At what point do you cross the line from viewing a piece of food as a harmless indulgence to something that causes you to hate yourself?
I found myself asking that question yesterday afternoon while staring down a $3.50 almond-coconut macaroon I’d purchased from Eat Me NatuRaw, a raw, vegan bakery that’s part of the new Second Act Marketplace’s Community Craft booth in the Haight. The macaroon was roughly the diameter of an Oreo, almost militantly bland, and endowed with a consistency that fell somewhere between paste and bone meal. Although I’ve encountered enough raw food that I’m no longer shocked by the price tags or the travesties committed in the name of virtuous eating, there was something about this particular macaroon that made me think, “You sucker, you should have known better.”
It’s not as if I get easily offended by exorbitant prices: I’ve forked over $20 for a jar of honey without blinking, $8.50 for a tube containing precisely 13 Miette Patisserie graham crackers, $10 for a chocolate bar that to some palates tastes like burnt dirt. There’s no one splurge that sends me over the edge into apoplexy, and I’ve written enough about the food industry that I understand why certain costs that appear unreasonable are actually anything but. For me these purchases come down to a simple cost-to-quality calculation. Spending $20 for a jar of honey seems relatively reasonable because: a) keeping bees and collecting honey is a lengthy and labor-intensive process, b) that jar will last me at least a month, maybe two, and c) it is damn good honey.
On the other hand, the $9 carton of eggs that I saw at a certain North Beach gourmet shop offended me on a deep, instinctual level. I know that eggs from local, humanely raised chickens cost more—they’re the only kind I buy, typically at a cost of $5-$6 per dozen. But there’s something very let-them-eat-cake about a $9 carton of eggs—one imagines that they harbor yolks encased in gold leaf, or are handled only by the soft, pure hands of young children clothed in organic linen.
It’s an emperor’s clothes kind of thing; whether or not it offends you depends on how much nudity you can take, so to speak. Is it $9 eggs? Or $42 for a half chicken at Tosca? Or $7.50 for 12 ounces of juice that tastes like it was sieved from a compost heap? Different strokes, I guess. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so bothered by that $3.50 macaroon if it hadn’t tasted like a cross between a taunt and a punishment. All I can say for sure is that there’s a lot of naked royalty parading around San Francisco these days, seemingly impervious to stiff breezes, or, for that matter, shame.