Olive oil’s return to being a luxury item heralds a new era of bland cooking Everyone I know has been shocked by the price increase of olive oil, which has more than doubled in the last two years. It doesn’t feel like long since I was picking up a litre of extra virgin olive oil from Aldi for under £3. It’s now almost £7. “Proper” brands are now more expensive than wine. I’ve more or less stopped buying it. Maybe I’ll get it as a treat sometimes.

It’s a feeling we are not particular used to as a culture — a good going from abundant and commonplace to scarce and luxurious. There have been fluctuations in the price of fuel and energy over the years — but these are usually due to temporary political situations. We are used to goods generally getting more abundant, and for price rises to be relatively small, and often temporary.

This feels different. It feels frustrating. Olive oil has been so available that yes, I do feel slightly entitled to it. That olive oil is healthy rather than a vice adds to the indignation. The feelings are not particularly rational.

I’ve been reflecting on these feelings, and also the very real possibility that this change is permanent. There are several reasons for the shortage — extreme dryness in growing regions, and an outbreak of disease that has led to the destruction of entire plantations of ancient olive trees. With the world only continuing to get warmer and drier, we may not ever get affordable olive oil again. It’s a sobering thought.

With the multiple overlapping ecological crises we face, this is unlikely to be the last time this happens. Food insecurity is forecast to increase. We may have to get used to a world where another everyday foods falls off the menu every few years. If the extreme weather we’ve been seeing hasn’t yet led to mass action on climate, perhaps the threat to our dietary diversity will.