desire since 1700.”

In the short, the mother only twigs when her daugh­ter asks a sec­ond ques­tion, So what’s extra vir­gin mean?” (To find out the tech­ni­cal answer, click here.)

Conceived by an olive oil con­nois­seur, and father of four sons…
The 2:34 minute film was writ­ten and directed by Davies and was his first com­edy short. It fea­tures Kate Issit as the mother and Rebecca Duffy as her daugh­ter.

Davies told Olive Oil Times that inspi­ra­tion struck one evening as he fol­lowed a par­tic­u­larly com­pli­cated” lasagne recipe by London-based Italian chef Antonio Carluccio. (The film opens with it.)

It spec­i­fied fry­ing the veg­eta­bles in extra vir­gin olive oil. This sur­prised me as I thought extra vir­gin burned at a lower tem­per­a­ture than vir­gin olive oil, and was there­fore less suit­able for fry­ing. I took a sip of wine, and con­sid­ered the dif­fer­ence between extra vir­gin and vir­gin for a moment, and then thought about the words them­selves and what — if applied to a per­son — being extra vir­gin would mean…?

I have four chil­dren (all boys) so I’m used to answer­ing rather bizarre ques­tions, and I guess I was just try­ing to pre­dict what I might say to them if they asked me the ques­tion I was ask­ing myself… And that’s what gave me the idea for a film.

The biggest thrill was watch­ing it in a packed, 750-seat cin­ema, and feel­ing the build­ing shake with peo­ple’s laugh­ter.”

Best on bruschetta for break­fast
Davies says he loves olive oil. I prob­a­bly have at least half a dozen dif­fer­ent bot­tles on the go at any one time. One of my favorite uses for the best olive oil is at break­fast — driz­zled over a sim­ple bruschetta of sweet roasted cherry toma­toes and a few torn fresh basil leaves, with coarse ground pep­per.”

And yes, he does know what vir­gin means. Virgin olive oil is typ­i­cally cold pressed, using only mechan­i­cal means, rather than chem­i­cals (yuk) or heat (obvi­ously). This means that it’s pure, and allows for the great­est diver­sity of fla­vors so that dif­fer­ent pro­duc­ers and dif­fer­ent ter­roir etc. all have their influ­ence. To me, the best is like fine wine, which I also enjoy.”

Davies began his career in BBC Television Features, where his work included the crit­i­cally acclaimed series Barnardo’s Children”.

What’s vir­gin’ mean?” has been screened at over fifty fes­ti­vals around the world. Davies’ lat­est short film, Love At First Sight” star­ring Phyllida Law and John Hurt, has already won at least eight awards and one spe­cial men­tion.

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