New & Now

The Intrinsic and Perceived Value of Food

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What makes us willing to spend money on food? We can survive (just barely) on wheat and veggies, plus a little protein - but we don't. We buy expensive imported olives, rare berries from South America, and even cheese from a goat with which you are personally acquainted.


Here is something you have probably never splurged for: "The Doucheburger" (yes, unfortunately, you read that correctly). It is $666.00. 

The burger began as a joke, and features "gold leafed Kobe beef formed around foie gras, then topped with cave aged gruyere, truffle butter, lobster, caviar, and kopi luwak bbq sauce." There was even mention of wrapping it in hundred dollar bills. So what makes this unbelievable indulgence sell? According to The Atlantic, it has a lot to do with the upwardly mobile story of the Atlantic lobster. 

Anyone who has ever been to Maine has tried the crustacean in one form or another. In its purest state - baked/boiled/steamed and doused in salted butter - lobster is sweet, succulent, and tremendously delicious. It was once the "poor man's protein," served to slaves and apprentices. A small group of loyal followers living in Boston and New York turned lobster into a delicacy after the second world war (partially because they learned to cook it for much less time). New England lobsters are now sent the world over - to be left in a tank until they are picked and served for too much money. 


The story of lobster suggests that food is not intrinsically valuable. It is assigned a value based on its popularity and abundance. We justify expensive food, therefore, by thiinking of it as a treat, as a level of tastiness not afforded to inexpensive foods. Truthfully, we're fooling ourselves.

The Doucheburger features gold plating. Gold has no nutritional value, and does not enhance taste in any appreciable manner. So why do we pay several hundred dollars to eat something coated in it? Hard to know. 

The Psychology of A $666 Burger from The Atlantic