Alas, 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. (I know a place. …) The best smoked salmon—the only one that will e’er darken a bagel in my house—arrives on the banks of the Hudson from distant Scotland, not nearby Nova Scotia.
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—what, you don’t know about France’s Basque cheeses? really?) now tips the scales at $22 a pound, up from $18 a pound a year ago. Eli’s raisin crisps, perfect for holding the Basque cheese, have risen from $6.86 to $8.35. 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.
As a “food snob”, I find it difficult to empathize with this article at all. As of yet, I have not had to make any huge sacrifices myself, but I also have this unnerving habit of not spending beyond my own means. Thanks to a lower middle class upbringing, good cheeses and Italian meats have always seemed expensive to me, even when I could easily afford it. In other words, being a food snob is a luxury. I wonder how many folks forget this simple fact.
So what does a food snob do when they have to worry about spending that extra $43 for that liter of gourmet olive oil? If it is unaffordable, then it simply doesn’t get bought. This is almost the definition of what ‘luxury’ means.
What’s the food equivalent for White Guilt? ‘Cause when I read the above article, that’s the sense I get. “We all are having to make sacrifices” is what I am inferring from the article. And yet it’s hard to consider having to buy Smoked Salmon from Nova Scotia instead of Scotland a sacrifice in light of what other people are/will be going through.