Should fine dining be a thing of the past? One writer ponders the ethics of eating extravagantly.
“What is the debt we owe others when we eat?” That’s the question Ligaya Mishan poses this month in T Magazine with an essay on the ethics of eating extravagant meals in 2022. Mishan notes that 2.3 billion people—nearly one out of every three humans on the planet—experienced hunger or food insecurity in 2020 alone. When it’s a Vietnamese general caught on video eating a gold-coated steak that cost nearly 10 times the average monthly salary of a citizen in his country, the hypocrisy is enough to make the meal a clear no-no. But what of the average person? Should there be shame or guilt in enjoying a lavish meal? Perhaps not, Mishan says—particularly when one person forgoing a meal is unlikely to put food in another’s belly. But we should be a little more aware that our meals come at a price to others—from the toll agriculture takes on the environment to the labor conditions of the people who harvest, cook, and serve our meals. The best outcome might be to “work for a world where everyone has enough to eat, while taking pleasure in what’s on your table,” be that a humble meal or a decadent feast. —Jessica Terrell