If the news that the price of olive oil may go up by 40 per cent is slightly
alarming, it shows how we have taken this Mediterranean staple to our (we
hope healthier) hearts. The stuff might only have been found in chemists
when Elizabeth David’s writing caught on, but she did not exactly invent it.
Indeed, she quoted the intrepid British gourmet Colonel Newnham-Davis from a
century ago on the virtues of Italian oil. Yet the colonel found the Spanish
product “a coarse liquid, the ill taste of which stays all day in one’s
mouth”. Times change, and good British cooks swear by their favourite
Italian or Spanish producers without prejudice. We’ve learnt to like its
taste in salads or even scrambled eggs. But, unless one uses it in place of
sun oil, a little goes some way. A price rise will just have to mean
sacrificing another imported habit: a cup of outrageously priced coffee from
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