Jack Explains It All: How High Real Estate Values Created The Foodie Explosion

Welcome to a new feature, called Jack Explains It All, in which I share the most insane (or perceptive?) ideas about how society and human nature interact — jb

“It has always been crucial to the gourmet’s pleasure that he eat in ways the mainstream cannot afford.” This sentence, from “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies”, made a big impression on me six years ago, serving as it does to place the “refined palate” in its proper place next to gold-plated toilet fixtures, exotic pets, and the repugnant Bentley Continental GTC as a blank-faced sigifier of mere wealth, independent of education or authentic refinement. “The Roman historian Livy,” gripes B.R. Myers in the article, “famously regarded the glorification of chefs as the sign of a culture in decline.” It’s a great read, vicious and contemptuous by turns, and as perceptive today as it was when it was published. (Mr. Myers is also responsible for another one of my favorite sentences: “…when feminists are denouncing marriage, the last thing they want is a happy bachelor chiming in.”)

Traditional art and literature have no place in the mind of the truly dedicated foodie, something that is reiterated for me about once a month when some would-be critic of mine stammers his way through a borderline-illiterate rant about how my well-documented fondness for the Ruth’s Chris steakhouse chain places me very nearly beneath his contempt. I have unbridled disdain for people who think they are cultured because of what is currently making its rotting way through their bowels. The concept that we are defined by what we eat and drink is a relic of pagan antiquity and Jewish desert hygiene; Christ takes care to specifically reject this in Matthew 15:11. The later Christian intellectual tradition abandons even the custom of fasting, which was once held to have immense spiritual benefits.

Note that I have nothing against the idea of enjoying a meal. I simply believe that your preference for a particular sort of wine is no more intellectually elevated than my preference for Sprite over 7Up, and that your rigorous approach to rating and categorizing cheese is in no way morally superior to my belief that Guns N’ Roses was a better band than Motley Crue. It’s all low culture, and you can prove it to yourself by considering this question: If you had a time machine that would give you thirty minutes to talk to Issac Newton or the Apostle Paul or Julius Caesar or Genghis Khan, how much of that time would you devote to a discussion of what you had for dinner last night?

Speaking of Caesar: I come not to bury foodies, but to explain them. More precisely, I come to explain why being a “foodie” is a big deal with Millennials and other young people. Turns out that it has very little to do with the actual merits of gourmet eating. It’s better understood as an issue of hydraulic pressure.

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you have probably picked up on the fact that I’ve done a lot of buying and selling in the past year. Hello, Fiesta and Corvette; goodbye, Boxster. Welcome to seven BMX and mountain bikes since January; adios to perhaps fifteen Tahoe-loads of books, magazines, clothing, electronic equipment. I’ve listed more stuff on eBay in 2017 than in the decade prior. Last but not least, I’ve sold more than a dozen guitars recently and plan to sell perhaps two dozen more this year if I can find time to do so.

Since I don’t have unlimited fiscal resources, it’s easy to understand the reason for some of this. The money from the two Heritage “Marvbirds” paid for the BMX bikes. The Boxster covered my Lynksey, a couple of watches I’ve bought lately, and some expenses for our race season. Yet I’ve been motivated by something more than just balancing the books: After sixteen years, I’d finally reached my storage limits.

It wasn’t easy. My basement is something like 1500 square feet and is literally lined with steel shelving units that can each hold forty guitars or a thousand books. I have another 800 square feet of rental space down the street for wayward sports cars and winter motorcycle storage. I don’t even have secure possession of all my possessions; My VFR800 is in Atlanta, and my Neon is in rural Ohio. I’ve loaned so many items to friends that I’ve long since lost the ability to track those loans. (If you are reading this and you also happen to have my Brazilian-bodied Electra X340, please return it.)

Yet compared to some of the people I know, I’m an amateur, a piker. This fellow sat next to me in my high-school homeroom. His house would swallow mine thrice over and he has nine garages. Danger Girl and I know someone who has a sufficient quantity of open-wheel race cars in his warehouse to fill a whole SCCA grid. Virtually every local racer I know has an extra garage, a few storage units, concrete pads behind the house for additional cars, pole barns for motorcycles. I met someone a while back who owns forty-three dirt bikes for no particular reason. He just likes buying them off Craigslist whenever he has a few spare bucks. They live in a shed that grows tumor-like with the addition of frame and corrugated panel on an irregular basis.

Here in Ohio we have the luxury of Lebensraum. We have basements, garages, empty yard space. We have the freedom to pick up an extra guitar or motorcycle without getting too anxious about where we are going to put it. As with all luxuries, we have become gradually insensate to this. As Maya Angelou famously and stupidly said about electricity, we don’t understand it. We just use it. (She may have been referring to static electricity, which is not as well-understood a phenomenon as the AC current in your outlet.) When a young man in Ohio gets a better job or receives a financial windfall, he buys a Hayabusa or a jetski or Camaro and he does not worry too much about where it’s gonna go.

Of course, better jobs and financial windfalls are in short supply here in Ohio. Money lives in the city now, to a degree unprecedented in human history. My day job would pay twice as much were I to do it within shouting distance of San Francisco or Manhattan. It would also be far easier to change jobs, to find new work if I wanted it, to advance in my career. It’s true that you might get rich if you stayed in a small city. It is also true that you might be struck by lightning. The likelihood of either event seems similar.

