The Socio-economics of Food

Topic: The socio-economics of food.

Source: Thanksgiving dinner with my fiancés family November 24th 2011. We ate at The Avalon restaurant in Eureka, California. It was around 7:30pm, the sun had already set and it was raining out side. The Avalon is an upscale restaurant, and the crowd was predominantly white. My fiancé comes from an upper class family, where as I come from a lower class family.

Relation: Food can give insight into how different ends of America’s socio-economic spectrum live. This can be seen in the foods people eat as well as the different crowds restaurants cater to. As Robbins states (pg. 5), “food is one of the best illustrations of the differences between cultures.” Different socio-economical classes in America are certainly different cultures.

Description: I walked in the doors of the tiny white building in Old Town, Eureka along side my fiancé, his parents, and his brother. As we walked in I realized that we were significantly underdressed for a restaurant this upscale; our casual jeans and t-shirts worn through a long day of travel held no comparison to the black tie attire worn by the customers. I felt awkward with the stares of some of the other customers of the restaurant. I felt as if I didn’t belong, since I was never in a restaurant this fine before. I would have felt more comfortable in a Denny’s with the plastic table booths and the paper napkins. The staff of the restaurant seemed to pick up on our casual attire and began setting us up with a table in the back, by the kitchen, a table where we couldn’t be seen by the high-class clientele. To me it seemed as if they thought we were going to order the cheapest menu items and leave a small tip. However our initial order from the bar told an entirely different story than the clothes on our backs: house wines and fine scotch made the staff see that we were not what we seemed, and within five minutes we had a table out front. Once we had taken our seats, I grabbed up a menu ready to eat, and I was aghast at the prices. They had plates priced around sixty dollars for things such as lobster, salmon, and steak. I couldn’t find my chicken strips I knew almost every restaurant to have.  I kept looking around our table, waiting for my fiancé or his parents to say something about the prices, but they just perused the menu, and were seemingly unaware that the restaurant was licking their lips to taste their wallets. I ended up ordering a plate of salmon, with green beans and sweet potatoes as the side dishes. The food and drink flowed from the kitchen to our table; and I was once again taken aback. I had barely any food on my plate, and yet we were paying sixty dollars for it. There were five green beans total, a small ¼ of a cup of potatoes, and about a 3-inch portion of salmon. This was not the portion I was used to. We ate, and then went on to order dessert, and some more drinks.  As the bill arrived I managed to sneak a peek at what our final total was: well over 300 dollars. My father-in-law casually pulled out his debit card and paid it in full, as if it were just another meal.

Upper Class Citizen portion 

Upper Class citizen Food Pyramid

As I mentioned before, my fiancé and his family are all upper class citizens, where as I come from a lower class family. I had been seemingly unaware of the differences in our socio-economical classes until I first went out to a restaurant with them. I started to notice the foods they ate, as compared to the foods I grew up on. The types of food you eat, the restaurants you go to, even the grocery stores you shop at, say a lot about the socio-economical class you are in. When I grew up, we ate at restaurants such as Denny’s or Black Bear Diner (a small northern California chain). These restaurants are cheap price wise, and they offer large portions of food, however at the Avalon, the prices are expensive, and yet they offer smaller portions of food. Lower class families cannot afford expensive food, so places such as Denny’s cater to the lower class. Restaurants such as Denny’s also give larger portions of food since the people they market too cannot afford to eat out and make dinner in one night, they will generally take home leftovers and finish the food for dinner or lunch. However restaurants such as the Avalon cater to the upper class. These are citizens who can afford to have a 300-dollar dinner, and still have money for groceries. The portions of food, and the prices of food a restaurant serves separate them between the classes they are marketing too. Places such as the Avalon do not want to appear cheap, and they do not want their clientele to be cheap either. This can been seen by their actions to put those not dressed in a suit and tie in the back of the restaurant by the kitchen. As Robbins stated, “ human beings create and define for themselves what they may eat and what may not eat independent of what is or is not truly edible” (pg 6). In this sense, humans define certain foods to be designated to the upper class, such as lobster, and quality steaks. While other foods are designated to the lower class, such as chicken nuggets, and French fries. Our diet, and our perceptions of food change across the socio-economic cultures of our country.

Lower Class citizens pyramid

Regular portions at Denny's
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