Writing over at Slate, Noreen Malone puts forth the following daring thesis: If you go to Whole Foods intent on spending the maximum possible amount of money on a single meal, you can spend a very, very large amount of money on a single meal. ($443.48, to be precise.)
Her mission, which gets less and less thought-provoking as you wade through the story, is not crystal clear even at the outset:
“I thought I’d try something different—simulating what grocery-store visits might be like if I had unlimited money to throw around. … I went to Whole Foods, that upscale paradise, and attempted to find the most expensive possible combination of groceries to create a dinner for two.”
But why, exactly? Is the point that rich people, having more money, can spend more on dinner? That Whole Foods has some groceries that are more expensive than other groceries? That if you make nothing but spendthrift decisions, the final bill goes up? When you get right down to it, the entire story seems to be nothing more than an excuse to create a list of luxury foods and their price tags heedless of anything even vaguely resembling a realistic home cook’s thought process.
“Conventional cheapskate wisdom holds that prepackaged salad dressings are sold at a massive markup and that making your own is always money-saving. Not, however, if you decide to toss together a bit of Badia a Coltibuono olive oil ($41.99 per jar) with some $49.99 balsamic vinegar and a bit of Dr. Gonzo’s Moose Piney Adirondack Black Fly Mustard, $5.69.”
But was all $50 of balsamic used up on this one salad? Presumably not; the actual price should probably be something more like $1 to $2 for the actual vinegar used. Why not buy an entire kitchen from scratch to really drive up the cost of the meal? “Oh, wow, after you’re done putting in top-of-the-line Viking Professional appliances, the cost of this single meal is well over $60,000!”
Slate‘s commentary on food (and otherwise) is generally compelling and ahead of the curve. This story, however, seems to raise more questions about its own editing process than the subject matter at hand.