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A defense of "extravagant" dining


sara
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I'm not saying that any of this is wrong, I'm just saying that people who are angered by it may have a point, even if it's not exactly the one they are articulating.

perhaps they should address the problem and not the, or rather one of the, symptoms.

Edited by tommy (log)
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Ulitimately I think the basis comes from the puritan values of this country plus the whole gluttony thing in the 7 deadly sins.

Totally off-topic and all, but an interesting fact I learned recently. The seven deadly sins are never mentioned in the Bible. Somebody just made them up.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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

Totally off-topic and all, but an interesting fact I learned recently. The seven deadly sins are never mentioned in the Bible. Somebody just made them up.

i can't believe that anything associated with religion is simply "made up." :laugh:

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By my calculations, it is impossible to eat a decent three-course meal and have a bottle of wine ther for less than $100.

That's a significant dent for most American families -- imagine if you wanted to bring the family -- .

Yeah, that's something I've been thinking a lot about lately-- as an unmarried (but probably not for long) childless woman, my ability to dine out has been structured by several factors--my income, that of my parents, and that of my boyfriends. Many of the great expensive meals I've been to haven't been on my dime. But once kids enter the picture, and the price of dinner rises, well, I just can't see doing it as often--putting aside the whole issue of bringing kids to nice restaurants and the pros/cons of that--and that's depressing. (Now don't all you parents jump on me with the joys of parenthood-I do want kids, I look forward to the happiness they bring, but this one part is depressing.) My bf recently noted (with surprise, shocking to me) that being in a relationship makes dining out more expensive--and I wanted to laugh; yeah, that's because you're paying for two!! Now sure, that'll end soon when I have a real income (until last month I was a grad student), but paying for a whole family of four at $20 an entree??

But one question is whether restaurant prices are truly out of each just because dinner for a family of four is prohibatively expensive? I think not.

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

-- William Grimes

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Totally off-topic and all, but an interesting fact I learned recently.  The seven deadly sins are never mentioned in the Bible.  Somebody just made them up.

I googled Seven Deadly Sins out of curiosity -- recall that in Spenser's "Fairie Queen" there is an interesting passage which describes the sins feeding off of Sin (their mother). Anyway here's an answer as to the origin:

Greek monastic theologian Evagrius of Pontus first drew up a list of eight offenses and wicked human passions:. They were, in order of increasing seriousness: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Evagrius saw the escalating severity as representing increasing fixation with the self, with pride as the most egregious of the sins. Acedia (from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care") denoted "spiritual sloth."

In the late 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great reduced the list to seven items, folding vainglory into pride, acedia into sadness, and adding envy. His ranking of the Sins' seriousness was based on the degree from which they offended against love. It was, from most serious to least: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust. Later theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, would contradict the notion that the seriousness of the sins could be ranked in this way. The term "covetousness" has historically been used interchangeably with "avarice" in accounts of the Deadly Sins. In the seventeenth century, the Church replaced the vague sin of "sadness" with sloth.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Church hierarchy emphasized teaching all lay people the Deadly Sins and Heavenly Virtues. Other spiritual manuals embellished on this tradition. Gerson presents a list of Contrary Virtues in his ABC des simples gens, which was derived from the Psychomatica, or Battle for the Soul, a fifth-century epic poem by Prudentius. He believed these virtues would help counteract temptation toward the Deadly Sins.

According to The Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft, by Ernst and Johanna Lehner, each of the Sins was associated with a specific punishment in Hell. I once saw a set of 16th-century engravings by George Pencz that used animals in their depictions of the Sins. The prints also used women to symbolize all the Sins, which was probably okay in the sociopolitical climate of the 16th century but probably wouldn't be encouraged nowadays.

Edited by FunJohnny (log)

Oh, J[esus]. You may be omnipotent, but you are SO naive!

- From the South Park Mexican Starring Frog from South Sri Lanka episode

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I'm not saying that any of this is wrong, I'm just saying that people who are angered by it may have a point, even if it's not exactly the one they are articulating.

perhaps they should address the problem and not the, or rather one of the, symptoms.