Everybody wants to live where the money is. The market has adjusted appropriately. Here are your one-bedroom rental rates in the most-desired cities. The average one-bedroom rental rate in Tribeca (the neighborhood, not the Subaru) is $4,100 a month. At current mortgage rates, that is an $850,000 house.

The above house is for sale in my neighborhood for that kind of money. It has fifteen times as much space as the equivalent-cost unit in New York.

Imagine, if you will, two forty-year-old men, each alike in dignity and salary. One lives in Powell, one lives in Manhattan. They work for the same company and do the same job. (Yes, it’s a stretch.) The company gives them each a $50,000 bonus at the end of the year. Let’s say that both of these men are determined to spend the money frivolously.

The Suburb Mouse in Powell can buy all sorts of things: a Corvette, a Harley, a boat, a pair of jetskis or snowmobiles. He might furnish a new home gym from scratch. He might buy ten Brioni suits. He might buy five Paul Reed Smith Private Stock guitars. There are all sorts of possibilities.

The City Mouse in Tribeca can do none of these things. Obviously things like boats and Corvettes are impossible for a city dweller of sub-Illuminati wealth, but even something like buying a few extra guitars or suits can pose a problem. Five guitars on stands? That’s twenty square feet. Meaningless to the Suburb Mouse with six thousand of those square feet. Miserable for the City Mouse with four hundred square feet of living space.

When you live in a city, you are possession-constrained. You can’t spend money on things that do not fit. Yet you’re earning more money than those jetski-riding hicks in the sticks. What’s a member of the Eloi to do?

Surely the popularity of luxury watches in the modern era has something to do with the fact that you can easily store a million dollars’ worth of mid-tier Pateks and Rolexes in the space of two shoeboxes. The ever-skyrocketing price of art is driven by this as well; if you have just one showcase wall in your loft then you’re going to have some very high standards for that wall. The same is true for refrigerators and stoves: might as well get a Sub-Z and a Viking, because you have unlimited budget for that limited space.

At some point, however, the city mice run out of ways to spend money within their cramped lofts and ateliers. They are under pressure, the hydraulic pressure of money that has been earned and must be spent. They have no children, no charitable interests, nothing outside themselves. The preferred vent for this pressure is travel, no-expense-spared jaunts across the Continent and jet trips to island paradises. But you can’t spend all of your money that way. There isn’t time. The masters of our universe can’t take a month off every year. They work eighty hours a week trading insider information and doing email.

In D.H. Lawrence’s superb The Rocking-Horse Winner, the child hears the house whispering “There must be more money!” Today’s aristocracy, bombarded with money that just appears from all sides, hear the chant “There must be more spending!” How do you spend a half-million dollars or more per year of disposable income if you don’t have a lifestyle that accommodates a Ferrari or even a fractional jet share?

Enter the ur-foodie, the Manhattan resident who thinks nothing of a five-hundred-dollar dinner because he has no other way to spoil himself. Life finds a way, as Jeff Goldblum once snarked. There is a never-ending variety of new restaurants, meals, bottles of wine, rare delicacies. Novelty is prized above all else. The hot restaurant reservation is the new-Cadillac-in-the-driveway of the urban upper-middle-class. Every night a fresh hyper-expensive meal, carefully photographed so news of the coup may be distributed to ones social circle.

There is room for one final irony. It’s not acceptable to be fat in the city or in the Bay Area. So you can’t simply gorge on hundred-dollar steaks every night. The food has to be expensive and insubstantial all at once. Often the menus are not announced in advance. This is because they are irrelevant. The act of spending and the fact of presence make up the whole of the meaning. The less food you actually eat, the better. The prestige of ones meal rises dramatically as it veers away from serving any true purpose, the same way that cars become more valuable as they become less generally useful.

The Millennial generation finds itself uniquely susceptible to trickle-down propaganda from this late-Roman lifestyle. They don’t have steady careers, because we sent the jobs to China. They don’t have homes, because they are bidding against their grandparents in the housing markets and the grandparents still have all the money. They don’t have children, because they swallowed whole the idea that it was more fulfilling to suck a hundred anonymous cocks than it would have been to raise three children.

Why not have a meal, then? Why not put your money into dinner? It’s the perfect twenty-first-century spending plan. If you buy a new Mustang, you won’t be able to make the payments when your job is outsourced. If you buy a house, you will be so far underwater you won’t be able to breathe. Go have a fifty-dollar-a-plate foodie date. After tomorrow’s trip to the toilet, you will have nothing to show for it — but you’ve been raised to expect that you will live an itinerant, cash-strapped urban lifestyle from birth to death. “Here’s something Nineties kids won’t get: Social Security! HAHA!”

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that your humble author did a bit of OKCupid dating a few years ago. I quickly learned that it was a waste of time to schedule a dinner date, because the woman’s attention would be on the food the whole time. And if she managed to stop looking at the food and photographing the food, it would only be because she had a story about food she wanted to tell me. With one singular exception, every women under thirty I met was absolutely obsessed with food. It didn’t matter how fat or thin they were. They were utterly captivated by the whole lifestyle associated with eating.

