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A defense of "extravagant" dining


sara
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If I couldn't occasionally eat at a fabulous restauant, or read amazing recipes and gaze at photos from a renowned chef's cookbook, or hear about someone elses' recent memorable dining experience that makes my mouth water, and occasionally try to cook something myself that vaguely mimics the masters, then I might as well be dead. :cool:

JANE

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i don't see any moral issues with people spending money on travel, fine dining, cars, homes, or cocaine and strippers for that matter.  although i might definitely take issue with people judging others based on how they spend their money.

Tommy's got it. One of the flogs I read a bit mentioned that their idea of having 'made it' was that they could buy red bell peppers when they had the urge at any time without looking at the market price. They had lived so long where all food purchases had to be carefully weighed, and red bells were often $5+ a pound, and therefore unjustifiable. Once they didn't have to worry about that cost, they felt wealthy.

I was trying to think of a food item in my own habits that is the same way, and it would probably be cheese (possibly avocados). I don't buy tons of the stuff, but also I've not needed to *gasp* when confronted with that 250g wheel of Epoisses. Yum.

Miss Tenacity

http://tenacity.net

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

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Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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I have friends who think nothing of dropping thousands of dollars for tickets to a ball game, or others who think that a $700 baby stroller is a reasonable purchase.

I have been silently awaiting the first mention of the Bugaboo stroller on eGullet. I have even attempted, thus far without success, to come up with a way to be the first person to bring it up.

Personally, I disdain the Bugaboo, and "keep it real" with my Peg Perego.

My admittedly obscure point: all notions of conspicuous consumption are relative.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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Exactly!

I might spend $3.50 for one piece of uni sushi as an "extra" treat during lunch. But maybe the next day I'll eat at my desk or at Subway!

On Pay Day I tend to splurge more as I'm sure a lot of people do. My version of splurging might be $25.00 for lunch, while someone else will pay that for one glass of wine they HAVE with lunch!

Edited by Janedujour (log)

JANE

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another part of grimes' article is dealing with one's guilt brought on by no one but themselves. at the end of the day you as the diner have nothing to prove or explain to anyone but yourself. if you're comfortable when you sign that credit card slip, well there ya have it.

Well, you can always create a scrapbook of credit card slips from extravagances and show it off to your friends and family. :raz::laugh:

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Been doing that for more than a year! (menus from dinners, plus receipts reflecting what we ate). It's a great keepsake. I also love my end of the year credit card statement--it breaks down my expenses and my restaurant percentage is always the highest (around 1/3 of all my charges) and they also give me a list of all of the restaurants I've dined at. Nice.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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It's interesting to note that people always use the "children are starving" argument. How come when you hear about someone spending $750 a night on a hotel room you don't hear it's indecent because there are people without shelter?

I guess that would depend on what you're reading; if it's the Times, you probably won't hear that. In our culture we're not supposed to question the ideal of limitless self-indulgence. Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

:shock: you don't here that around here, do you? i haven't seen much of that type of thing on egullet. everyone seems to pretty much accept others' dining habits, as all dining is good dining. :biggrin:

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One question to consider is whether 'good taste' is associated with class--in other words, given more money to spend, would those individuals from lower social classes choose to go to Alain Ducasse, or would they rather eat at McDonalds 5 times as often?

I don't think good taste is associated with class. However, it is highly unlikely that you'll have expensive tastes unless you've somehow been exposed to them. Whether you acquire these tastes, assuming you've had the opportunity, depends on the person. I've certainly known people who had the means and the opportunity to dine out well, but simply never developed the interest. Someone strapped for cash probably won't have the opportunity very often, however much they desire it; but many of those who can afford it choose to spend their resources elsewhere.

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I have a cousin like this-- he faults me for taking time out of my day to eat, which he views as a complete waste of time. He lives on energy shakes, made in a blender. He won't even allow his girlfriend to keep a dining room table in their home because that encourages sitting down to eat--a waste of time.

