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Fine Dining vs. Cheap Eats, Continued


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LXT:

The only system that is currently available for evaluating different commodities is to differentiate them with a price tag. It is incorporated into our economic system and represents centuries of development since the barter economy.

Correct. Not every item, however, is worth the same amount of money to every person. That's part of the reason why two people with the same resources will often choose to spend their money on completely different things. In addition, you're speaking of a value-judgment-free notion of quality in a purely economic sense. But if Whiting is right and rich people like mushy food then mushy becomes the definition of quality to the economist -- but not to the connoisseur.

The purpose of the monetary system is not only to provide people with buying power, but also to appraise products based on their quality first and only then on other external measurements (like scarcity or “plentiful availability” etc.) that would comprise the final worth of the product. If the external measurement is more of an essence than the quality of a product, then the product price may deviate from its base, i.e., the quality.

I'm having trouble thinking of a single luxury food item where scarcity isn't a critical component of its price. In fact scarcity may be part of the very definition of a luxury food item. Which is one of many reasons why "better things cost more" simply cannot be applied across categories with anything approaching consistency.

One’s reasoning to prove that in general less expensive products are superior to more expensive ones sadly enough very much sounds like an attempt to justify his own financial impotence (no personal attack is meant, just a hypothetical assumption).

I'm not sure anybody has taken that extreme a position. Mostly, arguments have been made to refute the claim that more expensive products are always better than less expensive products. Perhaps they usually are, but there are enough exceptions to make the blanket claim an absurd one.

It is so common in our society to state that “it is enough just to be happy with what we have” or that “money is a ticket to hell” or that “material success can only make you happy if you are already happy.” This viewpoint sets a comfortable cushion for those who fall (though I am not sure whether it is a bad thing necessarily; otherwise, the suicide rate might be increased dramatically).

Of my friends from law school, I know several who proved their abilities to succeed by outclassing their peers in major corporate law firm hierarchies and by making what most Americans would consider astronomical salaries. I count myself among that group. But some people value time with their loved ones and the ability to pursue things like writing about food on unprofitable Web sites more than they value having more money than is necessary to live comfortably.

The ability to distinguish “excellent” from “good” and “bad,” aside from the necessary experience, must have a premise of natural talent. As in music, if one is not gifted from birth, he will never be able to grasp the nuances of the piano touch required for a pianissimo in Mozart compared to Chopin. Analogously, if one is not born with a good nose and an acute sense of smell, he may not even have the potential to appreciate the nuances of excellent vs. just very good cuisine. Like anything else, it requires talent. However, assuming that the person is “equipped”, he may never become a “performer” (i.e., never advance his palate to the point of an acute sensory instrument with the ability to dissect a dish into separate ingredients instead of just enjoying its totality.) Interestingly, we have acknowledged that making food is art, but didn’t get to the point of saying that appreciating food is art too.

You are so right, yet this last passage seems overly sentimental in light of the more scientific views taken in your preceding paragraphs. Perhaps you're a softie after all.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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lxt: Didn't I meet you the other day at USC, when you appeared to be quite sane? :unsure: (Sorry, lapse in the non-use of the smilie, but unless your post is a spoof, I can't agree with your arguments).

There is a saying : "Money for old rope". Let's take women's clothing (I could take an example from the art world, but let's keep things everyday)as it is generally sold in the USA. In comparison to men's clothing of similar price range, the clothes sold to women are of inferior quality. They do not last as long, stitching is poor etc. Yet, women's clothes tend to be more expensive than men's. This is an example of price being out of whack with quality.

I just can't fathom the 'good quality=high price' argument. I'm not saying that in many cases it might be true. I'm saying that one cannot categorically say it is always true. An SUV can get me from to A to B, but the subway suits me fine quality-wise and it's cheaper..

Your last paragraph puzzles me. I can see that your argument may apply to the genuis. But what of training of the middle of the road person in the street?

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"the middle of the road person in the street"

Tommy I think I have a new quote for your signature line.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The only system that is currently available for evaluating different commodities is to differentiate them with a price tag.

This is, of course, absurd.