The most disappointing night of all was with a young woman who was an editor for a well-respected publishing house. In our early email conversations she had proven to be frightfully well-read, by which I mean that she’d read one book for every two dozen I’d consumed at her age. I was so excited about the possibilities of this intellectual matchup that I agreed to meet at a hip little sushi restaurant.

Our first twenty minutes together were lovely. She had ideas. But once the food showed up, I got an hour-long running live-blog of her meal experience. On the drive home, she talked about food nonstop. I dropped her off and went home because I couldn’t stand to hear another word. Yet in retrospect I have sympathy for her. She was twenty-eight years old, with a stellar career, but she still couldn’t afford anything besides a tiny apartment and a used Toyota. What else was she going to have in her life, if not the foodie lifestyle?

It can only get worse. The trend is towards lower wages and denser housing, higher cost of living and lowered expectations, fewer children and more ennui. Crammed into micro-sized rabbit warrens in future dystopias, we will welcome anything at all that serves to distract us from the unpleasantness all around us. Replaced by robots, rendered irrelevant by expert software and systems, overwhelmed by a demographic tide that will eventually remake the entire world in the images of India and China. Freed from the need to make decisions or even the need to be relevant, we can await the sunset of our society with just one question on our lips: “What’s for dinner?”

107 Replies to “Jack Explains It All: How High Real Estate Values Created The Foodie Explosion”

  1. Derek Kreindler

    I’ve had a number of my peers tell me they couldn’t understand how I was able to afford my car or my watch, then cop to spending more, per month on food and drink than my car lease – put another way, two small-lug no-date Submariners, *every single year*. On something that they’d literally crap out the same night. These are also the same people who have never opened a brokerage account in their life but insist that housing in Toronto “will always go up, it’s a great investment”.

    To quote Thom Yorke “You do it to yourself/and that’s what really hurts”

      • VoGo

        Math doesn’t work. Even the cheapest new Ferrari is pushing $200K. If a woman wears makeup for 50 years, that would mean she is spending $350+/month on cosmetics. Just not credible.

        Maybe a beat up old, white 308GTB on cinder blocks.

          • VoGo

            Whoa. It seemed like just a couple of years ago that Edmunds got a red one for $30K that actually ran. Of course, that was back when Edmunds was a site that actually tested cars, so I guess it was a while back.

            I hadn’t realized the market had gone so nuts for something with the performance of a Mitsubishi Mirage.

        • Ronnie Schreiber

          I believe the figure includes hair and nail care. Angie’s List says haircuts for women range between $10 and $100 with perms costing $30 to $150. Manicures are $10-$45.

    • Mopar4wd

      I think all that matters is if you understand the math not how you use it. In my 20’s I spent a ton eating out with my girlfriend who became my wife. I kept doing it until my 2nd kid was born and the budget was shot. I now eat out much less but still really enjoy it, and would not trade those great times with family and friends for more money now. Honestly if I made more money i would save more and get a newer car but eating out more would be the most enjoyable part. And I like my toys, I have two little boats a 4×4 project etc, but food is still important and very enjoyable part of life. (I also basically never post about food on social media.)

    • CJinSD

      “put another way, two small-lug no-date Submariners, *every single year*. On something that they’d literally crap out the same night.”

      I need food. I don’t need to wear jewelry like someone confused about their place on the Kinsey scale.

    • jz78817

      I think Ruth’s Chris gets sneered at simply because they have more than one location, as if chains are “evil.” I’ve never been but I’d wager RC steaks are orders of magnitude better than anything they could make themselves.

      • Nickoo

        You’d be 100% wrong. Ruth’s Chris was the lamest steak house I’ve ever been to. I wouldn’t feed that *highly* overpriced garbage to my dog, and I don’t even own a dog.

        I can go buy a high quality cut of meat, such as the tenderloin from a scottish highland raised on the green pastures of Maine and throw it on a grill and come out with something twice as good at 1/4 the price.

        Actually, steakhouses in general are the biggest rip off going, the ease of cooking a good steak is ridiculous for even untalented cooks and generally about 1/4 the price of the steakhouse.

        If I’m going out for something pricey, I want something that took time and effort to make and something that I can’t easily prepare myself, like lobster stuffed ravioli.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          “Actually, steakhouses in general are the biggest rip off going, the ease of cooking a good steak is ridiculous for even untalented cooks and generally about 1/4 the price of the steakhouse.”

          You could say the same thing about building a salvage-title flood car into a daily driver instead of buying one. The Boost Brothers put together a 3-year-old flood Fusion for something like five thousand bucks. They saved ten grand!

          • -Nate-Nate

            Talked about Ruth’s Chris with my Son and hi wife last night, turns out I’ve been twice and they thought it very good if wildly overpriced .
            I like food *very* much but I’d rather spend my hard earned Dollars on Motocycle tires, synthetic moto oils and other useful things .

          • -Nate-Nate

            OBTW :
            Flood cars are _always_ a fools errand ~ sooner or later they’ll rust out from the inside .
            “The bitterness of low quality will be remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”.

