How the Other Half Lives

In a piece that must be catnip for a certain trade association, the Boston Globe looks at Boston food shoppers who eschew their local megalomarts for specialty food stores.

The piece profiles a couple of different shoppers, like “[Brookline resident Jason] Humblias [who] is shopping the European way, in which consumers make multiple stops for different ingredients and wouldn’t consider the once-weekly system of stocking up. He and others like him take time to go to various specialty stores, where they know the butcher, and they’re recognized by the baker.”

The piece goes on to note that the practice isn’t common, although it is popular amongst “foodies, health nuts, ingredient snobs, and other persnickety customers.”

But what chance does the practice have of becoming more popular? Much of the news about the rising costs of basic staples like milk, corn, and soybeans has focused on the effects on the poor and working class both here and abroad. But in Slate, economics writer Daniel Gross looks at a group that has been neglected: the food snob. He points out the sharp price rises that have hit some of his favorite foods, like the Basque sheep’s milk cheese that now costs $22 per pound, up from last year’s $18 per pound.

For the truly wealthy, the gourmet inflation isn’t a big deal. ... For those for whom money remains an object—which is to say, most of us—the rising prices present a series of tough choices.

Choices like buying Two Buck Chuck rather than pricier wines, or learning to appreciate hanger steak. Gross also brings up the usually unspoken Achilles heel of the gourmet set: how overspending on specialty treats when others can’t manage to get enough food at all can really make your stomach hurt.

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