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Tuna tartar?

Those with the most money eat well and travel far. If youre well off, the rising costs of fuel and food are of fleeting concern. If you have the money, you can drive and fly. If you have the money, you can eat, drink and be merry.First World nations are the most blessed because they control world food supplies by leveraging capitol for strained agricultural resources. Its the same with energy. And when prices go up, competition favors wealthy nations every time.Thats the rule of the free market, which divides the haves from the have-nots by the serendipity of a birth lottery. If youre born into a rich countryhow lucky for you. If youre born into a poor country well, too bad. There are exceptions, but thats the rule of the economic jungle in todays flat world.If you want to see it acted out, at least allegorically, consider the Food & Wine Classic, which opens Aspens summer season with a blast. Amid the din and clatter of the food tents, credential-holders live sumptuously, imbibing the best wines, beers and foods. Those tents become a mythical realm, fit for kings. Food & Wine represents the industrialization of indulgence, where desire is met by copious resources and corporeal luxury. Encircling the tents is a chain link fence designed to keep uncredentialed people out. Party crashers might slip in, but they risk expulsion by posted security guards.Proper documentation is required at prescribed points of entry. These documents grant the lucky few the hallowed privileges of caloric gratification and protective seclusion from the masses. Within the body-mind-spirit triad of the Aspen Idea, Food & Wine defines the pleasures of the body.And so it is with the First World, which is also protected by fences and security from the uncredentialed masses who are eager to get in. Only the few are able to cajole the proper credentials or to breach security and, if theyre lucky, snag a scrap from the First World tables, which are groaning under the weight of food and drink.First World opulence is no secret. It is readily displayed by commercial media for all the world to see. Same with Aspens food tents, which stand out as the most prominent landmarks in town. In both instances I am reminded of the costume balls held in Aspen during the height of the mining boom in the 1880s, where Aspen elites attended in high dress while the aspiring working class was allowed to watch from a gallery.In similar fashion the First World revels in material wealth while the less fortunate look on with envy from a global gallery. The credentialed few celebrate in Bacchanalian style while spectators are mired in gross global inequities.Perhaps it is overly harsh to judge Aspens culinary fete by wondering how the rest of the world is getting on. But when reading about soaring food prices, food riots in less fortunate places, and 900 million malnourished in the world today, ignoring a comparison would require deep denial.Are the food tents to be disparaged or should they be accepted as a blessed kickoff to Aspens glamorous summer season? Can we drink deep of abundance and frivolity when we know that others outside the gate are struggling to put food in their stomachs?These are not easy questions. They suggest an ethical conflict implicit with living high while others merely subsist. For some, the answer is easy: Luxury is an entitlement that is beyond moral anguish.But even the most specious rationale cannot blind us to the fact that pleasures for some spell doom for others. If entitlement is the criterion for excess in a world of want, then who or what grants entitlement? God? Fate? Capitalism? Ethnicity? The birth lottery?Most of us recognize global disparities and feel sympathy for those in need. Still, we bask in seclusion the entitled and credentialed dining sumptuously inside food tents of our own making. Can the tuna tartar and chilled chardonnay still satisfy with the knowing?

Paul Andersens column appears Mondays


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