          • rwb

            ““Actually, steakhouses in general are the biggest rip off going, the ease of cooking a good steak is ridiculous for even untalented cooks and generally about 1/4 the price of the steakhouse.”

            You could say the same thing about building a salvage-title flood car into a daily driver instead of buying one. The Boost Brothers put together a 3-year-old flood Fusion for something like five thousand bucks. They saved ten grand!”

            This implies learning how to cook and learning how to rebuild a car require some remotely comparable investment of time and money, when an indifferently trained macaque could make the equal of a $60-300 steak, given ingredients and a fire. The service just won’t be as good.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            That just happens to be something with which you are comfortable. I’d rather rebuild a car than cook a meal every night.

          • rwb

            True, but while I can’t feign impartiality, I meant that some hobbies may be more accessible than others. Comparing the space, desire, and time to store and work on cars, plus the inherent costs of both to a kitchen and food, most only have the latter.

            I say this as someone who would probably trade the ability to cook for acreage, warehouse space, and enough liquid cash to enjoy them: I believe it’s moralistic to judge the development towards one or the other as anything but a product of circumstance.

            I’ll be honest, when I started writing this, I was sure transportation required more time, money and thought than food, but it’s probably worth more consideration.

    • dave

      False. One Ruth’s Chris was awesome, the rest are just ok. The original Ruth’s Chris was on 711 Broad St in New Orleans, which was not sold off once it was franchised. They were able to retain the original menu which wasn’t subject to the inevitable cost-cutting that comes with franchises, and the restaurant itself was home to many of NOLA’s top power brokers – many of whom were either indicted, pending indictment, or unindicted co-conspirators. Edwin Edwards was a frequent guest, as was Ray Nagin. For those of you from NOLA, Ronnie Lamarque is as much of a douchebag IRL as he is in on TV. For those of you not from NOLA, it’s hard to explain the electric atmosphere of that Ruth’s, but we lost a national landmark once it was shuttered after Katrina. I have nothing against the remaining Ruth’s Chris, but they ain’t the original.

      • Will

        That’s where we should’ve went for the bachelor party in NOLA. I was living in Dallas at the time so I came waaaaay late into the party.

  2. jz78817

    it’s not strictly an urban thing, the suburbanites do it too. Also with a heaping helping of “locavore” nonsense.

    I think another part of it is just a swing away from what food was to Boomers. the finest processed and packaged food science could create. I remember so many dinners at both my grandparent’s houses- holiday or otherwise- which were so bland and devoid of anything approaching flavor (and no, “salt” isn’t “flavor”.) Canned this, boxed that, frozen other things.

    so I’ve been a pretty adventurous eater most of my adult life. but thanks to where I live being pretty damn culturally diverse, I can have my lebensraum *and* … uh.. eat it too? But I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t take photos of everything I eat (I don’t even own an Instagram) but I’ll happily make a batch of chana masala or whatever. And I damn sure am not “that guy” who’ll sneer at anyone offering me a slice of Little Caesar’s pizza.

    As adventurous as I am, sometimes a guy just wants a goddamn McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

    • Frank Galvin

      We live in a rural area. Love it when we used to hang out with the city friends and hear their endless bragging about how their particular Boston neighborhood had the best farmers markets for goddamn kale or root vegetables. It pleased me to no end, when asked about the farmer’s markets in my neck of the woods, was replying that I wouldn’t know….. I just drive to the farm. Milk, corn, peaches, potatoes, its all right there. The mention of real estate prices around my area….whoah boy, always the kick to the nuts.

      But of course, they had to let me know about all I was missing by not living in the urban paradise. Somehow, we’ve managed to cope.

      • Brawnychicken

        Funny Frank, I had a similar experience with my sister in law from Brooklyn. We were at some farmers market in our fairly rural suburban town and she decided to tell us how Brooklyn had the best food from the best local farms and how the whole farmers market thing started in BK. I asked here where the farms in Brooklyn were.

  3. RTR

    I am also a Ruth’s Chris fan. I tend to avoid “foodie fad places” in general after being disappointed most times I went.

    I would rather buy a Rolex than drink $500 wine.

  4. Hogie roll

    I’ve noticed this. My friends in the city tease me about not knowing what all of the things on a menu are (knowing this is very important to them).

  5. Yamahog

    This hits a little too close to home so discount my view accordingly (young man, disposable income, glutton / hedonist with an instagram full of food).

    I think there’s a difference between enjoying food (to the point of including it as a hobby) and conspicuous consumption of food.

    And even as a hobby, there’s a difference between making food and simply consuming it. I have much more respect for people who make food rather than those who just consume it, and most people I know who describe themselves as foodies also make their own food. As a hobby it doesn’t have to be that expensive, and it’s a fun way to apply biology and chemistry. Think of it in car / motorcycle terms. I get that some people enjoy these things and don’t know how to loosen a bolt and that’s fine, but I think the capacity to work on a machine yields a richer understanding of the hobby, that’s an element of the hobby I like, and I’d rather talk to someone about a sick nasty SRT-4 neon build than their 340i lease.

