Save. Spend. Splurge.

Can what you eat, reveal your social status?

I was thinking the other day that what we eat, really says a lot about your societal status or class; this is not a new concept. In the past, the Romans used to eat the oddest and most exotic of animals (think: ostrich tongues) as a way to show how rich they were to be able to procure such an ingredient.

As the world opened up, spices, sugar, things like pineapples became status symbols as they were so prohibitively expensive. People would purchase pineapples at a cost of about $5700 USD in today’s modern dollars, to display on their fireplace mantles, letting them rot on there without taking a bite.

In modern war times, it was access to meat and sugar, heavily rationed.

Today, with the world becoming truly global, it is being worldly with your food. If you’ve never tried things like sushi, Pad Thai, Roquefort cheese, or Tikka Masala, let alone seafood, people do pass a little judgement on you.

These foods are so ubiquitous in Western countries that if you live here and you haven’t eaten it, it signals a few things:

1. You’ve never traveled

If your hometown doesn’t offer these items, that’s fine…. But as you travel, even to other bigger cities, these foods are everywhere.

Of course, you need money, but also knowledge on how to travel. Imagine a kid who has never left their town – how would they do so? By bus? Train? How do you buy tickets? Where do I go? What’s a terminal?

2. You’re not adventurous

A sign of societal status these days is being adventurous and open to new things. By not having tried different foods, some may consider you not open-minded which may make them wonder if you’re close-minded on anything else (world topics, women’s rights, etc). There is that underlying stigma that if you aren’t open-minded, you’ve not been exposed to different points of view, and that ties into traveling, and of course, being able to afford to travel.

3. Your palate is not sophisticated

Another stigma may be that if you only stick to eating steak and potatoes (stereotype), you’re not worldly, and therefore not sophisticated enough to appreciate delicacies like truffles or a complex curry.

I can say that I have only really heard of and seen children of well off means, actively asking their parents for sushi. I remember being their age (decades ago of course..), and when I once said I ate sushi and explained what it was, I was bullied for it to the point where I came home crying and my father took it upon himself to go to the school to try and educate the other children about different foods.


Those bullies, years later (I saw a few on Facebook), are sushi aficionados, posting about their favourite raw fish rolls, and Japanese restaurants they love to eat at.

It made me wonder what we say are our favourite foods, and what we eat, says about us as people without saying anything at all.

A more recent example?

I do recall once mentioning at work that my son tried foie gras for the first time at age 2, and loved it. It became and still is, his favourite food to eat alongside sushi (the raw fish kind), and duck confit (we think it’s the salt he’s into!).

When I mentioned foie gras as his favourite. there was a kind of silence at the table and a colleague finally said in the aftershock:

You gave foie gras to your child? It is SO expensive.

Of course, this meaning that a child would not or could not appreciate the cost of something like foie gras, and he’s “fancy”.

It brought up another subtopic for me – why do we choose to dumb down children’s palates and meals to give them the cheapest food possible, when this is the time we should try and introduce them to new things? But I digress.

It did however, make me realize I should probably not say that again to other people, only friends or family, as there was a slight shame of disbelieving privilege over what I said. I felt awkward.

In one sentence, I revealed my status (aspiring or otherwise) and where my son would be in that food chain. So … feeling awkward and extremely ashamed of having money to do so, I hastened to say we only ate foie gras once a year for Christmas and ended up joking that he was so fancy he’d have to go to work and become super successful to keep up with his food likes (I actually do remind him that he has to work hard to be well-paid in the future because he needs to pay for his sushi habit…!)

As I became hyper aware of this food privilege, I stated noticing that the richer parents in other groups I socialized in, were in the same group as I was – their children also ate sushi, at young ages, and appreciated foie gras, truffles, and ate a wide range of flavours from curries to noodles to empanadas.

I realized that it was an unspoken class thing, for the food that you brought home or ate, showed that you could afford it on a regular basis; regular enough for your children to declare it their favourites.

In other parent groups, I just became even more hyper conscious to not make anyone feel lesser than or to be more vague about my lifestyle, or things that I was into or did.

It was a good lesson to learn, and one I still keep to this day. I always have my guard up until I feel out the situation and the people, to see what I can or cannot say.


  • StackingCash

    I always took food for granted. Didn’t realize that access to food was problematic until I heard stories of elementary school kids taking ketchup packets from the cafeteria because they were hungry. I’ve learned to be more cautious on who I discuss my love for expensive foods with.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I have been reading other stories of kids saying it is a luxury to eat until they are full. Made me think of my mother who grew up in such poverty.

      • NZ Muse

        Omg that is heartbreaking

        Spud likes sushi but is otherwise a stereotypical preschooler with eating

        Unfortunately he also has a lot of intolerances and GI issues with many foods which limits a lot of options (and yeah a fairly plain bland diet is best for him)

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