The ultra-uber-super-luxe consumer food trend may be repugnant, but there’s also no clear way of stopping it. How it works in a nutshell:
1. Company announces the “most expensive” something—most expensive cocktail, most expensive steak, most expensive bagel, etc. Anything works. The creation of “most expensive” is almost universally achieved by the utterly stupid means of tacking on precious jewels or metals. (In other words: Attach a $100,000 diamond to the stick of a Blow Pop. Price it at $125,000. Ta-dah! You’ve created “The World’s Most Expensive Blow Pop.” Get crankin’ on that press release!)
2. Media realize that the stories are catnip for readers and will generate megaclicks. Media cover “most expensive” story with a knowing blend of skepticism and stenography. (And, yes, this blog post absolutely is part of the problem. There, I’m on script.)
3. Readers click on the story. The company reaps a PR windfall (which can often be converted into selling reasonable goods for reasonable prices), the website reaps clicks, readers … well, I guess that’s where things get subjective. Readers at the very least have their morbid curiosity satisfied. Those prone to posting comments can go a lot of different directions: the In-Our-Unequal-World-How-Dare-They gambit, the Media-Is-Part-of-the-Problem retort, the Wow-I-Wonder-If-It’s-Worth-It speculation, etc.
In honor of the newly announced $500 jar of gold-leaf-coated gourmet jelly beans released by an apparently desperate David Klein (ousted inventor of the Jelly Belly brand), a brief consideration of some of the worst pseudo-luxury food out there:
• One of the most egregious of the many self-proclaimed “world’s most expensive cocktails” was the roughly $50,750-a-glass “Flawless,” sold at London’s Movida nightclub (price in December 2007 dollars). Mixed with some fancy stuff (Louis XII Cognac, Cristal Rose Champagne) the cocktail vaguely justified its cost by plunking an 11-carat white diamond ring into the bottom of the glass.
• The world’s most expensive Scotch whiskey sold for $460,000, enough to buy a nice house in a decent neighborhood in many of the world’s more desirable cities. Consider the recent Serious Eats takedown on über-aged Scotches when you assess the relative worth of real estate and a bottle of brown liquid.
• The self-proclaimed world’s most expensive sandwich went for the equivalent of $158 at the London department store Selfridges (in 2006 dollars). The ingredients look like a rundown of a lazy Iron Chef’s cooking station: “Wagyu beef, fresh lobe foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, brie de meaux, rocket, red pepper and mustard confit and English plum tomatoes.” In defense of the sandwich versus, say, the Scotch, at least it’s a meal, and it’s less than $200. The flipside: It’s a freakin’ sandwich.
• The aforementioned $500 jelly beans. When you’ve got to lean on gold leaf as your price justifier, you’re kind of out to sea.
What’s the worst? What did I miss? A lot, I’m sure.