OK, the rising cost of food is inconvenient. No, it bites.
That's right: $910 for a bunch of 30 grapes, or about $30 per grape, which is what one Japanese hotel owner paid Monday at auction in Ishikawa.
Of course, they weren't your average jam-making grapes. These were Ruby Roman grapes, the product of a special government-funded program that took 14 years to come to literal fruition. Agriculture official Hirofumi Isu called them "delicious: sweet but fresh at the same time, very well balanced." The hotel owner said he planned to serve them to select guests at his upscale hotel, Kagaya.
"We wanted to delight our customers and also wanted to wish producers good luck" the hotel's chief cook said.
In the context of the fruit-buying culture of certain East Asian countries like Japan, it's not as ridiculous as it sounds. Square-shaped watermelons (all the rage a few years ago, if you remember), go for something like $100, while the most popular variety of more "common" grapes average $90 a bunch. Bunches of the new Ruby Romans seem to be fetching about $245 each so far, generally speaking. As a kid on an overseas trip once, I remember my brother and me racing up and down a fruit market, poking gold-colored labels on the undersized melons, only to discover 10 minutes later that the labels were made of real gold, and that we'd caused several hundreds of dollars of damage. To this day, I've got an irrational aversion to canteloupes and honeydews.
What food would you actually be willing to spend $1,000 for in return for a single serving? What food faux pas have you committed thanks to differing cultural views on the value of a certain dish? What should the grape buyer actually have done with his $910 grapes? (My vote is to use them to make jam sandwich cookies with $300 flour and $200 sugar.)Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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