With the research for my new book Holistic Personal Finance progressing nicely, I’ve been thinking about luxury. Partly inspired by the old guy who just paid $55 for a packet of cigarettes (I believe they were about $15 when I quit), but more particularly luxury in food.
DB recently came home with a chocolate bar, and I commented that chocolate bars are quite small these days. He replied that it was from a fundraising pack as if somehow that explained everything. I have to say that this small chocolate bar was not exciting in the slightest.
As a child, I grew up in a house that didn’t stock sweet treats. No cakes, no biscuits (the cookie kind of biscuit), no lollies/sweets/candy, no chocolate, no flavoured carbonated drinks. No nuts or chips/crisps either for that matter. Some of my school friends found this bizarre, and when they reached into their pantries and pulled out chocolate bars and cans of coke I was vaguely nauseated; partly the enormousness of their stockpiles and partly because it felt like shoplifting.
For young me, a chocolate bar was a Luxury. A very exciting thing; something to be savoured and enjoyed. I tried to take the crisp paper off without tearing it, and I gently unfolded the foil, painstakingly smoothing it as flat as possible. I carefully bent the chocolate along the dips, savouring its aroma and trying not to break it outside the lines. And I ate it piece by piece, gently slurping away as it dissolved in my mouth. And as I watched DB crunch up and swallow his chocolate bar in an instant, I expect I had the same look of horrified fascination on my face as he had when he watched me eat crickets.
Having said that, growing up we didn’t have much in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables either. In the main, this was because my mother grew up during the war and didn’t have access to it. Her version of luxury was a tiny smear of jam on a piece of bread, assuming there was any luxury to be had at all. She still LOVES a bit of jam, and if she thinks no one is looking, she licks the knife.
So having grown up without sweet treats or fruit, for the most part, it doesn’t occur to me to eat them. But when I do, I tend to eat a lot of it, as if once it’s gone it isn’t replaceable (thus the apricot aversion). One of my favourite vacation luxuries is fruit platters; even though I can make them myself it still feels indulgent and a little profligate to have different kinds of fruit on a plate. (I must try and eat more fruit).
I find it a little nauseating that chocolate bars are now so cheap that you can eat them by the dozen every day. In fact, it can be cheaper to eat a chocolate bar than a piece of fresh fruit. They certainly aren’t luxuries anymore.
Strangely for some, I did grow up with bread and cheese. And not just a cheese, but a cheese platter. While I might quibble about the cost of chocolate or fruit, I don’t bat an eyelid dropping $60/kg for a sliver of nice cheese. Or paying extra for good bread or crackers to go with it. I don’t have to gobble it up in one sitting either; I’m happy to spread it out over a week or more.
Food is a strange thing; you need it to live, and the same thing can be a luxury for some and a staple for others.
And that over time, chocolate can transition from luxury to staple, and fruit the reverse, and my cheese staple can be your luxury cheese.
In fact, I think that “proper” food might be the luxury now. It’s a lot quicker and cheaper to eat mass produced “food” padded with cereals than to buy meat and vegetables and cook from scratch.
And having become used to bigger high-calorie meals, many people choose to eat bigger cheaper meals when they dine out over smaller, fresher, more expensive meals. It’s no real wonder so many of us are struggling with our weight.
What are your luxuries?