Bizarre.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

:shock: you don't here that around here, do you? i haven't seen much of that type of thing on egullet. everyone seems to pretty much accept others' dining habits, as all dining is good dining. :biggrin:

hmmm...not totally true given the sheer number of threads devoted to guilty/non-foodie enough threads..."my secret affair with margarine", "everything you ever wanted to know about mango salsa but were afraid to ask" etc...and the apologetic tone most of these threads take.

edited for clarity

Edited by reesek (log)

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

:shock: you don't here that around here, do you? i haven't seen much of that type of thing on egullet. everyone seems to pretty much accept others' dining habits, as all dining is good dining. :biggrin:

hmmm...not totally true given the sheer number of threads devoted to guilty/non-foodie enough threads..."my secret affair with margarine", "everything you ever wanted to know about mango salsa but were afraid to ask" etc...and the apologetic tone most of these threads take.

Most of those threads are being done with humour, and out of fun too. I don't find those airs of being "non-foodie enough" on eG or by other eG'ers for the sake of making another deliberately feel "impoverished" or, perhaps even snubbbed. There is always much to learn, even when confessing to loving Mrs. Dash seasoning.

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I'm not sure where the articles in question and the posts on this thread are really going -- they seem to be going in all different directions (not that there's anything wrong with that, since that's what I'm about to do :rolleyes: )

But there is a "doth protest too much" tone, and I guess Grimes ticked me off right at the beginning when he pointed to a certain "class" of people who always complain about spending a lot of money on a restaurant meal. Class?

I'd like to hear a serious argument against "overspending" on food, but I guess this isn't the forum to find such an argument. :raz: We're creating our own arguments and then having fun tearing them to shreds.

Food does seem to be in its own category. You can pay a fortune to see a baseball game or a concert, or for clothes and cars or whatever, but it doesn't ever seem to be the same. I think this is partially due to the fact that food really can't ever be shared in the way other things can be shared. Even if you cook for others, eat with others, you never share your own food with others (at least I hope not!). Millions can watch the same baseball game on TV and pay nothing; others can buy a knock-off of your ridiculously expensive Gucci handbag and be just as happy. There's something very solitary about eating. I dunno. Just had a great (relatively inexpensive) dinner and I'm musing aloud. :smile: I dined alone. (Like Thomas Jefferson. :wink: )

I think that most people who live at bare subsistence levels don't have much experience managing their money, mostly because they've never had any to manage. So often they will not make the wisest choices. I can't see any way of comparing this to the very wealthy people who don't have to bother managing their daily expenditures.

This thread keeps bringing me back to "Babette's Feast" and offers some different ways of looking at that wonderful movie.

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I think that most people who live at bare subsistence levels don't have much experience managing their money, mostly because they've never had any to manage. So often they will not make the wisest choices. I can't see any way of comparing this to the very wealthy people who don't have to bother managing their daily expenditures.

This hits on a different article that was featured in the magazine:

The Price of Parsimony

My anxiety about spending money reared up one day when I was walking down the aisles of a C-Town in the Bronx. I was a few years into the fieldwork for a book I was writing on inner-city poverty, living on less than a quarter of the salary I'd earned at my last proper job. That afternoon, I was trailing my book's main subject, Lolli, as she bought the month's groceries. She was a teenager, pregnant, homeless and already the mother of two children. Her young family subsisted on food stamps and vouchers from the federal subsidy program, WIC. The shield of my judgment rose when she passed right by the C-Town weekly discount flier and made her way down the dirty aisles with her shopping cart. She just grabbed things -- packs of chicken legs and pork chops, bags of sugar and rice, bottles of vegetable oil; in went cans of beans and tins of Spam. I stood, stunned, as she reached for the individual-portion cartons of juice -- with their brightly colored miniature straws -- ignoring the larger, economy-size bottles. No calculation of unit price, no can'ts or shoulds or ought-not-to's, no keen eye to the comparative ounce. By the time her stuffed cart reached the checkout line, my unease was turning into anger. Didn't she know she was poor?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I think that most people who live at bare subsistence levels don't have much experience managing their money, mostly because they've never had any to manage. So often they will not make the wisest choices. I can't see any way of comparing this to the very wealthy people who don't have to bother managing their daily expenditures.

