We food snobs buy dried Italian pasta rather than Mueller macaroni, artisanal fizzy lemonade from France, not Hi-C. And then we prattle on about it ad nauseam. ... The foods we buy signal to others that we don't just subscribe to Gourmet; we ingest its message of seeking out the finest ingredients.
. . . the cost of being precious about food has also never been greater. Despite the vast advances in American food culture, the finest ingredients frequently must travel a great distance to arrive at your local Whole Foods: wines from Europe, California, and South America; Moroccan harissa and Thai fish sauce; South African guava juice; and pistachios from Turkey and Iran.
But with the dollar weakening, commodity prices rising, and energy costs (and hence transportation costs) soaring, the food snob's dollar doesn't fund nearly as many courses today as it did a year ago. At my local cheese shop, the Etorki, a delightful Basque sheep's milk cheese (from France's Basque region, mind you, not Spain's ...) now tips the scales at $22 a pound, up from $18 a pound a year ago.
. . . If you want to assemble an authentic Italian appetizer of prosciutto and melon, it'll cost you uno braccio e una gamba. At Balducci's this week, prosciutto di parma was $21.99 a pound ,while Tuscan melons ran $4.49.
For the truly wealthy, the gourmet inflation isn't a big deal. Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group probably has not cut back on his consumption of $40 stone-crab claws. But most food snobs aren't really rich.
. . . Some are trading down. Gourmands who swore by New York strip are now singing the praises of the more quotidian hanger steak.
. . . Over the weekend, as I sat in the well-appointed kitchen of a double-income family whose annual earnings run deep into the six figures, my host proclaimed, with exasperation, that $4 for a dozen organic eggs was simply too much. She was switching back to conventional eggs; chemicals be damned.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Trials of Being a Food Snob
Slate's Daniel Gross writes: