If David Brooks wants to close the cultural gap in America, he should preach what his class practices: education, jobs, marriage, & children, in that order.
David Brooks has been ridiculed (and rightly so) for offering readers this steaming heap of arrogance:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
Arrogant people live in a world of assumptions. He’s assuming his friend is overwhelmed by sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro.” You know what I’m assuming? I’m assuming she’s shocked and disgusted by the price tags attached to those pretentious concoctions of bread and cold cuts.
I don’t know whether you’d call me cheap or thrifty, but the fact is that I really hate paying lots of money for attitude rather than product. Indeed, I often find that attitude doesn’t taste very good. I still haven’t recovered from a Michelin meal a few years ago at which the chef served a positively insulting “foam” amuse-bouche consisting of chocolate, lime, and something nasty I couldn’t identify. My bouche, I have to say, was not at all amused. People who commit criminal culinary acts against chocolate should be called out, rather than feted and enriched.
All of which is to say that, when I go into a pretentious restaurant and my eyes bug out, it’s not the French or Italian dotting the menu that shocks me, it’s the prices. I’d rather have a good BLT for $10 (the average price in Marin) than some pricy “Padrino” sandwich for $20 (the average for any sandwich shop that has things such as “Padrino,” “Pomodoro,” and capicollo on the menu).
Perhaps David Brooks’ friend with “only a high school degree” (his nasty phrasing, not mine) baulked at paying an ungodly sum for a sandwich. Moreover, even if she knew that Brooks, who “took” her to lunch, was paying, she might have been raised as I was — not to impose financially upon ones host. That’s good manners, not an inferiority complex.
If you’re interested in my bona fides, in addition to living (and being intensely grateful for) a very upper middle class life, I have a college degree, a graduate degree, and was raised in a home of ridiculous European-style pretension and sophistication. The family money may have vanished during WWI and WWII, but the pretension lived on. My mother had been taught how to dine with royalty and, damn it!, I was going to learn that skill too. [Read more…]