Friday, October 8, 2010

Choos and Cheese

My friend S was boasting about her first and quite possibly last degustation experience.  
“We were strolling around The Rocks and came across this really snazzy looking place. We thought ‘why not?’ and asked for a table. Apparently, we were really lucky because they’d had a few cancellations”.
S and her husband were then seated at “this place called Quay in Sydney.   To put her naivety into perspective, Peter Gilmore’s restaurant, voted 27 on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 best restaurants list, is booked out on Saturday evenings until April 2011.
“It was absolutely beautiful... but I’m not really sure why we did it. We paid $600 for the two of us [tasting menu $210pp plus $90 pp for accompanying wines]. I didn't understand the menu- I thought it wasn’t English and by the end I was wishing we got hamburgers.”
As amazing as the experience was, S left feeling a little bewildered and her wallet considerably lighter.  Could it be... diner's remorse? Her mixed review reminded me of her shopping tales.  Her wardrobe is full of dresses with tags still attached, each justified with something like “At the time it was a good idea...”
The irony in her story made me think about my own habits.
I will buy the same dress in 3 colours because I’m not sure which one I’ll feel like wearing that night and return the rejects the following day. I will make plans to meet for sushi at 6pm, I’ll ring my partner at 4pm because I’ve changed my mind to Chinese, then we’ll walk past Papa Giuseppe’s Trattoria on the way and I’ll insist I was craving Italian all along. I’ll order the fettucine bosciola and then run after the waitress to change it to the linguine gamberi.
S is the impulsive and I’m the indecisive. Does our buying behaviour reflect our dining trends?

Is food the new fashion?

My mother wears the same outfits, week in and week out. If she’s invited to a wedding though, she’ll search for a fabulous new getup as soon as she receives the save-the-date. Likewise, she’s content with home cooking 9 times out of 10 but for a special occasion, she’ll book a restaurant 4 weeks in advance.  The planner.
There are the loyal lads who buy the same reliable brands and order the green curry at every single Thai joint. Then there’s High-roller Harry and we all know Budget Bob. The correlation is simple really. Food, like clothing, is a basic human necessity that we indulge in at different levels.
For a long time, fashion was the way of self-expression. Your clothes, scent and accessories all lent itself to your projected identity.  Now it seems, you are indeed what you eat. Hello, Madonna clinging on to her youth whilst drinking coconut water. Coincidence? I think not.
It’s all about where you’re seen and what’s on your plate. Even your coffee cup is a statement (Is it just me or does anyone else get snide remarks when holding Starbucks?). Table conversations about the bargains we scored now revolve around where you get the best tapas.  We want to drink at the ‘it’ bar as much as we want the ‘it’ bag.
Food is certainly becoming the new fashion... but here’s hoping we all don’t take it as literally as Lady Gaga.  

What do you think? Are your dining and buying habits the same? Or do you defy my theory by being a high-roller diner but budget buyer?


  1. BAHAHAHA thats so funny! i never thought about that before but im def. like ur mum. Only splurge on special occasions but my gf is unfortunately a high-roller wannabe ha!!

    Lady Gaga and Madonna FAIL

    nice blog "_"

  2. Hey Maz, thankyou so much for your comment. Im so sorry to hear that your dad didnt make it, how terrible for you and your family :(
    My dad was terribley lucky that someone was home that day, now my mum wont let him out of her site.
    I really like your writing! $600 for two people to eat is rediculous. I duno how places could justify charging that amount. I dont spend much on meals out, firstly because expensive restaurants wouldnt cater to my diet, and secondly because you can get a cheaper meal that is just as satisfying. And as for clothes, I do buy far too many but I always shop for bargins :)
    I will be follwoing you from now on too :)


  3. This is a really interesting piece, Maz! definitely food for thought.

    I don't mind being impulsive is a meal is very reasonably priced, but if it's any more than $50 I would probably plan it well in advance - unfortunately I simply can't afford to splash out several hundred dollars for a meal.

  4. i think this change results from the fact that food is now increasingly being sold like a consumer product, like clothes. why would you pay $2000 instead of $400 for a handbag? is the quality 5 times better? i think some people (maybe not your friend S) pay $600 for a meal for exactly the same reason. it is no longer just about the food (the ingredients, the cooking), but what sort of statement you make with your purchase of this "product". but of course this conspicuous consumption thing is not limited to food either.