For indication of just how far down the social ladder Australia’s foodie revolution has penetrated, look no further than this report in the Albury-Wodonga Border Mail. Apparently the local junkies and meth-heads have given up exchanging cold sores and crumpled-up fivers for drugs in favour of eye filet steaks and other gourmet cuts of meat:
Police raiding homes of suspected dealers have found freezers full of meat and one officer recalled a man who had two roast beefs stuffed down his pants at Coles in Wodonga about a year ago, to pay for his addiction…
It’s difficult to quantify how much meat can be exchanged for what kind and what quantity of drugs but investigators estimated two scotch fillets could be exchanged for a stick of cannabis while a roast beef could return two ecstasy tablets.
Ignoring the obvious civil liberties dangers – how long before hungry coppers start seizing Herefords as proceeds of crime? Will good steaks join spray paint and cold medicine in the annals of perfectly legal consumer products one has to show ID to buy? – this sort of thing has the tendency to ripple upwards as well. What are the upwardly-mobile and status conscious to do when even a fridge full of fine meat is not enough to distinguish one from the common street druggo? A realignment of status symbols is in order, and indeed is already happening. Just head down to the new corridor of “small bars” along – or more properly, underneath – Sydney’s York Street and you’ll see what I mean.
For it was on this strip, down a non-descript flight of steps at the base of an office block at the Stitch Bar to be precise, that the Prick found himself Friday night, drinking a $38 (!) double-serve Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan served up in a cheap steel flask while a bunch of good-lookin’ and lookin’-good thirty-something mid-career professionals chatted and bopped their heads as the stereo pumped out, sans any hint of irony, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”. Remember that great article in The Onion a few years back, “Affluent White Man Enjoys, Causes the Blues”? Yeah, it was a bit like that.
Not that this was a bad thing, necessarily. The barmen here know what they’re doing. Sydney’s bars were a great disappointment when the Prick picked up and left New York and it is great to see so many interesting drinketerias opening up around town. Stitch is a lovely joint, all little rooms and nooks, and if you get there early enough you can get a table without too appalling a wait. Which you will want to do, because they also have a fine little kitchen turning out gourmet hot dogs and burgers and tacos, all cutely named and well-prepared (the “French Poodle”, a Toulouse sausage with melted brie, was delicious, as were the pulled pork tacos, which were intelligently spiced and made themselves heard without screaming to palates numbed slightly by the booze).
And as tiresome as the whole “dude food” thing can be, this was well-executed. But more to the point, the reasons for its longevity are made clear by the above tale. If Albury junkies are going to shoot up with chateaubriand then it is only logical that Sydney yuppies now get pissed on ridiculously expensive cocktails while eating hot dogs (albeit of the fancy-pants gussied up variety). Because a status marker means nothing if everyone can have it, the democratisation of “gourmet” food – the whole MasterChef/Coles tie-in being the most obvious manifestation of the trend – has left those at the top grasping for new ways to set themselves apart. Like geomagnetic poles reversing themselves, what was once top-end fare is now povvo, and vice versa. It’s happened before (oysters used to be peasant cuisine in America) and will surely happen again. Here’s hoping Australia’s deadshits never discover veal demi-glace. This status-conscious Prick could never bring himself to do without it.