Consumer Reports has a system for evaluating products that has nothing to do with price. They give it a red dot if it is a good product and a black dot if it is a bad product, and a white dot if it is a medium product. The New York Times has a restaurant evalutaing ssystem that theoretically takes price into account, but values factors such as cuisine and service significantly more heavily. They give restaurants that are exceptionally good four stars, ranging down to not particularly good restaurants which get no stars. Roger Ebert has a mechanism of evaluating films; if they are good, he gives them "thumbs up" and if they are bad, "thumbs down".

Price is the way that markets evaluate items. Supply plays as much of a role as demand, and "quality" is merely a factor that influences these other elements; it does not, in and of itself, lead to a pricing calculus in a free market.

(On an unrelated note, in New York City at least, there is farily robust competition for pay phones. First, there are many non-Verizon pay phones. This probably explains why New York has had relatively lower payphone prices than most other places since the FCC deregulated payphone prices. Second, cell phones also compete with pay phone usage.)

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Fat Guy:

Correct. Not every item, however, is worth the same amount of money to every person. That's part of the reason why two people with the same resources will often choose to spend their money on completely different things. In addition, you're speaking of a value-judgment-free notion of quality in a purely economic sense. But if Whiting is right and rich people like mushy food then mushy becomes the definition of quality to the economist -- but not to the connoisseur.

You are viewing this issue from an individualistic perspective, which is fundamentally wrong in appraising the value of a product. Yes, it is correct that “not every item… is worth the same amount of money to every person”; however, one of the criteria in evaluating the worth of the product is a collection of individual opinions, in other words “demand”. Demand is an objective entity which is based on the subjective opinion of the majority.

I'm having trouble thinking of a single luxury food item where scarcity isn't a critical component of its price. In fact scarcity may be part of the very definition of a luxury food item. Which is one of many reasons why "better things cost more" simply cannot be applied across categories with anything approaching consistency.

Yes, correct. Scarcity is a critical component of demand but still not the starting point in appraising the cost of the product. In other words, if the same product grown in one village on two different fields differs in quality, the starting element of pricing this product will differ as well. Later, however, whichever component weighs more in evaluation of the food product determines the worth.

I'm not sure anybody has taken that extreme a position. Mostly, arguments have been made to refute the claim that more expensive products are always better than less expensive products. Perhaps they usually are, but there are enough exceptions to make the blanket claim an absurd one.

If you check back, I used “in general” and “hypothetical” in my post, and especially "no personal attack."

Of my friends from law school, I know several who proved their abilities to succeed by outclassing their peers in major corporate law firm hierarchies and by making what most Americans would consider astronomical salaries. I count myself among that group. But some people value time with their loved ones and the ability to pursue things like writing about food on unprofitable Web sites more than they value having more money than is necessary to live comfortably.

My point was directed toward those who “want to” but “can’t,” not those who “can” but consciously “don’t want to.” You do have to admit you are not in the majority on this issue.

You are so right, yet this last passage seems overly sentimental in light of the more scientific views taken in your preceding paragraphs. Perhaps you're a softie after all.

And yes, I’m a pussycat in real life. :smile:

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Isn't all this economic stuff based on the assumption that the marketplace is made up of business people and corporations motivated by honesty, integrity and honor?

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I just can't fathom the 'good quality=high price' argument. I'm not saying that in many cases it might be true. I'm saying that one cannot categorically say it is always true. An SUV can get me from to A to B, but the subway suits me fine quality-wise and it's cheaper..

Nothing is "categorically true" except, as the saying goes. death and taxes. Yet I've run through a large number of categories of products and services I use and in almost every case, the best in class is among the highest priced. That doesn't mean there aren't high priced items that are not best in class, or even that some high priced items are crap. but if you want the best car, the best scotch, the best wine, the best audio equipment, the best camera, ...you'll have to pay top dollar. Why is this idea so objectionable to some?

Or is it objectionable that the sellers of the "best" charge the highest prices?