    Sure, you can use all that knowledge and time to just make rice and beans and find the cost-minimizing way to avoid vitamin / mineral deficiencies but a foodie hobby is life-enriching. I don’t toss frozen pizzas in the oven, I make breakfast burritos or shakshuka when I get home from work – it probably takes the same amount of time and it probably costs about the same but I enjoy my dinner than I would a Red Barron Pepperoni and I don’t look down on people who eat frozen pizza and love it. In fact, I’m somewhat envious – just as I’m envious of people with less expensive cars who like their cars more than I like mine.

    But what do I know – I have more kitchen gadgets than I use in a month and I have a few ham bones in my freezer because I’m going to make tonkotsu ramen eventually and I’m already thinking about the filter I’ll apply to the bowl of soup when I share it with the world.

    • Orenwolf

      I have to agree.

      I enjoy food. I could care less who sees me eat it. I routinely pay for others to enjoy expensive food I find delicious because they won’t, or can’t, justify the expense.

      I also eat Popeyes and McDonald’s and chef boyardee because I enjoy them. But I’m also in culinary school and have paid $180 for a steak, eaten at chef’s tables, and choose to reduce my impact by eating locally, shopping farmers markets, and preferring local, ethically raised meats (because I grew up around farms and give a shit about how animals are raised).

      I know the difference between a California peach in its prime versus the trucked in crap we normally deal with. I understand that my local grocery store pays for lower quality veggies at the food terminal than the gourmet one does, and use that knowledge to my advantage when I need the freshest ingredients for a raw or fresh meal.

      I do all this because I’m lucky enough to have the time and money, because school has let me sample ingredients side-by-side, and because unlike any other time in history, these ingredients are actually available and an option.

      The only people I “share” any of this with are the other Cooks in my family, or a pic if we discuss a dish or something. Random folks don’t need to see my food pics on social media.

      Jack, if that means I somehow don’t care about the food, or the experience of enjoying good food, I’m not sure anyone can escape your label. And that makes me sad.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I’m speaking more to a specific subculture that treats dining out as the apex experience of life than I am to people who like to cook and eat.

        • jz78817

          whenever I get into online arguments with people in/from NYC about living in a big city vs. suburbs or rural-ish areas, they inevitably sneer something about how “I’ll take Sripraphai any day of the week over a suburban Applebee’s or Fridays.” As though Thai restaurants only exist in NYC.

          And I’ll bet you none of these assholes knows how to cook. Anything.

          • sabotenfighter

            Hey, when you’re paying premium for an ultra minimal studio apartment (read: someone’s walk in closet they converted) and living the important social life, you don’t have time or space for cooking.
            Where I live, apartments are equally as tiny and expensive as a major US city, but most of the people that live in them are so broke they just end up eating garbage like cup ramen or do the salaryman dinner standing up in a train station udon/soba restaurant.

          • rwb

            I don’t know with whom you’re arguing, and NYC is full of of awful people, but it’s very rare that I actually meet someone who holds any pretense about food while being unable to work with it.

            Cooking just isn’t that hard.

        • rwb

          I’m not sure that’s as endemic as you’re making it seem.

          The people noted elsewhere, who can’t stop taking selfies and pictures of their stupid food when they go out, are the type who ruin any hobby they take up. They make faces when offered free cold Coors at parties (or they just bring their own 22oz of awful stout,) and are eager to tell you how much they hate pop music. They sniff wine corks and make Chemex coffee and bring onesies to drive stock street cars and reference jokes from YouTube at track days. They’re everywhere, and they’re not worth the time.

          I was going to withhold comment because I was raised in the foodservice world, so I’m not neutral. I will say though, that everyone I know is able to enjoy their food like adults, and while the reverence shouldn’t become fetishization, a respect for and understanding of the life taken to feed you is, in my opinion, a moral imperative.

        • Mopar4wd

          I wonder how many of these people there really are. Most I know are more in the enjoy food category. I live in the suburbs but I’m in the Northeast so there are restaurants and expensive housing, and I don’t see a ton of this seems the same as it ever was here.

  6. Opaddington

    Another example of our “look at me!” society going straight into the crapper. Everyone has a cell phone with a high-res camera in it and it enables shocking levels of narcissism. It’s especially strong in women. It must have been lurking in the background until technology unleashed it.

    The wife and I went out to dinner a few weeks ago. Afterward, some of her friends met us for drinks. Over the course of two hours they took about 20 selfies. One of them took numerous photos of her drinks and posted them to Instagram. She was drinking gin and tonic. What the hell is memorable about that? It’s clear liquid and a lime in a glass. Also, we were at the Rusty Bucket for crying out loud. Is it important to announce it to the world?

    I don’t get it, man. These women are all in their late 30’s. I could sort of understand if they were teenagers.

    • jz78817

      attention is currency now. Your value to society is measured by how much attention you can get. what do you think all of these “reality” shows and things like American Idol cater to?

      I have one photo of myself on my phone, taken by someone else as I was about to strap in to a race boat. just because that was the first time I was fully suited up to that extent.

      • Opaddington

        I get it. All of these reality shows didn’t appear out of a vacuum. There’s an audience they’re serving. That being said, a 38 year old mother of two from Cincinnati is essentially invisible on social media. No one cares about her boring life in flyover country. She can post 500 selfies on Instagram…no one cares. She’s not on anyone’s radar. She’s wasting her time and I have to believe that she knows this. So why do it?