This hits on a different article that was featured in the magazine:

The Price of Parsimony

My anxiety about spending money reared up one day when I was walking down the aisles of a C-Town in the Bronx. I was a few years into the fieldwork for a book I was writing on inner-city poverty, living on less than a quarter of the salary I'd earned at my last proper job. That afternoon, I was trailing my book's main subject, Lolli, as she bought the month's groceries. She was a teenager, pregnant, homeless and already the mother of two children. Her young family subsisted on food stamps and vouchers from the federal subsidy program, WIC. The shield of my judgment rose when she passed right by the C-Town weekly discount flier and made her way down the dirty aisles with her shopping cart. She just grabbed things -- packs of chicken legs and pork chops, bags of sugar and rice, bottles of vegetable oil; in went cans of beans and tins of Spam. I stood, stunned, as she reached for the individual-portion cartons of juice -- with their brightly colored miniature straws -- ignoring the larger, economy-size bottles. No calculation of unit price, no can'ts or shoulds or ought-not-to's, no keen eye to the comparative ounce. By the time her stuffed cart reached the checkout line, my unease was turning into anger. Didn't she know she was poor?

Yes, that second article was quoted above, and mentioned for comparison purposes to the Grimes article. (An aside: the magazine section of the NY Times didn't arrive with my paper this weekend, so I'm glad to be reading this stuff here. I got the crossword puzzle from a friend who doesn't do them. Not having the crossword puzzle on a Saturday morning is a terrible thing.) But it seems to be a separate topic than why some people complain when others spend "extravagant" amounts of money on dining. The people comlaining aren't necessarily poor. Is it just self-righteousness, or is something else there? I find it interesting, and rather than defend the extravagant spending I'd like to understand the basis of why one "shouldn't" do it. Actually I somehow get the feeling it's past my bedtime. :wacko:

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....I'd like to understand the basis of why one "shouldn't" do it.

Ulitimately I think the basis comes from the puritan values of this country plus the whole gluttony thing in the 7 deadly sins.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I have a cousin like this-- he faults me for taking time out of my day to eat, which he views as a complete waste of time. He lives on energy shakes, made in a blender. He won't even allow his girlfriend to keep a dining room table in their home because that encourages sitting down to eat--a waste of time.

Bizarre.

Bizarre that he still has a girlfriend, you mean. I can't imagine how fun he must be in bed...

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But there is a "doth protest too much" tone, and I guess Grimes ticked me off right at the beginning when he pointed to a certain "class" of people who always complain about spending a lot of money on a restaurant meal. Class?

hmm. i didn't read "class" as socio-economic class, but rather a group of people associated by having similar traits. in this case, big-ass tight-wad complainers.

Edited by tommy (log)
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But there is a "doth protest too much" tone, and I guess Grimes ticked me off right at the beginning when he pointed to a certain "class" of people who always complain about spending a lot of money on a restaurant meal. Class?

hmm. i didn't read "class" as socio-economic class, but rather a group of people associated by having similar traits. in this case, big-ass tight-wad complainers.

I also read "class" as "group" or "classification." The people who make up this class are those who always complain about spending a lot of money on a restaurant meal, plain and simple. They come from all social and economic backgrounds.

What I find interesting in regard to the article and this thread is not whether someone is poor or wealthy, or spendthrift or tightwad, but how extravagant their own dining is in relation to what they spend on other activities or products and how judgmental they are in regard to how much others spend on other things in comparison to food and dining. It's one thing to eschew box seats, fur coats, fancy cars and expensive meals, to live an ascetic life style. It's yet another to attach moral decline to some of those things and not others. It's even more interesting to find those who frequent a food site, that strikes many as a hangout for the food obsessed, but who don't regard food as a legitimate object of one's willful extravagance.

