Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Er, file this under "not on the same planet"

OK, not really gardening related, but I read this article in the Times tonight and am still reeling a little bit from it:

File under:
I don't live on the same planet as these people

They think that $100 for a meal for two people is a bargain. For that matter, they think a ceasar salad for less than $10 is a big steal. Do you know what's in a ceasar salad? Lettuce and stale bread with some creamy dressing.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think they could make a pretty tasty meal for two for a lot less than than a $100? I mean, you should taste my Frito Pie. Granted, I make it with my home-grown poblano peppers, so maybe that's why I could get away with charging less than $38.50 for a bowl of it...Heck, I'd probably charge less than they charged for the ceasar salad.

But lordy, that savory, spicy bowl of Frito Pie will fill you and warm you on a frosty winter's night!

Also granted, they say this:

"It was an experiment for lean times, but not an exercise in cheap eats. After all, even many of the most keenly cost-conscious diners can still afford — and still want to enjoy — food of some distinction in full-service restaurants with some coddling."

But still. An experiment for lean times? I'm thinking that if I'm cutting back because times are lean, I'd start with ditching a restaurant that sells a minimalist ten dollar salad.

Now wine--that's a different matter.

I would totally pay 10 bucks for a bottle of wine.

But is a plate of lettuce worth 10 Washingtons just because you get some fancy lighting along with it? What say you, dear readers? Do you think there are meals genuinely worth this much (or more), or is it all hype and/or cost of living in NYC?

And if you disagree with me, if you think that there is a price to be paid to support art--including culinary art--speak up! I don't bite.


  1. My goodness, I can feed my family of five a very nice meal for less than $10.00. I can't believe people would pay that for a ceasar salad!


  2. I confess, I would. I wouldn't do it every day. We ate cereal for supper tonight. But if I went to a big city to live it up a little, I'd sure live it up. I have to tell you though---if you aren't use to eating like that...which I'm not....then it's going to exit your system faster than it took to be served.

    I like this really cheap wine that is a little bit of alcohol in a bubbly mix. It's called Verde. And I'm a Rose gal too. We have a lot winneries and vineyards popping up in NC like prarie dog towns. They are just about all in sight of each other.

    Did you say a Frito casserole? Yum. Your peppers look good enough to eat.

  3. I think they're crazy!

    How many people could you feed for a week on $100? Heck, that's more than my total allotment seed bill for the year!

  4. Some people have more money than sense.
    If you value everything only if it has a high price tag then you get what you deserve in my opinion.

  5. Well, I do know people who just can't or won't cook so I'm sure that they're happy to find a "bargain" ceasar salad. For myself, if that ceasar salad was so good that I just couldn't duplicate it, well, I would probably spring for it. That's kinda my feeling about eating out. For dishes that I can't be bothered to learn to make or are too fancy for my style of cooking, I'm happy to pay up. There's a terrific scallop ceviche at a local place that is oh so good that I won't ever bother to make myself, besides which they have a great patio where I can sit and enjoy it. But, frankly, I'm a pretty good cook and I don't go out very often because I can usually cook as well or more often better than anything I can get out and for a lot less $$$. And, my ceasar is much better than any restaurants - there's never enough garlic or anchovy for me!

  6. We don't spend much more than $100 for two weeks worth of groceries! It doesn't seem like much of a bargain to this frugal gal. :)

  7. Hi Susan - thanks so much for your constructive coment on my Undecided piece yesterday and for my Blotanical fave. Both are much appreciated.

    You offered some book titles - yes please. Emmat has sent me one in response to your comment (I love it when that kind of thing happens) and I've gleaned a couple of Garden WiseGuys's blog too. I see yesterday's post as being a resource I'll return to over the comming months, so anything you can add to it would be great.

    Very many congratulations on your blogging success too - I can see why you got the job :)

  8. Hi all--I'm swamped with finals grading/commencement duties right now, so I'm going to be a little slow responding over the next few days...

    Looks like the consensus is leaning toward my shockiness over the idea of thinking $100 for a meal for two is a bargain...but trust Michelle to weigh in on the side of the cooks! ;-)

    I think I'd have to agree that once in a greeeeaaaat while, I will go along with spending that much on a truly spectacular meal. I just wouldn't think I was being frugal doing it...

