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Picky Eaters

The highest grossing restaurant in the U.S. features a 20 foot golden Buddha in the center of its dining room. With over $55 million in sales last year, Tao Las Vegas garnered the title from Restaurants and Institutions Magazine annual … Read More

By / July 25, 2007

The highest grossing restaurant in the U.S. features a 20 foot golden Buddha in the center of its dining room. With over $55 million in sales last year, Tao Las Vegas garnered the title from Restaurants and Institutions Magazine annual list. I think we need to stop and think about this for a moment. Would a restaurant with a giant cross or phat Magen David hanging from the chandeliers sell as well? Of course not. Only certain religions need apply. Zen-appeal is a must. That's what keeps the $39 souvenir Buddhas flying off the shelves at Tao Las Vegas. Now you too can have instant karma in your suburban McMansion.

With Tao Las Vegas, we see that some religions are just sexier than others.

I'm not sure why certain religions are cool, but I think it's somewhat similar to our selective eating habits. Why, for example, are fried calamari perfectly acceptable and delectable to many a reformed-Jew, yet ordering pork chops seems somehow wrong–either to our taste buds or our faith? Hamburger with a glass of milk? No, thanks. Moo Shu Pork, yes please. Cookbook historian (and NYU Performance Studies prof) Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett calls this phenomenon within Jewish eating "selectively trayf" behavior. For some reason certain foods are culturally acceptable while others are not.

I was reminded of this last week while dining at one of the local kosher delis/Chinese restaurants in Montreal (only in Jewish cuisine is it perfectly normal for wontons to be served alongside pastrami). The new item on the menu at Ernie and Ellie's is "Kosherimp." While not actual shellfish in this case, shrimp is nevertheless a very sellable item to Jewish diners. But would Porksher ever make it to the menu? I don't think so.

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