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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Luxury in the time of cholera


Some of you already know about that newsletter written by a celebrity--it starts with the letter "g" and features everything from recipes to parenting advice from her personal gurus? You know what I'm talking about. It's the newsletter people love to hate, mostly because it comes from a celebrity people love to hate. She has garnered a backlash for appearing oblivious to our current economic crisis--and to the lives of regular folks in general--even while she courts our attention.

Last week's newsletter was a travel guide to Paris that included recommendations for expensive restaurants and hotels. It began with a sweet personal story, yet to me it still came off as a bit Lovey Howell. Oh my, yes! There really isn't anything like Paris in a recession, darling, especially with such a weak dollar. Some friends of ours (artists who don't have health insurance...) spent their New Year's in Paris and the one thing they kept saying over and over again was how expensive everything was.

So fine, you're reading a fun little newsletter about making your life beautiful and honoring the inner aspect. It's not The Economist. What do you say about Paris that wouldn't be completely gross? Where could she direct my economically-challenged, hopeless romantic friends?

Maybe the intangibles, like her favorite views in Paris--the Seine from a bridge at midnight, a corner across the street from Gare du Nord, Oscar Wilde's grave--and what they mean.

This has got me thinking about how we write about and discuss luxury in times like these. As a food writer who focuses on home cooking I do try to balance pricier epicurean pleasures with budget-conscious frugality--though I still probably spend more on ingredients than other people might because I'm obsessed. Your Wii is my Flying Pigs bacon--and most of us do have to chose between the two.

But back to the general idea of luxury, what does that mean now, right now at this minute, when many of us have lost much and aren't sure how much more we will lose? What are the intangible luxuries that I enjoy now? Time, my education, options, flexibility, friends, family, good health, inspiration, memory, taste, and an abundance of love...

Something I'm thinking about.

By the way, interesting comments on the notorious newsletter at Foodinista.

8 comments:

mamacita said...

*fist punches the air*
YES! You totally hit it on the head. Why not pass along something useful she learned in Paris, like the way they use lavender in the wash or something, instead of just listing places that 99% of us can only dream about? Why not mention the atmosphere of a favorite, historic cafe instead of the damn Ritz? Even her trust-fund and I-banker buddies are having to make do with less these days.

Ugh, I could go on and on.

thefoodinista said...

i love your post. a word about luxury - something that has been on my mind a lot lately - my definition is indulging yourself, and that doesn't have to come with a big pricetag. right now - as we speak - i'm indulging in a glass of $12 cava (instead of, say, a vintage champagne at four or five or ten times the price). and you know what? it tastes great! being able to spend time with my husband and cook - pure luxury. in these times, i think more than anything, luxury is being able to spend time with the people you love.

thefoodinista said...

ps - that's a glass of cava from a $12 bottle - so that glass cost a few dollars!

Swizzies said...

I must beg to differ on two points. First, the dollar is totally not weak right now -- the pound is probably in the worst shape of the currencies right now.

Today: Dollar vs Euro -- $1.26
One year ago: $1.53
Two years ago: $1.31

Today: Dollar vs GBP -- $1.42
One year ago: $1.99
Two years ago: $1.92

And for my own interest: Dollar vs CHF today -- $0.85
One year ago: $0.96
Two years ago: $0.82

The other thing is, I find Paris to be amazingly affordable. I don't stay in luxury hotels or eat at the top restaurants, but it's absolutely incredible the kinds of things you can do on the cheap there. And food is not expensive, taxis are relatively inexpensive, and the Metro is really cheap too. In my opinion, one of the world's great bargains -- far cheaper than, say, London, NYC, San Fran, Tokyo, Zurich, or most of Italy. All just my opinion of course, not based on actual fact.

I should also add that I have no idea what the newsletter is you're referring to, so I can't join you in the glee of ripping someone annoying. But you know I'm there with you in spirit. ;-)

Swizzies said...

Uh...I'm not suggesting anyone should go to Paris, I was just feeling contrary. :-D

Also, I missed your final point and then argued the same thing you were saying. *Blush*

Anyhoo.

Adriana Velez said...

Mamacita and Foodinista, totally agree. And yes, I figured you meant $12/bottle! Sizzy, love your contrarian notes. Is the dollar really doing better? I hear so much bad news, that's actually nice to know. I would love to read your Paris guide.

The newsletter is Goop. I don't know why I was being so cryptic about it.

Emily said...

I'll tell you one thing, I'm signing up for the GOOP newsletter right now. Getting something that fantastically annoying in my Inbox is somehow . . . energizing.

Adriana Velez said...

Ha! There's a quote by Gwyneth dismissing the h8ters as miserable people who get their energy from being negative. I'm sorry she's not in touch with how much fun that is...

Actually the last newsletter was good--she asked some of her filmmaker colleagues for DVD recommendations. So she's drawing on her unique experience but presenting it in an accessible, actionable way.

Apologies for using that gross, corporate word, "actionable."