        • Bark M

          Um, I’m a 39-year-old father of two from 80 miles south of Cincinnati. I guess nobody cares about me, either. Now I’m sad.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Welcome to Riverside Green, new anonymous middle-aged Ford-owning Kentucky dad reader!

          • Opaddington

            There’s no question about it. People stopped caring about your old ass at least a decade ago. I’m 43 so it’s even worse for me. It’s cool though, no worries. Just follow my lead and become a misanthrope. They can all suck it!

          • -Nate-Nate

            “Doesn’t matter. The hottest 38 year old mother on the planet can’t compete with the thousands of flawless 20 year olds on social media. She’s just background noise”
            Spoken like a true young buck who hasn’t yet learned .

          • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

            Two-Lincoln owner accountant in the Quad Cities, also flyover country. I thought I was happy, now I has a sad. 🙂

        • jz78817

          because she’s getting attention from her small circle of followers. I’m not saying everyone has to be a national celebrity. just a cadre of fawners who click “like” on everything they post.

          • Opaddington

            Doesn’t matter. The hottest 38 year old mother on the planet can’t compete with the thousands of flawless 20 year olds on social media. She’s just background noise; The Wall is cruel.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Based on my experiences dealing with the fellow in 1988, I have to think he is literally the least-qualified person in America to select a piece of art.

    • sabotenfighter

      Ugh the interior of that house is like slightly high priced McMansion peak sub-prime puke. I hate almost everything about it… except the exquisite ballsack painting in the kitchen.

  7. Rick T.

    “My basement is something like 1500 square feet and is literally lined with steel shelving units that can each hold forty guitars or a thousand books. I have another 800 square feet of rental space down the street for wayward sports cars and winter motorcycle storage. I don’t even have secure possession of all my possessions; My VFR800 is in Atlanta, and my Neon is in rural Ohio. I’ve loaned so many items to friends that I’ve long since lost the ability to track those loans.”

    I’ve mentioned T.C. Boyle here before as a master of short stories. Perhaps you need to hire Susan Certaine, the professional organizer of his story “Filthy with Things:”

    “The protagonist – a man who wants to “go up to the mountains and let the meteor showers wash him clean, but he can’t” – hires a “professional organizer” to help him make neatness and sense of his myriad possessions. The organizer, a chic, black-garbed woman (dressed much like the figure of Death in Jean Cocteau’s film “Orpheus”), treats her clients as addicts and their spouses as co-dependents. She catalogues and removes the man’s belongings. He may have one thing back each day for 60 days, but he has to ask for them specifically, one by one.

    “You’d be surprised how many couples never recall a thing,” she says, “not a singie item.” Stripped of his material clutter, he is left with nothing of substance to take its place – except, perhaps, litigation. “When he shuts his eyes he sees only the sterile deeps of space, the remotest regions beyond even the reach of light. And he knows this: it is cold out there, inhospitable, alien. There’s nothing there, nothing contained in nothing. Nothing at all.”

    Only partially joking. But the collecting habit doesn’t get any better with age. I know as I lived for many years with someone who cannot pass up a good deal.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I like the idea of the story, but I think that’s missing the point — with most collections the pleasure is in the possession, not the use or even the contemplation. I like having a mint Atari 800 because it was the computer of my childhood. If I want to look at it or program on it, I can. I may never do so, but that’s not a problem for me. I’d rather have it and not want it than want it and not have it…

      • Rick T.

        The problem arises when the collecting outpaces the space/ability/time to organize the “collections” so at some point you can’t find that Atari and eventually can’t recall you even have it. Sounds like you are able to avoid that, though there are many who cannot or have not. Continued good luck. It’s not a good place to be.

        I know firsthand that the pleasure can transfer to the act of acquisition from the possession of a thing. Personally, it’s all visual for me. I have to have it out where I can see it all the time. I don’t care what a deal it was or what it is. If I can’t put it up on a shelf or hang it on a wall, I’m not really interested. A reaction to my own situation? Dunno.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Well, I have a disturbingly comprehensive memory. I made my first guitar spreadsheet from memory a few years back; I had something like 105 out of 109 guitars correct by color model and type. 🙂

      • jz78817

        I just futzed around with my Atari 800 a few weeks ago. the RF and composite video outputs look dreadful on LCD TVs. thankfully I made up an S-Video cable for it which cleans everything up nicely.

        • sabotenfighter

          My dad keeps a few old CRT monitors around for his 800 and C64. Learned Atari BASIC as a wee lad and learned how to use Atari DOS to boot games years before my older brother ever did.
          Think Ill have to boot up an Atari Computer Emulator and play some M.U.L.E. or Jumpman tonight. Though the sweet sweet disk drive grinding and loading pulse sounds wont be emulated, sadly.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I have a Jumpman Jr. cartridge.. the proper Jumpman disk with all 30 levels or whatever died a long time ago.

  8. stuntmonkey

    “Collect experiences, not things” (motto of Dead Frog Brewery here in BC) Originally that was a rallying point against consumerism, but like all things, it got co-opted by consumerism.

