We’re Worlds Away: Fine Dining
One thing that never fails to amaze me is how different people can be. We live in a world filled with billions of people, who make up innumerable little communities that are part of millions of cultures, sub cultures, classes, ethnicities, etc. It’s shocking to realize that the vast majority of people on Earth have a completely different outlook from yourself. It’s surprising enough when just two people, who are part of the same culture, look at something and come to two completely different conclusions right off the bat.
This marvelous fact was once again brought to my attention just two days ago.
I was browsing around the internet when I came across an article titled “The Five Reasons You (Yes You) Should Embrace Fine Dining.” This caught my eye. I’m not exactly a fine dining kind of person. I like my food to be affordable. I scarf it down. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a one star restaurant, much less anything fancier. I know what a maître d’ is the same way I know what a wolverine is; from books and television, not actual experience. On the other hand this article was speaking to me. My interest was aroused.
The first item on the list was to “forget special occasions.” Fine dining shouldn’t be reserved for special days, they said. Life is an occasion and a night out at a fancy restaurant should be an event unto itself. Fair enough, I thought. Nothing wrong with that. Already my eyes were moving to the next list item, which was titled “Fine Dining is Affordable Luxury.” Here is where it’s at. My spirits rose with hope: perhaps fine dining is relatively affordable.
Then I read the first sentence: “Yes, when you start looking at check averages that hover above $200 per person before tax and tip, you start doing math in your head.”
Two…..$200 for a meal? Like just for a single person?
Before tax and tip?!
In retrospect I don’t know what I expected. But I know I didn’t expect that. I was shocked. If a meal costs $10 I think it’s on the pricy side. The most expensive meals I’ve ever eaten are well under $25 a person. That’s not hyperbole: I can’t think of a single possible situation in my life where my part of the check would have been more than $25, which for me is almost sinfully expensive. $200 per person? WHAT.
I told myself to calm down. There’s more to read. Perhaps $200 plates are for the really, really fancy places and this article is about to tell me the affordable price they promised. I was disappointed. Instead they merely tried to justify the expense. Which is fine, but doesn’t help me. I don’t care if the meal is really worth $200. My problem is that paying $200 for a meal is insane from my point of view. It’s incomprehensible. It’s like if someone offered to sell you a giant gold statue of yourself for $7 million dollars. You probably wouldn’t doubt that a giant solid gold statue was worth $7 mill; but you also would think that it’s ridiculous that someone would consider buying one a good idea.
Their final bit of advice was to put that $200 a person in perspective. “Break it down per hour: if you hit $250 per person you will most likely be dining for three-plus hours, roughly $80 per hour. You cannot get a spa treatment for that, nor a lawyer, nor a Ferrari, nor a weekend in St. Bart’s.”
I hate to wear the word out, but, WHAT?!
I don’t go to the spa! I don’t buy Ferraris! I’ve never even dreamed of taking a vacation to St. Bart’s. That’s a vacation for rich people. I dream of someday saving up enough money to visit Disneyland. That’s the height of my vacation dreams. To me, Disneyland is an expensive vacation that will require quite some time to save up for. St. Bartholomew’s isn’t even on the menu. I can’t think of an analogy that could express my dismay right now. It’s like….it’s like…it’s like TELLING SOMEONE THEY CAN AFFORD $200+ PER PLATE BECAUSE IT’S CHEAPER THAN A WEEKEND AT ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S. It is the ridiculous parody analogy! It is a reductio ad absurdum unto itself.
Now my point here isn’t to say “Look at this crazy person! He’s so out of touch with reality!” Because for him, and for thousands of other people his whole article makes perfect sense. They get it. To them I am the crazy person. I’m the one who is out of touch with reality. Honestly most of the time when we talk about “reality” we really mean “my own particular worldview that is unique to my culture, class, ethnicity, and time period.” When I read this article what struck me wasn’t how crazy its advice was but rather how far removed it was from my own life. For me going to Olive Garden is something reserved for a special occasion. The fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been in is Claim Jumper. Red Lobster is a luxury restaurant from my point of view. $200 a plate was never the realm of possibility for me. I don’t even know where I could find a restaurant like that: where are they? How would I find one? They don’t seem like something that exists in my world. Mentally I cannot place where a $200 a plate restaurant would be. I have to relegate such things to places I’ve never been: New York City, Paris, etc. It occurs to me that there is probably one in Seattle, but my brain can’t actually picture it.
Some of you may agree with me, and some may not. I actually would like to hear from both sides. Does anyone find my response to this article startling? If so, please comment. Though it can be a shock to my system I love to talk to people who exist in very different worlds from myself. I just wish I could talk to the author of this article. I’d love to understand his point of view.