Perhaps, once someone has identified the symptom, curious minds might want to search for the cause. It's more difficult than dismissing the other person's views out of hand because they are inconvenient to one's own, but sometimes more illuminating.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Perhaps, once someone has identified the symptom, curious minds might want to search for the cause.

the symptoms are all around us from where i'm sitting. housing costs, Hummers, expensive box seats, $100 trips to the movie for a family of 4.

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yeah, but breaking bread and dining are often social experiences, not solitary experiences. at least for a good portion of the population. at least i *think* that's how this tangent began.

Well, we agree on that; I just don't want us to go overboard.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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yeah, but breaking bread and dining are often social experiences, not solitary experiences.  at least for a good portion of the population.  at least i *think* that's how this tangent began.

Well, we agree on that; I just don't want us to go overboard.

and dining has the power to bring people out of their shells and put them in a setting where they're behaving better than they might, say, if they're sitting at home in their underwear typing into a forum.

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Perhaps, once someone has identified the symptom, curious minds might want to search for the cause.

the symptoms are all around us from where i'm sitting. housing costs, Hummers, expensive box seats, $100 trips to the movie for a family of 4.

I'm frankly not too worried about a guy who can't afford Danielle because he chose to buy a Hummer. He makes his choices, I make mine.

What bothers me is that, while choices are expanding for a relatively small group of individuals, they are being narrowed for another, larger group through what are arguably (but I won't argue them, here) conscious policy decisions, made and supported by the same insulated little group that dines at these extravagent spots -- politicians of both parties, policy leaders and New York Times writers among them.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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i guess i'm not seeing the connection between per se, daniel, ADNY, and the narrowing of choices for a large group of people. then again, i'm on top looking down. :wink:

A growing number of extravagent restaurants at a time when many families, if not most families, are losing ground, may indicate a significant problem with society.

Glib and reflexive defences of one's own extravagences (not that all of them have been) may indicate an unwillingness to examine one's own motives and prejudices in a productive way.

How's the weather up there?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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A growing gap between those with the most and those with the least is probably not good for anyone. But luxuries, like the poor, have always been with us. I'd like to think that reducing poverty does not mean eliminating luxuries.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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A growing number of extravagent restaurants at a time when many families, if not most families, are losing ground, may indicate a significant problem with society. 

as might sky-rocketing housing costs, 1000's of expensive hummers on the road, etc. i don't see fine dining being unique, and you haven't offered any compelling arguments to change my mind. "mights" and "mays" just don't do it.

your second paragraph seems like arm-chair psychology at best.

the weather is *perfect* up here. why do you ask? :raz:

Edited by tommy (log)
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But luxuries, like the poor, have always been with us.

This is, at best, an excuse for indifference.

I'd like to think that reducing poverty does not mean eliminating luxuries.

Nobody suggested that it did.

as might sky-rocketing housing costs, 1000's of expensive hummers on the road, etc. i don't see fine dining being unique, and you haven't offered any compelling arguments to change my mind. "mights" and "mays" just don't do it.

OK, let me rephrase. A growing number of extravagent restaurants at a time when many families, if not most families, are losing ground indicates a fundamental problem with the social and economic structure of the country. Same with hummers and other "extravagances." It's not the existence of these things, it's the fact that they are emerging at a time when the financial standing of middle class families is falling -- arguably that the "American Dream" ideal is being turned into a myth. People rightly notice the growing disparity and are annoyed at the (largely inadvertantly, except for Hummers) ostentatious way in which the new economic facts of American life are displayed.

To dismiss critics because they have incorrectly identified the symptom as the cause is ignorant and self-serving. If you went to the doctor with a rash and he laughed at your diagnosis of chicken pox, wouldn't you at least expect him to do a little more examination to find out what the problem is?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Just to throw something else into the mix: when did we start thinking about going out to eat as a right? When I was a kid, going to a restaurant was a big deal, special occasion thing. Most of our meals were homecooked.

