Most weeks, Sam Sifton kinda makes me pissed off. So pissed off in fact, that I actually wrote a comment on one of his “Diner’s Journals” (search for my comment at the bottom, if you have any interest). The assumption that good meals must be expensive–and the overall assumption of the Times’ lifestyle sections that their readers have unlimited leisure funds– are pretty appalling, especially in these trying economic times.
The Times’ Travel section, for example, laughably recommends spending 36 hours in Bali this week. Who can afford to fly to Bali for a weekend?! I can barely afford a weekend out of state! (A notable exception to this elitism is the Frugal Traveler column.)
The Dining and Wine section is, of course, my favorite of the Times’ Lifestyle sections, but I’m really shocked that “25 & Under” (per person, mind you, and rarely does it fall far “under”) is their idea of a budget meal– and they’ll make you travel to deepest Queens to eat these “cheap” meals. Manhattan dining has become more and more financially inaccessible as the borough increasingly yuppifies , but I still maintain that there is good, review-worthy food available for people like me. I’m also sick of reviewers acting like they’ve been to the third world when they review a restaurant in Brooklyn. I’m so sorry you had to take the G train, Sam Sifton, but I DO IT EVERY DAY!
As Chris is quick to point out, the reviews in the Times dining section serve as kind of lifestyle porn. I don’t want to read only about cheap burger joints or Indian restaurants or tiny, lovely, holes-in-the-wall with up-and-coming chefs. I want to sometimes read about obscenely luxuriant meals at places I can’t quite afford. The nice thing about food is that, unlike a trip to Bali, even the most expensive meals in New York can probably be available to me if I save up some money for a special dining occasion (I should call my savings account the ‘Daniel‘ account… I’ve wanted to go to Boulud’s namesake restaurant forever).
But I wish that the budget sections were more oriented toward people on an actual budget and that Sifton (and other reviewers) realized that food of the caliber they usually write about is a pretty serious luxury item. A meal at Lyon, this week’s featured restaurant, isn’t as far flung as one at Daniel, but with entrees starting at $21, it’s not particularly accessible either.