What is "best?" One way to tell is to ask "professionals" who use the products to make a living: If you ask professional photographers, most are likely to say Nikon. If you want the "best" Nikon, you'll pay more than for the next best Nikon. Lens quality is one of the major factors. If you asked, what about Rollie, Hasselblaad or Linhoff?, they might say, oh, yeah, they are also best in their class. Can one be happy with less than the best

camera and lens. Sure.

Every time I've cared enough about a product or service to want the best, and taken the time to research the choices, it turned out that the "best" is also among the highest priced. Occasionally, someone puts a "best" product on the market for a modest price relative to the top level items. But this is quite rare. As has been said, the increments of "betterness" become smaller and smaller the further up you go on the scale. People who want the "best possible" whatever are often laughed at or called "obsessive." But who are others to judge them? And why does it bother those who don't care about having the best that others do, and are willing to pay for it? Your post, Yvonne, smacks of this attitude.

I've had guests (a professional pianist, included) listen to a recording in my house (not knowing it was a recording) and think that a live musician was playing. They are amazed and incredulous when I tell them it is a recording. Then I show them the system and they ask what something like that costs. I tell them and they look at me and say"are you crazy" to spend that much? "I spent $2000 for my system and I'm perfectly happy with it," they say. So I say, "good, that is wonderful for you. Perhaps if I hadn't heard this system and decided I had to have it, I would have the money in my bank account."

What I don't say is that I am happier having the system than I would be having what I spent for it in the bank.

It is also my evaluation that this level of quality is important to me. If I could have obtained it for half the price, I would have. If I could have had 80% of this quality for half the price, I wouldn't have. That is my choice.

It seems to me that a lot of the argument here is based one point of view that people should not indulge themselves to the maximum level possible in pursuit of what they consider to be the best or highest quality regardless of cost, and those who do are fools or knaves. If that is the case, this thread should end here, because like the mythic goony bird, it is flying in ever-decreasing circles and will soon dissapear up its own asshole.

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Or in other terms, you don't always get what you pay for, but you will pay for what you get. It's far easier to pay too much and get inferior goods, but it's not so easy to find the best for less.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Better usually costs more?

Yes.

Better always costs more?

No.

Simple.

An excellent perroration to this thread, FG.

You now have the disticntion of starting the longest thread to date on eGullet, even longer than the infamous "France/anti-Semitism/neoNazi" thread. :biggrin:

"Of course it was inspired by SP's comments. (Debits where debits are due). :raz:

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I think the A. Balic bio thread is so much longer we have no chance of ever catching up. But we may soon overtake the Tommy bio thread, even though I can't see how I personally will ever close the gap with him in terms of number of posts.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think the A. Balic bio thread is so much longer we have no chance of ever catching up.

I don't consider that to be a true thread, but a collection of largely unrelated riffs united under a common banner. This, on the other hand, is a priceless thread of highest quality. :biggrin: Or should I say a best quality thread of highest price?

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You guys are all whackos. Does it really make a difference whether quality always costs more or if it usually costs more? Sheesh.

There can only be two reasons for this much protestation about what is in reality a very simple concept. People are unable to understand the concept or people are refusing to acknowledge it is true. And what's to understand? To me the only way someone doesn't get it is if they can't taste the difference when tasting things. Anyone who can taste through the various cuts that come from a cow, or taste through a vineyard that has been divided into parcels, and who can't tell the difference between better quality and poorer quality is clearly not going to understand what the hell I'm talking about.

Taste might be subjective, but only to those people who do not have the taste buds to discern if something meets the objective criteria that assesses quality.

John W. - You keep trying to avoid the issue. The writers you mentioned are great writers of prose. The two people I mentioned, Keller and Wells either write or collect recipes. How can you compare prose writers to recipe writers and why would you want to if you could? All the writers you mentioned are terrific, but if I wanted to learn how to make a Lime and Green Tea Foam, or to cook Taillevent's Waterress Soup ( a delicious concoction that everyone should try at home,) I wouldn't read Fisher. And I wouldn't read Liebling either and I think he's better than any of the writers you listed. I would read Adria and Wells. So if you want to compare things, compare apples with apples.

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SteveP writes:

Taste might be subjective, but only to those people who do not have the taste buds to discern if something meets the objective criteria that assesses quality.
Ah. Thank you for that. It opens the way to a final solution of our exercise in literary criticism.

