Years ago, some economist developed a pretty cool theorem about our spending habits. I have no idea what it’s called or its exact proof, but the essence is that we’re less discriminating about the price of large ticket items than smaller ones. We’ll pop in and out of Best Buy, flat screen tv in hand, yet be offended by a pricey box of strawberries at the market.
Once again, I don’t recall said economist’s behavioral conclusions, but the thought process seems pretty clear. At the market, we’re close to our money; so close we actually touch the bills. And the cost is relatable in real terms as opposed to the distant figure attached to, say, a car. Casinos depend on this model. Their currency, chips, seems like play money, made for casual spending. Until you leave and find yourself sleeping at the bus station.
This stuff occurs to me often at relatively expensive restaurants, where I’m shocked at the price of a $5 bowl of soup only to order an $18 plate of pasta. Take Pulino’s which makes an unbelievably awesome pizza. A sausage pizza for one is $18. But this is no mere pie: the crust is crisp yet chewy i.e. not a cracker; more uncommon, the dough has a depth of bread flavor, rather than the standard over-smoky thin-crust pie. The minimal, yet distinctive and delicately placed toppings make for a wonderful package. It’s worth the price.
The “zuppa del giorno” (soup of the day), on the other hand, is $9. Odds are, the deft hand behind such a pizza would produce an equally tasty soup. I wouldn’t know: $9 for a bowl is, I’d say, excessive. And yet, the markup on the pie is probably equivalent. It’s the car/strawberry effect in action.
In college, we called sociology “the study of the obvious”. The above theorem seems to fit that bill, with one crucial piece missing: quality i.e. the human factor. Taste being highlysubjective, it defies typecasting and throws off scientific inquiry.
For instance, take Pulino’s “peperoni fritti” or blistered green peppers with sea salt. These mini peppers are hot, smoky, laced with crunchy salt and oil, unbelievably addictive and at $9, really expensive for a plate of peppers. Except that I always order these suckers because, well, they’re so good.
These would be replicated easily at home-seared in a scorching pan-but for the scarcity of the actual ingredient. The shishito peppers I don’t see often, and when I do, they’re very pricey.
I found some, but I’m pretty sure you could make a nearly delicious version with some chopped bell peppers. Fire up those peppers and toss with chili flakes or even some sliced pepperoncini. Delicious, reasonably priced, but not the real thing, which is worth the cost.
Peperoni Fritti (blistered peppers w/ sea salt)
Serves 2 as an appetizer
1/2 pound shishito peppers
½ cup olive oil
kosher or sea salt
1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When nearly smoking, toss in the peppers. Let them blister for 30 seconds then toss rapidly for a minute or two until softened and blistered but not burned. Pour into a bowl or plate, season with salt and serve.