I think of extravagant dining along the same lines. It's just another tier of what, until recently, has been considered an event---getting dressed up and going out to eat. The average person is not supposed to be able to go out to eat every single night, which means that the average person isn't supposed to be able to afford to go to Per Se or Masa without a huge sacrifice, anymore than the average person is supposed to be able to afford that Hummer.

I don't disagree that the gap between rich and poor has grown wider. However, I also think we've seemed to change our expectations so that now even the poorest member of society is supposed to be able to drive the car of their dreams and eat out a couple of times a week---or even eat out at an expensive restaurant if they want. Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

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Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

And voting used to be accepted purely as the priviege of white males.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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expectations have definitely changed in this country. consumers are demanding status symbols - which explains "cheap" luxury cars, no money down mortgages and bluefly.com. when i was a kid - a honda cost what some mercedes now cost.

the fact that more high end restaurants are opening and charging more money is a given in this cache driven environment. chefs/restaurants are hot so people want in. doesn't this all remind anyone else a little of the 80's?

remember "greed is good"?

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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And the fact that a $100 dinner for two is consided quite moderate is a measure of how out of touch many people are with the lives of middle class Americans.

That's using New York City prices.

Consider the cost of living here in NYC and compare it to the cost of living in a place like Little Rock, Arkansas. $100 for dinner for two translates probably to slightly above $60 for most people elsewhere.

Moderation is in the eye of the beholder.

Soba

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When people gripe about how ostentatious and galling it is to pay $300 a head at a place very few people with lesser economic means would go to, they're forgetting exactly why that place exists where it does and who that place is marketed towards.

The average person doesn't care about a place like Masa or ADNY. The average person is mostly content with The Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden. Are these generalizations? Sure...but they have a grain of truth to them. We all know many such average people. They could care less about the existence of Masa or Per Se except as subjects for coffee table talk.

What I don't get is why do we think they care about what we're obsessed about? Any angst about having and not having on their part seems to be mostly a projection on our end.

Soba

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Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

And voting used to be accepted purely as the priviege of white males.

But eating well in restaurants is not what many would consider a basic human right. While having access to food and, most likely, having access to nutritious food is.

I don't think you can compare basic human rights with luxuries.

Bill Russell

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I don't disagree that the gap between rich and poor has grown wider. However, I also think we've seemed to change our expectations so that now even the poorest member of society is supposed to be able to drive the car of their dreams and eat out a couple of times a week---or even eat out at an expensive restaurant if they want. Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

Are you familiar with the economist Juliet B. Schor? She discusses this concept in the her book The Overspent American which was published in '98.

We're exposed to wealth far beyond most of our means. "The average American is now more likely to compare his or her income to the six-figure benchmark in the office down the corridor or displayed in Tuesday-evening prime time," Schor says.

    Instead of the American Dream being defined by a little house with a white picket fence, it's increasingly identified with luxury items: option-packed BMWs, Michael Jordan sneakers, designer kitchens, personal computers, private schools and cell phones. Even our pets get caught up in this spend-spend culture: 75 percent receive Christmas gifts and 40 percent birthday presents.

    And it's never enough. In 1987, asked how much annual income they'd need to "fulfill all of your dreams," the median response was $50,000. By 1996, the figure had nearly doubled to $90,000. Another survey cited by Schor found that only 15 percent of Americans said they'd be satisfied ending up middle class.

"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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Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

And voting used to be accepted purely as the priviege of white males.

If you insist on equating the opportunity of fine dining with the right to vote, I don't think there's much basis for further discussion.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Extravagent dining used to be accepted as purely a privilege of the rich.

And voting used to be accepted purely as the priviege of white males.

But eating well in restaurants is not what many would consider a basic human right. While having access to food and, most likely, having access to nutritious food is.

I don't think you can compare basic human rights with luxuries.

Justifying anything on the basis of "privilege" is bogus. We do not live in a caste system. The word "ability" is fine.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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The average person doesn't care about a place like Masa or ADNY. The average person is mostly content with The Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden.

Olive Garden and Cheescake Factory are even out of the regular range of most "average people", regardless of taste issues.

Bill Russell

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