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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If I couldn't occasionally eat at a fabulous restauant, or read amazing recipes and gaze at photos from a renowned chef's cookbook, or hear about someone elses' recent memorable dining experience that makes my mouth water, and occasionally try to cook something myself that vaguely mimics the masters, then I might as well be dead. :cool:

Surely, you're being hyperbolic. You must have had ancestors who fought in wars or were otherwise in constant thread of being killed. And you surely know about people who survived attempts to wipe out their people and were so thankful for being able to survive on potato skins, rainwater, and so forth. Frankly, the very great majority of the human race does without expensive meals, and many of them are able to experience joy and appreciate life. So let's not get too carried away. I'm sure you wouldn't actually want to kill yourself if you could never eat an expensive meal again. :laugh::smile:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

:shock: you don't here that around here, do you? i haven't seen much of that type of thing on egullet. everyone seems to pretty much accept others' dining habits, as all dining is good dining. :biggrin:

But it wasn't always so, as we both remember.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm torn. In general, I am delighted to spend what lots of people would consider a shocking proportion of my paltry income on food. I certainly buy extravagant ingredients all the time. And I've been very happy to dine out extravagantly, and I think it makes perfect sense to choose the luxuries one likes best.

But the other night, my husband and I went out to dinner with a few friends. It was a celebration dinner for various things, and we were intending to be splurge-y. We had a tasting menu, with accompanying wines. It was good! Very good, even. But it didn't blow my mind, and when the bill came, I was just depressed. I didn't feel ripped off, but it felt like a waste somehow, and I wished I'd just eaten at home.

I think maybe the trouble for me could be that I tend to prefer simpler food, except in cases where the food is truly staggeringly good. And so when I eat out and find it merely very good, and it's also expensive, I do feel guilty. I think, oh, for so much less money I could have enjoyed myself just as much (if differently). And that makes me feel guilty, or sad, or something, in a way that going to a sub-par play or some such other expensive activity would not. I don't know why. The whole experience reminded me of regrettable sex, somehow.

"went together easy, but I did not like the taste of the bacon and orange tang together"

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Guess I'm just tired of being told that somehow my life is impoverished because I don't want to spend my money on lavish extravagances, at the same time knowing full well that what I do have is well beyond the reach of a large portion of the world's population.

:shock: you don't here that around here, do you? i haven't seen much of that type of thing on egullet. everyone seems to pretty much accept others' dining habits, as all dining is good dining. :biggrin:

But it wasn't always so, as we both remember.

that's no doubt for another thread, but i really don't think it was the case (i do believe that fellow liked cheap eats as well). and i don't see it as the case now.

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Food does seem to be in its own category. You can pay a fortune to see a baseball game or a concert, or for clothes and cars or whatever, but it doesn't ever seem to be the same. I think this is partially due to the fact that food really can't ever be shared in the way other things can be shared. Even if you cook for others, eat with others, you never share your own food with others (at least I hope not!). Millions can watch the same baseball game on TV and pay nothing; others can buy a knock-off of your ridiculously expensive Gucci handbag and be just as happy. There's something very solitary about eating.

Is food intrinsically in its own category? Or does it merely seem that way due to your own personal priorities? You say that food "can't ever be shared." To the contrary, a group can easily dine out together and order dishes for sharing. I have had several memorable meals recently where this was done. Other times, a companion may say, "May I have a taste of yours? Would you like a taste of mine?" Certainly it's common to share a bottle of wine. No doubt the overall dining experience - the ambiance, the conversation, the service - is shared. The comment that "there's something very solitary about eating" may be your personal experience or preference, but it is not intrinsically true.

The Gucci handbag, on the other hand, is quite different. It is a material item, and however pricey it may be, it endures long after the date of purchase. But restaurant meals, concerts and baseball games are all transitory experiences. Which of these fleeting events we enjoy most seems largely a matter of personal choice.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Is food intrinsically in its own category? Or does it merely seem that way due to your own personal priorities? You say that food "can't ever be shared." To the contrary, a group can easily dine out together and order dishes for sharing. I have had several memorable meals recently where this was done. Other times, a companion may say, "May I have a taste of yours? Would you like a taste of mine?" Certainly it's common to share a bottle of wine. No doubt the overall dining experience - the ambiance, the conversation, the service - is shared. The comment that "there's something very solitary about eating" may be your personal experience or preference, but it is not intrinsically true.

indeed eating is about the most social thing i do. the whole concept of breaking bread and whatnot. all very romantic. all very real.

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