The story of civilization

While browsing random content on the internet the other day (as one does) I happened across ‘The 7 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco’. This is a great example of prime clickbait headlining: you must use an odd number (but not too high an odd number or it will seem like too many things to bother with) and the topic must be something to do with something cautionary or something that most people have a morbid fascination with. Anyone who has been to Costco will know it fits the bill on both counts.

Anyhow, this ‘article’ (and I use the term very loosely) focused on the bulk items that do not save money in the long run because they will spoil before you get to the bottom of the ‘club sized’ vat. Most of them were pretty much what you would expect: large packages of delicate produce, industrial cans of ketchup (it comes in cans??), etc. So that’s not what struck me about this particular collection of interweb ‘information’. In order to bolster the gravitas of the edict not to buy olive oil at Costco, the article offered the factoid that the average American household goes through 1.5 bottles of olive oil per year. I am guessing this equates to about 1.1 litres, assuming a 750 ml bottle (but who knows how they package these things in the U.S.)

Many people would read this and then move right on to ‘11 Ways to Take Better Selfies’ without further ado. I am not one of those people. This random piece of data stopped me in my web surfing tracks. That’s because I go through at least a litre of olive oil per month and I don’t think that’s because I’m several standard deviations up from average. Based on the shelf space allocated to olive oil at the average grocery store (or even below average grocery store for that matter), I’m guessing most of us could get through a gargantuan can (or maybe it’s sold in six packs of bottles or some other conspicuous consumption variation) of Costco EVO without batting an eye.

You would also think that, given the proliferation of cooking shows and even entire cooking channels, olive oil would have earned a bit more stature in the average American kitchen. In which case you would be wrong. People who watch cooking shows don’t actually cook – they just like the idea of cooking and aspire to the notion of cooking if only it didn’t require buying and processing raw ingredients rather than buying something already prepared that kind of looks like you might have cooked it yourself.

In the most recent ranking of the best (and worst) countries in the world (from a living in perspective), Canada ranked number two behind Switzerland, the same position we occupied in 2016. The U.S. has fallen from number four to number seven. We all know what happened in the interim, but I think that’s just part of the problem: no country with such a paltry consumption of olive oil could possibly be considered completely civilized.

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