Elizabeth David, MFK Fisher, Waverley Root, Richard Olney, John Thorne, A.J. Liebling – these are clearly and self-evidently among the short list of the best food writers in English. You need only open any of their books and read a brief passage to taste their superiority. They know how to write as surely as Escoffier knew how to cook.

Just as a chef cannot produce his best work with inferior ingredients, so a writer cannot produce the best prose if he deliberately or inadvertently chooses subject matter of an inferior quality. If these writers concerned themselves primarily with ordinary food, it was because they realized that it was finally more interesting than the recherché and the grandiose.

Much of the elaborate fare produced in the most expensive restaurants has always been a baroque extravaganza, designed primarily to impress those who can afford it and those who observe it. Gastronomic architecture is the equivalent of expensive jewelry – it is there to be admired and envied by others. It is the culinary equivalent of, say, the literary style of John Lyly, whose most famous work gave us the useful adjective Euphemistic to describe prose which is self-important, extravagant and overblown.

No wonder that those authors who choose to write modestly and unpretentiously, using a minimum of carefully selected literary ingredients, have opted for the simple and the universal.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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John Whiting finally gets to the heart of the dispute. Not to the heart of the matter mind you, because it is obvious from this last post that he has a prejudice towards the subject matter so he is really unable to address the issue on the merits. In the process he demonstrates intolerance towards concepts other than ones he prefers (or maybe can afford,) or ones that resonate with his sensibilities about how food should correlate with life. In fact it goes further than that. Intolerance about how people have chosen to live their lives.

It's funny how in a post where he needs to climb the back of Escoffier to bolster his concept, which is that the simple topics that the best prose writers chose to write about equal what is best in food, he then goes onto discount all the cooking that emanated from the disciples of Escoffier by calling it,

"a baroque extravaganza, designed primarily to impress those who can afford it and those who observe it."

Excuse me, what is it that you think Escoffier did?

We would save a lot of time in these discussions if people who didn't accept a key premise in the discussion would just announce it early on. Then the rest of the people who do can just ignore whomever it is because there is no purpose in having a discussion that is really about whether their god is better than our god or even whether there is a god at all. It happens constantly, particularly on the Internet when things of great expense are discussed. People are discussing things in relation to each other when someone comes along and says wait a second, that entire category isn't legititimate because you wealthy dummies don't know shit from shinola.

That isn't a very persuasive argument and from here on in, let it be known as *the resentful argument.* That will be the eGullet code when someone tries to prove relative food quality through class warfare.

What's even funnier about John's argument is that if you look at it on the merits, the chefs and cooking styles he has dismissed in one fell swoop of the pen all adhere to the principals of the writers he likes. And they use the same ingredients his list of writers does. So that really narrows his objection to two things. He doesn't like the additional technique they employ, or think it necessary, and he doesn't like the reason they employ it, i.e., the people they are employing it for.

I think there is a major difference between arguing this point from Wilfrid's perspective, or Yvonne's and the perspective of, Why are you arguing it all sucks anyway? Wilfrid might be pedantic and persnickety and maybe a bit knuckleheadish in my book but (all said with affection,) but I don't hold him in contempt for his opinion even though I think he's got it dead wrong.

I just don't understand the motivation or the need for wholesale discounting of entire disciplines. Whether it be conceptual art or haute cuisine. The refusal to acknowledge that they exist because they have merit, is to say that the people who support those disciplines are stupid. And that isn't to say that maybe that opinion won't win the day in the end. And what people believed to be substantive was really nothing more that something stylistic and fanciful. But to announce the results of history in advance in the context of more than a prediction is arrogant. And to do it in this context, after haute cuisine has been practiced for over 100 years and has evolved into a new stage courtesy of chefs in Spain is utterly ridiculous.

And when John writes that much of haute cuisine is,

"the equivalent of expensive jewelry – it is there to be admired and envied by others."

It makes me wonder if that is what supporters of the lute said about Segovia.

