Food as Currency

4 07 2013

How do the wealthy make sure that we know they are wealthy?

I am one of Thatcher’s children and when I first started work it was perfectly acceptable to brag about your salary and, since I was in sales, the size of your bonus. In those days I earned more than I earn now and IO could double my salary in bonus and it was OK for me to broadcast that then, though it makes me feel a little uncomfortable to write it now. Harry Enfield’s character loadsamoney lampooned this attitude but at the time it was not uncommon for people to behave like that.

Next came cars. It was acceptable to brag about the model, size and specification of the car and if you had one for work and a soft-top for the weekend, as I did, then all the better. To my shame I once took a job that I didn’t really want because it came with a brand new Astra GTE though, in my defence, I was only 24 at the time.

And then came clothes, well labels really. The style of the dress, the cut, the colour were less important than where you had bought it and who had designed it. Sunglasses, handbags, luggage and shoes went from simple accessories to branded essentials. An a-list celebrity may appear to avoiding the limelight but when the sunglasses are Gucci or Oakley a load statement is still being made. You don’t need to shout about your wealth when your shoes will do it for you.

But we are now in an age of austerity. It is no longer acceptable to wave wads of fivers around, driving a sports car is frowned on in an ecologically sensitive world and designer labels are becoming a bit brash rather than chic.

So how can the wealthy show us they are wealthy? They tell us what they are eating.

Let me explain. More and more people are uploading picture of their dinners to social media sites and/or telling everyone what they are eating and where they are eating it. For example, “just off to my beautiful kitchen to cook my famous Béarnaise sauce as I bought a fabulous piece of salmon from Waitrose this morning”. Decoded: I live in a big house. I have time to cook béarnaise sauce. I can afford salmon and I can afford to shop at Waitrose.

Try this one. “Had a wonderful meal at Crieff Castle last night. The sweets were to die for. The chef, Jason, is a genius” Translated: I can afford to eat at a fancy restaurant mid-week. I wasn’t eating off the cheap menu as I had a desert. I eat here so often that I call the chef by his first name.

Or during the day, ” Meeting Marge in the Festival Bistro. Shall I have the Asparagus soup or shall I skip the starter and save room for the fabulous bread and butter pudding.” Translated: I can afford to eat out at a fancy restaurant at lunchtime. My friends are rich too.

Is it clear now?

Telling us about food is the latest way that the wealthy have of parading their wealth without waving wads of cash in front of their iphone cameras.

Well, that’s my theory. I might be completely wrong, it has been known. It may well be that everyone but me is just hanging around the internet just waiting to see what everyone else has had for their tea. To assuage their curiosity, I have just had a round of toast with peanut butter and jam.

Thank you

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