Magazine article The Spectator

You Really Are What You Eat

Magazine article The Spectator

You Really Are What You Eat

Article excerpt

When Marks & Spencer first began using that treacly voice to advertise food on television, it was a signal to the mass market that 'just' any old food was no longer acceptable fare with which to impress friends.

Indeed, what we eat nowadays is becoming as much an indication of our social status as how we dress. How often are we told that a bespoke suit is worth any number of off-the-peg imitations? Similarly, doing away with that supermarket own-label platter of assorted cheeses and presenting a single splendid, oozing wedge of reassuringly stinking organic Brie is the sartorial equivalent of sporting a single Mikimoto cultured pearl rather than a rope of fakes.

Not that long ago, some crackers smeared with pâté and a few vol-au-vents would be perfectly acceptable canapés for a party.

Smoked salmon sandwiches or parmawrapped asparagus would be the zenith of sophistication. Ask party organiser the Admirable Crichton to cater your party today and you are likely to be deliberating between sake and mirin-poached eel nigiri sushi with pickled ginger and Japanese egg custard with shiitake mushrooms and lotus root as you sip your Earl Grey and Bison Grass Fizz.

Most of us take great pains to ensure that the food we offer reflects our own impeccable taste. Arriving with a box of supermarket chocolates for one's hostess would be social suicide when it's no effort to pick up Charbonnel et Walker pink marc de champagne truffles or Rococo's chilli, sea salt and cardamom chocolate ravioli.

At the end of August, the Guardian ran a front-page article about shoppers losing their taste for organic food. The market research company TNS had found spending on organic food and drinks had fallen by nearly 25 per cent since the start of 2008. These figures are likely to be seized upon as evidence that the recession is tightening its iron grip. Yet, beyond the headlines, it turned out to be the sale of organic eggs that had dropped the most, rather than the sale of luxuries.

Indeed, there is such a seismic shift in the way we are buying food that luxury organic brands simply have nothing to worry about.

When I contacted Daylesford Organics to ask about the reported decline in organic shopping, I was told Lady Bamford, Daylesford's owner and high priestess of luxury food, was away on business and unavailable for comment. …

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