The Restaurant: A Table Divided

Photo of people's hands eating from a table of charcuterie and other foods
Photo: Cailleah Scott-Grimes/CBC

What does the restaurant reveal about us as a society?

I had the pleasure of being interviewed as part of a wonderful documentary on restaurants and inequality that was just released by CBC Radio. The Restaurant: A Table Divided was co-produced by Zoe Tennant and Michelle Macklem. Drawing on interviews and soundscapes from Toronto and New York, it explores the early history of restaurants all the way to their present-day context.

Here is an excerpt from my interview, where I discuss how foodies’ sense of ease with eating both high-status and low-status food serves to downplay wealth inequality (I explore foodie culture at length in my book with Shyon Baumann, Foodies: Democracy and Distinction).

“The kind of privilege that goes on in these eating spaces comes at a time of unprecedented economic inequality. But the reality is, so many people are just struggling to make ends meet. Inequality has become so extreme that there is a backlash to people who display their wealth and status too overtly . . . Like eating caviar while riding around in your Bentley. So instead you’re eating a rice bowl with truffles on it, driving around in your Tesla. You have these things that kind of take the edge off of wealth inequality. It’s like an homage to the common person. This is a way, at a larger cultural level, to make inequality more palatable.”