    I have a gal pal who is probably the best pure ideal of this; she goes out of her way to try to spend time with people instead of accumulating things, and is also financially solid because of it. Then there’s the other extremes, the “quest-ers” who have to try everything for the sake of doing it and who don’t seem to accumulate any capital or wealth as they age.

  9. VoGo

    Manhattan residents learned decades ago that you entertain in your favorite nearby restaurant, rather than a dedicated dining room that sits empty 363 days a year. Different strokes for different folks.

    • Dr_Ribs_Revere

      Manhattanites most apartment dwellers can’t entertain at home because there isn’t much of a living dining area in their living spaces beyond a kitchenette and a “breakfast bar”

    • jz78817

      Manhattan-ites also brag about being able to find Ethiopian carry-out at 2:30 a.m. as though anyone is supposed to give a shit.

    • CJinSD

      “Manhattan residents learned decades ago that you entertain in your favorite nearby restaurant, rather than a dedicated dining room that sits empty 363 days a year. Different strokes for different folks.”

      Going out to dinner with a group of friends or family members twice a year doesn’t make someone a foodie.

    • Aoletsgo

      You do raise a good point. For generations urban dwellers would gather in pubs or taverns for food, drink and companionship. The new urbanites might be in a coffee shop in the morning, a deli for lunch and a fancy restaurant for dinner. Yes their boasting about the expensive fare is tedious, on the other hand it beats a TV dinner, on your big sectional, in front of your massive screen in your huge, lonely house.

      • jz78817

        “Yes their boasting about the expensive fare is tedious, on the other hand it beats a TV dinner, on your big sectional, in front of your massive screen in your huge, lonely house.”

        because of course, we all know those are the only two possible options. You can only either 1) live in an urban center and eat out all the time, or 2) sit in your “huge lonely house” eating TV dinners.

        There are no other options. none whatsoever.

        good god this epidemic of black-or-white, one-extreme-or-the-other thinking is driving me batcrap crazy.

        • AoLetsGo

          It will be okay, just take some deep breaths and count to ten.

          I did use an example from one side of the curve, but I did not say “only” or “none”. I honestly do not have the data to break out all the shares of the pie for the dining habits of all the urban and suburban people. Jack was using somewhat extreme examples of urban foodies to illustrate a point so I thought I would counter with an extreme suburban one.

      • Brawnychicken

        I for one would love to have my big house empty and quiet. If that meant I had to eat TV dinners, so be it.

      • RobbieAZ

        We live in a big house in the suburbs and eat out probably 5-6 times a month, not counting the pizzas I carry out and bring home most Sundays. We don’t do it everyday because that gets old really fast. A two-week vacation or business trip is all it takes to burn me out on wanting to eat out for awhile. When I’m eating at home on my sofa in front of my big, beautiful OLED TV I don’t have to worry about slow lousy service, annoying fellow diners taking constant selfies and pics of their food, babies crying, lousy music, too loud music, etc. I don’t have to get annoyed listening to some relentlessly picky prick berating the waiter or sending their food back for the second time. I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing. No shirt, no shoes, no problem! I don’t have to worry about some dickhead door dinging my car in the too-small parking lot.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like eating out. But like with everything else, moderation is the key. All those little annoyances are much easier to tolerate when you don’t encounter them on a daily basis.

        There is truly something to be said for enjoying a meal in the comfort of your own home, in the company of the woman you love and no one else. And there is nothing remotely lonely about that.

        • -Nate-Nate

          @Robbie :

          AMEN ! . =8-) .

          Oddly, my favorite comfort food is also my favorite jail food : liver with onions .

          ? Eating as a hobby ? WTH ?! . no wonder so many Americans are obese .


    • Mopar4wd

      This is true most of the city dwellers I know eat the majority of there meals out. Wealth and expensive food have been tied in many cultures for centuries. I think the real complaint is social media has made the hobby even in person more obnoxious.

    • Nick D

      We adopted a “3-5 year old” mutt from the pound….in 2003….with a few battle scars from fights. She’s still kicking, but is now deaf and figured out she can completely ignore us (not that she really cared what we said) simply by rolling over.

  10. arbuckle

    Also, when it comes to food snobbery in this country Manhattan has nothing on the Southeast.

    • Rob

      Arbuckle, as a resident of the Southeast, I have to agree with you. Ironically, Charleston is packed with New Yorkers waddling from one overpriced bistro to the next.

      I would also point out that some of us are a only a few generations removed from farming, so there’s a certain bond to the land and what comes from it.

      Lastly, in my experience, the most beautiful & expensive kitchens, with Viking appliances, marble counters, and large ballsack paintings, are the ones that turn out the least amount of good food.

  11. Dirty Dingus McGee

    I eat because I’m hungry. If I’m serious hungry, 12-24 hours without grub, I really don’t care what I’m stuffing down(except a McDonalds burger, I will never again be that hungry). Given an option, I’ll try a recommended good place over a known fair place. Be it Hyde Park, Thurman Grill, or any other local “well known” grub shack. I have cooked for myself, and for partys of up to 500 people. For myself, it was a perceived need; 30 years ago I got to where I knew the menu at the Waffle House better than the hired help. Something had to give, Waffle House was it.