    Cheers all!

  9. Anna--when I catch my breath from end 'o semester stuff, I'll post a recipe for Frito Pie. It's a winter comfort food.

  10. I personally have to disagree with the comment consensus here. Living in New York City comes with a higher cost of living. What is paid here in Texas per square foot for a house versus what is paid there is grotesquely unequal.

    However you do have to look at the fact that it is a three course meal he is sitting down to, so $100 is pretty reasonable in my opinion. I recently took a girl out on a date here in Lubbock for a four course meal and paid $120 for it. Granted I could have made some of those dishes served to us... but then that would be dining in and the experience would not be the same.

  11. This story in the Times seems especially frivolous in our present economic crisis. While I was reading the article I read quite a few of the comments! Worth the read! What was the editor thinking! Gail

  12. Hi Susan, it is certainly a crazy world we live in. I know the economy is a disaster now but perhaps people will see there lifes and the world with different eyes after this, I hope so.
    I wish you a happy weekend / Tyra

  13. Hi Susan, I read the times daily too, and just smirked in disgust at this article. They do live on another planet. The most expensive restaurant in Knoxville, out closest city doesn't have a $10 Ceasar salad, no one would order it, no matter how much money they had. They also pay big bucks for sweaters, boots and purses regularly, and rents too. I suppose the salaries are higher to support all of these high prices, sort of a vicious cycle. I won't go into the financial mess and how it relates to this, trying to stay upbeat! :-)

  14. I agree that the post is obscene in the climate we're living in. Clearly the article is aimed at a narrow sector, but one prolific enough to support a (heretofore) growing higher-end restaurant trade. And I believe the art of fine cooking should be promoted and patronized. (Plus not everyone cooks.)
    The issue seems to be one of perspective. When you compare the dining budget of that article's audience to the average American's, it's laughably out of touch. But what about comparing the average American's grocery budget to that of the average Mexican's, or Kenyan's? Then what we consider moderate looks luxurious, and is. Consider, too, that the head of iceberg lettuce had to be trucked from the Imperial Valley, 2500 miles away, the Parmesan is aged, the overhead of a NYC restaurant space is high, the marquee restaurant markup, and you begin to see where $10 becomes thinkable. Restaurateurs gotta eat, too.
    Paying triple markup for a bottle of wine in such a place though? That's just silly.

  15. Hold on. I live in NYC part of the week and in the country part of the week. I live in NYC part of the week because I have to; that's where my job is.

    It's not obscene to pay $100 for a good meal for two, not if people are going to continue to live in cities like New York. It really starts with the price of real estate. What does a square foot of prime Manhattan real estate cost compared to the same in the Texas panhandle? And what do the restaurant workers pay for rent? What taxes do the restaurant owners pay? What does food cost? Etc., etc. Michael Pollan says New York City is a food sink. It produces virtually none of the food its over 8 million residents eat to live. So it all has to be imported. $100 for a nice meal for two in a first class establishment isn't a sin. It's simply the cost of paying all the bills. What else do we do? Close up the city and all move back to the country?

  16. Susan, perhaps I got a little carried away with my rant. Didn't mean to be rude, but the cost of living in NYC is astonishing. Love finding your blog this weekend. Great writing.

  17. I didn't find your post rude at all, James! I think you were just weighing in, passionately, with another point of view.

    I created the post to start some conversation about this issue, so I think it's good when we hear from all sides of a problem. After all, the world is a complex place--seldom are there easy answers to problems...

    So you're welcome to bring your voice here to the Bike Garden. :-)

  18. Late to the convo here, but having lived in a semi-big city (San Francisco), $100 is not that much for a "nice" meal at a fancy place. We used to do that every once in a while, even when we were really scraping by. Made us feel special and was fun every once in a while. Now that we have a rambunctious kid, eating at a fab and spendy place is totally out of the question. Well, we could get a babysitter, but that would add even more to the cost. We have become pretty cheap, I guess! Today we went out for New Year's dim sum and that total, with tea and tip, was $27 for three people, and we were stuffed! So yes, at this point in life, and with the economy the way it is, $100 seems like too much for 2 people for something that is so ephemeral!

  19. delightful writing ... enjoyed reading some of your posts!


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