Monday, May 10, 2010

Gourmet Rabbit Article: Affordable Decadence

Aside from blogging, I occasionally make a foray into other areas. I have written a couple of articles for Gourmet Rabbit Magazine the first of which was entitled 'my foodprint.' Gourmet Rabbit is a new online food magazine with some contributions by some very talented people, so be sure to check it out. The theme for April Gourmet Rabbit was affordable decadence... here is my take on it..

"Initially, when considering the concept, ‘affordable decadence’, seemed like an oxymoron. How can something be affordable yet luxuriously self indulgent?

Talking to some authorities on the matter (i.e my food-loving parents and grandparents) it was revealed to me that the notion of decadent food hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years. Funnily enough, all four agreed that in their ‘hay day’ (cumulatively stretching from the 30’s to the 80’s,) it was the not so humble lobster that topped the list of opulent food choices. Today, the lobster still symbolises affluence, as do other types of seafood including oysters and scallops.

It is hardly challenging to come up with hundreds of other examples of food extravagances that cost more than a pretty penny. Gorgeous designer vanilla butterbean cakes, magical pearl meat canapes and foodie trips to Tuscany really are expensive. Checking in at my local delicatessen on the weekend revealed that it would have to be a VERY special occasion before I ordered some foie gras, with prices ranging anywhere from $50 - $150 per tiny little tin. The pages of Australia’s hottest food magazines are laden with the weight of advertising for luxury items, but it doesn’t stop there. Luxury food items are everywhere.

Easy to find and even easier to load onto your credit card, feeling like quite the little miss. Then, jarringly, you receive the dreaded monthly statement that reminds you, and almost verifies that decadence, does indeed, come at a cost. That is, until you remember the wise words that someone once told you ‘It’s all relative’.

Interestingly enough, lobster wasn’t the only thing that Nan mentioned when considering highly inaccessible but desired food. Whilst everyone else was busy listing off run of the mill extravagant items, Nan raised the subject of butter. Butter? A little bit of an odd suggestion and not in the same league as wagyu. Admittedly, butter does score highly for affordability, so I was prepared to hear her out. Apparently, during the war, Nan listed butter as something she would have considered more decadent than anything else, because it was rationed. Due to the ban, butter became a highly sought after commodity and only the elite were well stocked with butter. This whole butter thing got me thinking. Even in this day and age, without the short supply, lashings of cream or butter always make everything taste so much better especially when served with homemade marmalade and a sunny morning with your Nan on the verandah. Perhaps one would even go so far as to call the little interlude ‘decadent.’

In fact, when I thought about the times I felt most self indulgent, it wasn’t the degustation dinners, grange and caviar that sprung to mind. For me, the most exquisite food experiences were not only indulgent because of the food, but because of the experience that accompanied the food. Sure, you do have to spend big bucks to get the big ticket items, but what could be more extravagant than sitting in bed on a rainy Saturday morning curled up with a book and a cup of Madagascan vanilla tea? Perhaps a sickeningly rich piece of homemade chocolate tart shared guiltily with some gossiping sisters on an Autumn afternoon; Or a big bowl of sweet tomatoey and bacon pasta and a bottle of ruthlessly rough red as one of your first nights ‘living on your own’? Or maybe for you, luxury would be running to the bottom paddock with visiting cousins and returning with pockets and faces filled with the neighbours beautiful mulberries.

Either way these experiences, with food included, are extremely low cost, (in the last instance- free!) but ultimately the most indulgent memories I have. They are void of champagne and truffles but lovingly include items that are perfectly decadent in their own right.

Next time you feel like being decadent, look beyond the obvious and ask yourself- What is more indulgent? Heading to high tea at the Hilton or staying at home with friends and whipping up some choc chip cookies then devouring the very same cookies before they even make it into the oven."

So.... tell me, what do you consider to be affordably decadent?

8 fabulous comments:

Eyes Bigger Than Belly said...

I agree - something doesn't have to break the bank to be decadent. For me it's good chocolate - especially a hot chocolate. Thick, rich and velvety - the kind that puts the hairs up on the back of your neck - but costs you less than $5. Love it!! :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh and great article-very thoughtful! :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

One ting that I think can be affordably decadent is home made things like fresh home made mayonnaise, slow cooked roasts or things where care is taken. Or a little luxury like 1 perfectly ripe fig or some luscious heirloom tomatoes :)

Ally said...

*Smoked salmon. Yeah it's nearly $40p/kg or whatever, bt a few dollars' worth is enough for a meal for one, and it's still less than what a Subway sandwhich costs.

*Expensive fruit (dates, berries, etc.) Some people baulk at paying $20 p/kg for fresh dates, but it's cheaper than a Snickers bar...

(lovely article too!)

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I think in these days where people in Westernised societies are so seemingly time-poor, even packing a picnic to enjoy in the great outdoors seems decadent. You can fill your basket with as expensive or affordable foods as you like.

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

Great post, exceptionally written! Hmmm, what do I find affordably decadent, hmmm this is a tricky questions. I would have to say something like a souffle or a soft custard tart where the care taken in making the dish is was makes it so decadent. We've all had over cooked custard before, so when its done right its fantastic

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

I like this post! I will consider anything home made as decadent!

Grace said...

Your 'sweet tomatoey and bacon pasta' suggestion ticks my box. I love it when I'm home alone and I can make an extravagantly large bowl of pasta with just beautifully ripe tomatoes, bacon, garlic and lots of basil and parmesan. Couple that with a blanket and a dodgy movie - perfect.

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