    George Carlin summed up “collecting” many years ago;

    • Mark

      Judean People’s Front? We’re the People’s Front of Judea!

      First comment — couldn’t resist.

  12. Ronnie Schreiber

    The Jewish dietary laws have nothing to do with food hygiene, though the way poultry is processed today makes me think that kosher chickens are probably cleaner, but that’s incidental.

    In Judaism there is a distinction made between those commandments that have some practical purpose and those that are “chok”, law, we do them because God tells us to. They’re equally obligatory. The laws of kashrut are in the latter category. The mixture of meat and milk is prohibited (the biblical verse is a reference to avoiding cruelty, btw), but then so is mixing linen and wool.

    The trichonosis thing regarding swine is pretty iffy too.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      My mom always told me it’s bad luck to put shoes on the table, but she pointed out that it’s probably just common sense. I cringe whenever I see people do it, even with new shoes.

  13. CJinSD

    “They don’t have children, because they swallowed whole the idea that it was more fulfilling to suck a hundred anonymous cocks than it would have been to raise three children.”

    Ever notice how even the ones that get married and have children won’t be denied their hundred anonymous cocks?

  14. Jim Zeigler

    There are people who go the other way, too (not bisexuals, in this instance) I own two motorcycles, two cars, a sailboat, and three bicycles. I am 27, live in a 600-square-foot apartment in the 4th largest city in America, and rent out $100/month of storage for the extra stuff. My city is the most diverse in the nation and you can have the “best” of any (South Asian and Middle Eastern) cuisine for less than $10 a plate on any given night.

    In Houston, you can have your falafel and eat it, too.

    • jz78817

      “My city is the most diverse in the nation and you can have the “best” of any (South Asian and Middle Eastern) cuisine for less than $10 a plate on any given night.”

      I giggle at you from Dearborn.

  15. Disinterested-Observer

    Jack, I don’t know if you pulled the same anthology out of the free bin at the used book store but not long ago I read “The Rocking Horse Winner” and the execrable “A Good Man is Hard to Find” referenced in another article recently.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      If I ever open a restaurant I will name it “Farm to Table to Mouth to Toilet”

  16. Peter Voyd

    Not to argue Jack’s point, but one can appreciate tasty food without being a food snob. In the 20+ years I lived in the Midwest, there was an explosion of ubiquitous, tasty, and inexpensive ethnic cuisine. I highly recommend “An Economist Get Lunch” by Tyler Cowan – a very thorough treatise, written by an economics professor and a fairly popular blogger, on how to capitalize on the strengths of the American food infrastructure (recent immigrant communities bringing their cuisine, fairly cheap labor and rent outside a few major cities, relative ease of opening and running a small business) and avoid its drawbacks (long supply chain, focus on low cost and quantity rather than taste and freshness of the ingredients.)

    • jz78817

      The other side of that is simply being a “mom & pop” joint doesn’t automatically mean it’s any good. Especially if they do little more than assemble shit they get from the Sysco or Gordon Food Services delivery truck.

  17. Sean

    Your city vs country analogy is pretty sharp. I could go back to Chicago and make two times (or more) what I make in here in Dubuque. It would also cost almost three times as much to live there doing it.
    Here I have a small house on an acre of land that butts up to a lake and is within walking distance of the Mississippi River. Back east I’d be in a subdivision with a slightly larger house on a .18 acre lot and probably have to deal with an HOA. Here I have discretionary money and toys. There every dollar would probably be accounted for. Here I have no stress and a 5 minute commute. There? Ugh. No.
    I’m not a “Foodie” but have them in the family. My uncle is a restauranteur so all the cousins think they know stuff. They’re as tiring to be around as Beer snobs, Whiskey experts, Cigar afficianados, Coffee masters or even the Car Show/Drag Strip guy that always knows better even though he’s​ never done it.
    Everyone has a vice.
    What’s my point?
    Who am I? Why am I here?!

  18. Peter Voyd

    Nit-picking here, but by “fiscal resources” do you mean “financial resources”?

  19. -Nate-Nate

    No photos here of the expansive, palatial grounds of the Baruth residence .
    Every time I see it I’m reminded that “rich” is a very subjective thing indeed .
    Mom was from Evanston, Ill. , making her solid Mid-Western stock ~ her idea of spicy foods was to put a pepper shaker on the table .

  20. George

    As much as I hate pretentious foodies, the food at most American chain restaurants is more disturbing. As a Canadian who regularly visits America, I am always shocked at the portion sizes, and the ability of people to consume it all.

  21. Rock36


    Seriously though, I love the new topic segment for the blog Jack.

  22. Nicky Flamel

    dear flying spaghetti monster in beer volcano heaven above, this is where the bevy of baruthtas ended up. eep!

    • rwb

      No, farting is about not shitting yourself, and avoiding blame, just like everything else in life.

  23. -Nate-Nate

    ” I’d rather rebuild a car than cook a meal every night.”.
    _THIS_ ! .
    I know this sounds sad sack but : I can cook just enough to feed my self, not for enjoyment .
    I appear to be missing that gene .
    I can rebuild trannies, engines and so on i my sleep, everyone brings something to the table .

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