Friday, 29 July 2011

Does expensive food make you happier?

You were supposed to get a recipe for a raw tomato sauce today but then Patton posted a really nice one at East Coast Kitchens earlier this week so it felt somewhat boring giving you yet another one.
I had a Kobe Beef burger last night though and that got me thinking.

Franzi, Holly, Nora and moi went to the Tübinger Sommerinsel and enjoyed some of the food there. I ended up getting said Kobe Beef burger mainly because I was craving a proper burger (it's been a while).
What can I say, it was a lovely burger but Holly really summed things up - what's wrong with a simple, non-fancy burger that has been made from good quality 'normal' beef?

I was reminded of this TASTE3 talk by Benjamin Wallace (you can watch it at TED) where he discusses whether expensive things actually make us happier. And of an older The Times Magazine (from 28/05/2011, which I can't find online...sorry) where they talked about the 30 things or so you had to eat before you died. Most of them seemed to be rather far away from the UK so yes, you might be able to get the best burger on this planet at Shake Shack but if I have to get on a plane first that turns into one very expensive burger.

Now, the thing I've been wondering about since the Kobe Beef burger is - would I enjoy my Shake Shack burger more just because I had to get on a plane first?
Or, am I enjoying my Tesco's Finest butter more not, because it actually tastes better than a normal organic one but because I pay 10p or so more?

I'm definitely not saying 'let's slum it and start buying the cheapest food we can find' if it's all about how much you pay for it (I could come up with a pretend story about the cheap food, I could also go on a 10 day hike before buying the stuff, that would make for quite a story around it) - I truly believe in fair prices for farmers and even more so in eating good quality food; but how much of my enjoyment of the food comes out of how much I paid for it, or whether a Tibetan monk chanted for 10 days while he made the smelly yak butter I am using for a dish (I don't actually know whether Tibetan monks make yak butter and if they do, whether you can even buy it)?
How important is all of this for my overall enjoyment of the food I eat?

Don't get me wrong, I am that person who buys the hawaiian salt just because it's a really cool story (and it came in a pretty glass jar) or who might have been trying to get hold of real straw straws for the last 3 years just because she can't get the story the people at Manufaktum had in their catalogue about 10 years ago out of her mind (yes, there is a reason why I can't remember anyone's birthdays, it's because my brain prefers to remember useless stuff like this...).

What do you think? In how far is the story around food more important than the actual food?

Note (01/08/11): It's only 30 things you should eat before you die, not 50, but now that I am sitting next to the magazine, let me tell you about the other amazing things as well:
1. Pasta at Da Vittorio, Sicily
2. Curry at Monsoon Forrest, Bandhavgarh, India
3. Oysters at Moran's Oyster Cottage, Ireland
4. Hamburgers at Shake Shack
5. Bouillabaisse at Bacon, Cap d'Antibes
Should I continue?


  1. Interesting post, Katharina. I agree that the story behind food can certainly influence one's enjoyment of it and possibly even one's interpretation of the flavor. But just had to say this, the Shake Shack Burger beats out that Kobe Beef burger any day! It's so deliciously flavorful. It may be less expensive than the burgers we got at the Sommerinsel, but actually they aren't cheap, are smaller, and you usually have to wait in a very long line (in a lovely New York park!) to get one. Even all that aside, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people would prefer the Shack burger to ours in a blind taste test. Just my (biased) two cents. You have to try the Shack burger on your next trip to New York, preferably with their delicious fries and one of their super smooth frozen custard shakes- caramel is my favorite.

  2. Holly, now I'm craving a proper burger even more badly! Perhaps I should treat myself to a trip to New York *just to eat a Shake Shack burger* after I submit :)

  3. I would join you if I could! Here's to drooling over food that doesn't exist this side of the Atlantic! ;-)

  4. I agree that for some foods the story is just as important as the food itself. For example, there are those cookies I always had as a kid in Italy and I recently got a pack of them, and they were soo delicious - and I think the fact I can't have them regularly adds to my enjoyment.

    Trying a shake shack burger seems like a very good excuse for a trip to New York - though after I am done shopping there, it will have been one very expensive burger.


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