It has also occured to me that the people with the dogs in this fight that are against my position are predominantly British, or live in Britain. I haven't seen anyone French disagree with me. Make what you want of that statistic but, I will gladly offer free lessons to anyone of British descent on how to assess the quality of food. Just queue up over here on the left. :raz:

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Does it really make a difference whether quality always costs more or if it usually costs more?

You've got to be kidding. "Does it really make a difference . . ." is something you're never allowed to say, Mr. Argumentative.

And yes, it makes a difference.

It makes a difference to me because the truth makes a difference to me.

It seems to make a difference to you too, Plotnicki, because I can't think of any other reason you'd have bothered to come up with one of the most tortured explanations in the history of the universe for why filet mignon deserves to cost more than strip even though strip is better than filet mignon. Instead of doing that, you could have just said, well okay, this filet versus strip situation is a good example of how we people of taste and discernment know better than the market. Because the market is like Zagat and we're like the New York friggin' Times.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It seems to make a difference to you too, Plotnicki, because I can't think of any other reason you'd have bothered to come up with one of the most tortured explanations in the history of the universe for why filet mignon deserves to cost more than strip even though strip is better than filet mignon. Instead of doing that, you could have just said, well okay, this filet versus strip situation is a good example of how we people of taste and discernment know better than the market. Because the market is like Zagat and we're like the New York friggin' Times.

Ah, now this is getting fun. :raz:

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Whiting: You don't really mean to dismiss haute cuisine as a category, do you? I certainly agree that there is a rich-idiot form-over-substance component to some displays of haute cuisine -- I could list a whole bunch of restaurants in New York that I think survive purely because they offer atmospherics even though they serve unworthy food. But I also like to think that haute cuisine is a pretty good thing when done right, and in fact represents the highest level of achievement in the culinary arts.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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which is that the simple topics that the best prose writers chose to write about equal what is best in food,

I think John may have been addressing the 'more interesting' bit of the thread title. On that basis he has produced evidence (the most interesting writing about food) is about cheap eats. Of course he ignores the fabulous prose underlying our very own 'ortolan' thread.

On the issue of 'best' - and it's a point SteveP made implicitly.

The only systems where there is a well-defined order are essentially one-dimensional.

So it is possible to compare financial quantities at a fixed point in time.

If anyone argues that there is a well-defined and order preserving map from food categories to financial quantities they have shown that food category to be one-dimensional. This is presumably a reflection on their palate - or their mind.

Wilma squawks no more

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I certainly agree that there is a rich-idiot form-over-substance component to some displays of haute cuisine (...in New York)

I think the British upper class have a long lead over the Americans in this regard with respect to more than just haute cuisine.

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Maybe. I don't know. All I see is these movies where the tasteful, cultivated British upper class people who happen to be broke are always coming to America to marry garish, uncultured daughters of oil barrons. Then it turns out -- surprise -- that these poor girls are actually smarter than they seem, not to mention more ethical, and they save the day and teach us all a lesson in Yankee ingenuity.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steve P.--the "resentful argument." I like the new code word and your rebuttal to John is spot on. John's last post is just a continuation of the "anti-modernity--anti-chef--class conscious-- Chowhound--Robert Sietsema--cheap eats--moral relativism of ethnic cuisines--primacy of seasonal ingredients left alone presented simply" strain which many of us here at eGullet have already transcended and are working to convert the rest.

Good writers write about what they understand. I find no fault with the "Elizabeth David, MFK Fisher, Waverley Root, Richard Olney, John Thorne, A.J. Liebling" efforts, only with those who ascribe self-evident truths to their superiority.

John writes "If these writers concerned themselves primarily with ordinary food, it was because they realized that it was finally more interesting than the recherché and the grandiose." Really? I'm not so sure. They'd first have to understand haute cuisine and its tenets, stunning artistry, achievement and excellence which has evolved over hundreds of years and is still evolving as I type this. But as well-written/historical/nostalgic/romantic/quaint documents these still stand tall. Perhaps they always will.

