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A Modern Definition Of Quality

January 16, 2008

There seems to be an interesting realisty regarding quality these days. Or maybe it’s always been there and I’ve just not noticed it, but we live in a society wherein quality & quantity are analogous.

An example, for instance, a couple of kids on the #3 bus in Vancouver, discussing the always-fantastic Aurora Bistro. One had been, one had not. When the one was asked how the food was, the one replied “They were tiny; I mean, it tasted good, but there was like, nothing on the plate!” “Aw, shit.” replied the other one, “That bites.” I know that Aurora has piddly little portions, but the are big enough, and the food is undebatably fantastic, every time. These were not poor kids, being thifty had nothing to do with it. They just exist in a culture where the measure of quality isn’t what is on your plate, but how much.

We get this now and again at work, as well. It doesn’t matter that it’s the best coffee in town, or that if you come in on the right day you’re getting it from the best Barrista in Eastern Canada, skip all that shit. It comes down to this simple concept: “If I’m paying $2.50 for a cappuccino, why the hell isn’t there more of it?”

The artistry and craftsmanship and skill that go into the food or the coffee are irrelevant, completely and totally. There’s no inclination to savour the experience, and take note of all the subtlety that make it so good, all those indicators of skill that they’re paying for. There’s not even an interest in getting to know those measures of quality. Coffee is coffee is coffee. Tims? Doesn’t taste different from anyone else’s, but they put the cream & sugar in for me, and it costs less. Same for food. It’s a fucking burger, mean, two buns, rabbit food in there somewhere. Might as well go to Harvey’s, it’s way cheaper, and they don’t expect me to tip or anything.

Our culture of haste and immediacy and Size Matters leaves a majority who not only don’t appreciate the fine things in life, but don’t even know that they could, and couldn’t care to try. Going out for a fancy dinner is a waiter and a nice looking place and a full plate. As long as it looks classy, it doesn’t matter if the food sucks. I cite the apparent continuing success of Joey’s Grill on Broadway in Vancouver, the food is terrible, but it just looks so classy that people keep going, thinking that nice decor and large portions mean they’ve definitely had a good meal. And they don’t know better.

Where this is going, I suppose, it not a balls-to-the-wall rant against a society of hasty, tasteless philistines, but instead a quiet suggestion to take your next meal slowly. Think if the chef had to work to make it happen. Compare it to the one before it, was it better or worse tasting, what works, what doesn’t, how does the wine match the entree, is the desert too sweet, too dry, just right… Ignore how much there is, and just savour each bite separately, enjoying the mix and mingling of flavours present. Or coffee. If you’re drinking “To Stay”, don’t get a large. Get two smalls, and compare them separately. If it’s an espresso drink, watch them make it, see what they do, ask questions, learn enough of their craft to appreciate their work, then hold the flavours, and remember them the next time you get the same thing somewhere else.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2008 11:55 am

    omg, 1) I LOVE Aurora Bistro!!! They rock! And their new brunch menu is delicious. 2) JOEYS is friggin’ TERRIBLE and it’s so sad to see that they are spreading out from their burbs birthplace into the big city (their new Robson and Burrard location is a huge hit, sadly). I know the people who are the higher ups there and they are not very nice people.

    They’ve managed to expand? Another painful hit to good taste in our fair city, it seems…

  2. January 19, 2008 8:46 am



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