Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why would anyone spend $X on a meal?

A while ago, I saw a couple Twitter conversations about how people would never pay such and such a price for a meal.  It got me thinking about the relevance of that price and what people value.  I've spent a jaw dropping amount on food, yet, I haven't run a bill over my rent.  So I'm somewhere in between the Oh wow that's a lot and the Oh wow that's insane. This is the story of how I went from sloppy joe's to gourmet bbq lamb sliders.

My mother, whom I love dearly, loves her meat well done.  God bless her, she put dinner on the table for our family every single night, but growing up, food was more of a utility than an art.  From western Pennsylvania, my parents valued meat and potatoes.  My dad especially loved those frozen lima beans in the butter sauce.  One time, at a friend's house, I was served whole wheat pear pancakes and could barely choke them down because they weren't the white fluffy Bisquik kind that I had grown to love.  This is the snapshot of my childhood.

Then I found a roommate on Craigslist who loved food.  She had a love affair with not only the food itself but with the cooking and in her line of business, she was was living and breathing the foodie lifestyle.  All of the sudden I was introduced to cheese, soy, chocolate, burgers galore, next season's hottest new whatever, etc.  I had a marvelous teacher and I was an avid student, making up for lost time.  Why hello Goat Cheese, lover of mine, where have you been all my life?!  Fava beans, you tasty little lima bean look-a-likes! Lamb chops? Now I know how to broil 'em to perfection.

When I moved to Durham, I found myself in a concentrated microcosm of the emerging New American food movement and microbreweries.  You may laugh, but the Triangle is a cradle of of exciting and trendsetting food with a sophisticated population.  Once they added in a southern twist I was a believer in grits, slow roasted meats, local veg, trout, and corn bread.  I loved them home style, deconstructed, served with fine linens in my lap and a tasty brew in my hand.

New American certainly isn't lacking here in San Francisco, after all Chez Panisse invented the movement, but  now I'm taking my obsession across all sorts of borders.  Vegan, Vegetarian, Seafood, Chinese, Vietnamese, Afghan, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, French, Moroccan, Turkish . . . the globe of flavors keeps spinning. Oh, and of course, every bite pairs with wine!

I spend money on a meal because it's an experience.  It's an evening of entertainment.  Of using all of my senses and retruning to a a more primitive version of myself - but still civilized.  It's appreciating an art form, just like some people collect art.  Wine is a similar experiential art form.  It's more than appreciating the flavor, but appreciating the work and the artistry.

Yes, at times expensive.  I've spent more money in the past year on food than I would ever like to admit.  But I will spend, spend again and spend mightily to continue the sensual experience of food.

This is WEverb11 post that I started in December, but just finished now.  WEverb11 is a series of writing prompts focused on reflection and future.  Learn more at WEverb11!  Prompt 27 was: Where did your money go this year? Where do you want it to go in 2012?


  1. I totally get you on food being an experience. Mike and I spend a ridiculous amount on food, especially on vacations and while we're living in Spain because we figure it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We've gone to more Michelin star restaurants by now than I can count and I don't regret a single one. We know that priorities will change when we have kiddos, so we're going for all of these experiences while we can right now.

  2. I'm with you - we are fine with spending crazy amounts on food every once in a while because the experience is totally worth it to us! We absolutely never regret spending the extra money.

  3. Several years ago I bought lunch for three of us that was about ten times my upper limit of what I'll reasonably spend on lunch. This turned out to be my break-through moment, where I realized it's okay to treat myself, to buy meals and accoutrements that are "rip-offs" (wine, soft drinks, appetizers). I don't think I have an upper limit, nor is it worth leaving off something I want because it will save me a few bucks.

  4. I've definitely had the same home-life meal experience and started to appreciate food a lot more lately! Our budget doesn't allow for much more than what I can concoct in my own kitchen, but hurrah for culinary discoveries like goat cheese!

  5. I have no qualms about spending money on food. :) To me it's a memory as opposed to a thing. I'd rather spend money on that.

  6. I'm a foodie, or as my husband says a "food snob." I do a lot of travel for work (and fun) around the world so I collect recipes and spices from far corners of the world. I am extremely lucky that Gainesville has access to delicious and fresh food that is locally grown so we don't have to spend an arm and a leg on food. Its one of the luxuries of a smaller college town!

  7. I completely agree, part of what I'm spending money on is the experience! I will spend quite a lot on a meal if it's something intriguing to me. BUT the only thing that I don't like is when a meal is expensive, the food is good, but the serving size is so tiny. If I leave a restaurant still hungry, no matter what I paid for the meal, it was too much.

  8. I definitely agree with you on this!!! Where some couples might spend money on concerts or electronics or other things, we like to spend ours on dining out! Now, we don't eat at very expensive restaurants every single time, but we don't deny ourselves a treat every once in a while! We have some amazing memories around dining at certain restaurants...trying something new or unique...having a great cocktail or a bottle of wine...

    Also - eating at some of these more unique places has inspired me in the kitchen as well! I love when that happens...