I don't begrudge the Johns--Whiting and his pal Thorne--and those like-minded--who either aren't able or are unwilling to embrace the highest levels of achievement in the culinary arts. That's what makes life and eGullet interesting. But it seems we're always being asked to swallow some form of this as if it were a priori:

"They have chosen to write about the food which is simply the most interesting to write about. This is food whose roots go deep into the soil of human culture, not food invented to appeal to the baroque sensibilities of those whose endless quest for a dubious perfection has brought them to the edge of boredom."

Fortunately at eGullet we hear from the other side, so often cogently:

Bux--"We are all the products of our experiences and limted by our knowledge."

John--"They were not limited by their knowledge, they were liberated by it."

Then Bux nails it: "Liberated by their puritan spirit is what I'd say if I read that they were liberated by seeing excellence as a form of decadence. It's a good point--an ascetic liberty. Those you cite don't seem to espouse that all the way however. They seem to take such a middle class moral virtue to the enjoyment of food."

So to Steve Shaw, Steve P and Bux, thank you for providing the other side which is either lacking or nonexistent elsewhere and thank you as well John for providing the impetus. Is there any doubt that if MFK Fisher, or David or Olney or Root were in a position to experience a Gramercy Tavern or a Blue Hill or a Daniel, let alone Gagnaire, Bras, Herme, Conticini, Adria, that we'd have a whole new definition of interesting food writing and it wouldn't revolve around "ordinary food?"

Just maybe, those writers will come to be viewed as of an era in the same way Escoffier has come to be viewed--out of step with how the world has evolved beyond them.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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And yes, it makes a difference.

It makes a difference to me because the truth makes a difference to me.

Absolutely fundamental. I don't know on how many threads I have taken Steve Plotknuckle to task for failing to make the absolutely basic distinction between "all", "some" and "none". That is not a persnickety distinction - it's a distinction without which we are doomed to perpetual misunderstanding.

He knows as well as the rest of us that there are numerous examples, from the world of food and elsewhere, where A is better than B, but B costs more than A. It's the "won't admit it" bit that's frustrating. Like Fat Bloke, I tried yesterday to come up with an example of an expensive foodstuff where scarcity was not a determinant factor in the price. Couldn't do it. Steve P: when everyone else in the room appears to you to be whacko, it may be time to take a quick look in the mirror (with affection, of course, of course).

However, and here's where I read Plotnickism (for we must have a term for this innovative school of thought) differently from Shaw: I don't think Steve P. is focussing on demand rather than supply in the sense you and I would understand those terms. I don't think he cares about demand in the sense of how much people in general like and are willing to pay for filet mignon. I really think he's rejecting supply and demand as explanatory of cost, and focussing on intrinsic qualities of the product -"betterness" - which exist independently of subjective opinion, and which can be perceived by an elite of connoisseurs.

It's an opulent theory, and deserves to be beheld in all its purity. It's consistent, of course, with Plotnickism on art, music, and judgment in general. And I do not hold Steve in contempt for his consistency :wink: .

Other things: Steve P. plays the Brit card again in attempt to win over the crowd. Statistically insignificant. Yvonne's Scottish, I'm English, and Mr Whiting's a yankee, and we are self-selected participants in this thread because we like debating. And is Fat Bloke an honorary Brit now?

And lxt, I think it's worth saying how much I agree with you that the celebration of that which is inexpensive in and of itself is actually reactionary; as I said on another thread, being poor is a bummer, it's not a cool and radical lifestyle choice. Or, "a cheap holiday in other people's misery", as the finest English poet of the twentieth century put it.

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I don't think he cares about demand in the sense of how much people in general like and are willing to pay for filet mignon.  I really think he's rejecting supply and demand as explanatory of cost, and focussing on intrinsic qualities of the product -"betterness" - which exist independently of subjective opinion, and which can be perceived by an elite of connoisseurs.

This is my reading too. The history of connoisseurship is an interesting one.

I always think of Bernard Berenson having to attribute paintings he liked to painters they weren't by to maintain the consistency of his description of the world.

For British readers (especially of london's Evening Standard) there is an obvious counterpart to SteveP .

Thankyou Wilfrid for this insight, I will now imagine SteveP's postings in the unforgettable tones of Brian Sewell.

Wilma squawks no more

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