Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good, Good Enough, and My Over Refined Pallet

Two Vines wine. It's about $6.00 a bottle and I enjoy it very much. Yes, sometimes I like a good $30.00 bottle of wine. But you know, for me, a $30.00 bottle of wine isn't $24.00 better than Two Vines. I'd rather have five bottles of Two Vines. When it comes to wine I'm very careful to rein in my pallet. I like being able to enjoy a $6.00 bottle of wine.


Dicks Hamburgers and Red Robin. Red Robin makes a good burger. No doubt about it. Dicks makes small, inexpensive sliders. They are not gourmet by any standard. But, if you are out late drinking with friends, then nothing is better than pulling up to a Dicks Drive In and ordering a meal—a Deluxe burger, fries and a vanilla shake. If I remember, I'll splurge and spend an extra 10 cents on ketchup.  The whole thing costs less than $8.00.  It's all lower quality than Red Robin, but it's right for that moment.


These are situations where absolute standards and relative standards live in stark contrast to each other. Is my life worse off because I settled for a Dicks Deluxe instead of a Red Robin Whiskey River burger? Or because I settled for $6.00 of Two Vines instead of $30.00 for Five Star? No, of course not.


Of course this view creates a problem. How do I tell what good quality is if external factors, the place the time, my feelings, turn something that's cheap into something that's wonderful. I think Persig dealt with this "Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" when he asked "What is quality?" and went off into the weeds trying to answer that question rather than accepting that we can't easily define quality.


If I can't define quality, then how do I hold high standards? Perhaps the answer is that I have to hold myself to high standards, but accept that the world around me is going to be filled with experiences of various levels of quality.


I've spent the past few days working near Christiansburg VA. It's a very nice place. Very pastoral. One thing that frustrates me is how difficult it is to find a nice restaurant. BBQ and Greasy hole-in-the-wall's are all that's around. BBQ is good for one day but then…


Is this a regional cuisine that I don't have an appreciation for, or does this region just accept bad cooking? Could I develop my pallet to appreciate the finer points of places that consistently over boil there vegetables and serve iceberg lettuce with some brown bits still attached? By all accounts the people of Christiansburg are very happy with their city. If I were to tell them that I wanted to spend lots of money on well roasted vegetables drizzled with the right amount of a tasty sauce, a prime cut of rare steak and a nice glass of wine, they would look at me a little puzzled and point out that I could have five chicken friends steaks with all you can eat vegetables for the price of one of my meals. That the chicken fried steak isn't that bad, especially when it has good gravy on it. In short, they would point out I had overly refined tastes that weren't doing me a lot of good.


Where is the balance in all of this? When are tastes over refined? When are they too low? This all can't be a regional popularity contest, can it? Perhaps this is why Persig went mad when he thought about the nature of quality.




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