"The fact is I have no problem with the notion of spending large amounts of money on hugely expensive restaurant experiences.... How much would you be willing to pay to see your football team play in the Super Bowl? $200 a ticket? $400 a ticket? $1,000 for a really good seat? You wouldn't think twice about it.... What does that money buy you? Nothing but memories, and the right to say you were there. Serious gastronomy is no different."- Jay Rayner, The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner
And with that bit of foodie apologetics, we dive into the question we should all be asking ourselves: How much am I willing to pay to eat well?
Eating well- oh, what a bad reputation that phrase has!- doesn't mean eating like a snob. In fact, it shouldn't. If you're eating something you don't really like because someone told you that the food is special, noble, and that its royal gloss would somehow rub off on you, you're not eating well. You're just being gullible.
Eating well- serious gastronomy- for me is spending $6.50 on a 12-ounce glass jug of pure maple syrup because there's no reason to subject myself to a plastic squeeze bottle of more conveniently priced "pancake syrup". Not every marketing venture to come out of the Age of Industry was meritorious. Synthetic treacle is not meritorious.
I ate pancake syrup on my pancakes, waffles, and french toast for three decades. Ignorant and a product of marketing ventures, I simply did not know any better. That's my defense. That will be my defense before the Throne of Heaven if it ever comes up.
Recently, while purchasing ingredients for a french-toast recipe I found on a recipe site, I noticed a $6.50 12-ounce glass jug of pure maple syrup standing on the highest shelf in the breakfast foods aisle. I realized that if I was going to go to all the trouble of making french toast from scratch I should probably pour something expensive on it.
I had no clue what I'd gotten myself into. On a Monday evening I dredged and fried my french toast. Plated my serving and melted some margarine into the chunky, browned slices. Then I opened the glass jug, curious to know what a little luxury tasted like.
The maple syrup didn't TASTE like anything by itself. That's not how it was meant to work.
No more viscous than water, as subtle as the serpent and sneaking its way into the aromas of the cinnamon and egg-spiked milk, the maple syrup was no condiment. Pancake syrup had always been a condiment. Real maple syrup was the final ingredient to the recipe, the "one more thing" that took innocent sweet bread and grew it up to know the difference between good and evil flavors.
I could have spent that $6.50 on anything but at that moment I would not have spent it on anything else.
In other words, the stuff is worth the money. THAT is eating well.
Any food that is worth the money is eating well. Whether you're replacing ground cinnamon with firm stick cinnamon you grate yourself or paying $300 a head at a restaurant famous for its toro tuna, it's about making your little pocket of the world that much more pleasant. Life is too short for chewing fast.
We don't have to spend a lot to make meals and treats our happy places. We just have to know how much we're interested in forking over and for what. Today I plan to splurge on natural peanut butter for a cookie recipe I like the sound of. Because if I'm going to go to all the trouble of making baked calories from scratch I should probably throw something expensive into the mix.