By some virtue I don’t fully understand, I have a lot of friends from various walks of life. I am surrounded by those who are both older and younger than myself; those who are professionals, students, professional students and those who are barely making it. For New Years Eve, I’m one of those people who often jumps from one party or group to another in a futile attempt to spend a little time with everyone. It was at a dinner event this past year, an event that left my coffers a bit more drained than I would have liked, that taught me a valuable lesson about clothing.
The tapas style restaurant is the epitome of professionals and trust-fund hipsters. Often touted as gourmet establishments with small plates of food meant to be shared with others in the traditions of Spain, they often betray their origins by offering what was originally between meal pub food at a more affluent price. It’s quite funny how much of what is considered finer dining today is a redressing of the meals of peasants.
Stereotypical classification of individuals is something I strive to avoid, yet I was invited to a New Years Eve dinner by friends I could only best describe as young professionals. I wore a designer shirt in my often unavailing attempts at fitting in, only to discover I was the only individual present without a coat and tie. I was also not informed that the restaurant, which I had visited before during a normal lunch, was presenting a reservation only three course meal for the holiday with a price of $75 per person.
“About half way through the meal, I have this epiphany. And I go…’Wait a second? You guys! This isn’t worth five-hundred dollars…Come on? Where’s Ashton?’” -David Cross1
Seated at the table with the menu present in front of me, I really had no option other than to accept the situation for what it was. I proceeded to enjoy the standard rituals of conversation, laughing and anecdotes. I ordered an appetizer of Lobster Vol-au-vent, a Shrimp Bisque Soup with Scallops and a main course of Wild Mushroom Risotto. I will say the Shrimp Bisque was very good, and although nothing was horrible, the meal itself was hardly justification for the exorbitant price.
“The desert thing is this big hand carved, like, chocolate mountain thing and then on top of the chocolate is a real sheet of real gold…tasteless, orderless gold to eat. And I thought, ‘Wow, man. If that isn’t the ultimate fuck you to poor people, I don’t know what is?’” -David Cross1
I realize the dinner was meant to be more than just the meal. The food, the atmosphere, the camaraderie and the festivities are intended to combine into an immersive experience. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a children’s story once about two peasant tailors who convinced an emperor that their clothing was of a quality so high that it was invisible to those who were unintelligent or unfit for their positions.
“And there is a slight let down because you feel there was a hoax.” -Alan Watts2
I couldn’t help but feel like one of the peasants in the street staring at the naked emperor, unwilling admit that it seemed like the emperor was wearing no clothes for fear of rebuke from the aristocracy; like there must be some nonexistent subtext that had completely escaped my grasp. It wasn’t the price of the meal that upset me so much as the value placed on the experience that seemed so trite.
After dinner I departed to meet with some other friends to see a band play at a nearby pub. We enjoyed our beers and listened to the band’s first set. As the patrons counted down to the end of the year, we sat in the basement, talking and laughing as a single digit changed on a calender.
1 “When It Comes To Jews, Behavior One Might Perceive As Obnoxious And Annoying I Present As Quirky” It’s Not Funny (Track 8). David Cross. 2004
2 Life and Music Watts.