Debased Hobos and Their Tea
Phil Libin reports, “The recent unpleasantness with Dean & Deluca has ended happily. I can now brew tea with a proper double-walled glass tea press, not the single-walled one I had been previously using, like some debased hobo.”
This naturally brings to mind a passage from Tim Harford‘s recent Slate piece on “How the world’s poorest really spend their money.”
Perhaps surprisingly, then, even the poorest find the resources to let their hair down. Duflo and Banerjee, looking at economic surveys of the very poor from 13 different countries, conclude that about one-third of household income is spent on stuff other than food. The alternatives to simply trying to consume more calories include shelter, of course, but even the poorest find some money to spend on things such as tobacco, alcohol, weddings, funerals, or religious festivals. Radios and televisions are also popular. Looking at food spending itself, although the very poor do focus on the cheapest grain—millet—they also spend on wheat, rice, and even sugar. This is expensive and offers little nutritional benefit, but it certainly makes lunch taste better.
As one moves up the economic ladder, one obviously has the luxury of pampering oneself with ever-more-expensive creature comforts. While I’d scoff at spending $70 on a tea press, I’ve spent more than that on coffee pots that are only incrementally better than the $20 ones that I used to buy. Doing so simultaneously brings the joy of better tasting coffee and the creeping snobbishness of finding previously acceptable coffee to be undrinkable swill.
Then again, I had heretofore known millet only as a major ingredient in the gigantic bags of “wild bird seed” my mother buys to fill her backyard feeders.
(And yes, I realize Phil was being ironic.)