In one of the first narratives of European contact written by a native of America, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala presented the Spaniards as trying to eat gold. The notion that the Spaniards so hungered for gold that they would actually try to ingest it was probably received as a satirical comment, to somewhat similar effect as Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”
But here we are in the twenty-first century – and what was once satirical absurdity is now some rich asshole’s pleasure. Stephen Bruce of New York restaurant Serendipity 3 (I wonder how much he pays his dishwashers) has created a dessert, incorporating “28 cocoas, including 14 of the most expensive and exotic from around the globe” – and “infused with 5 grams…of edible 23-karat gold and served in a goblet lined with edible gold.” There’s more – including a golden spoon (I suppose he had to resist the temptation to use a silver one) – all for the low, low price of $25,000.
But Bruce is an enlightened man – witness the silken rhetoric with which he describes his more-expensive-than-a-semester-at-Harvard dessert’s demographic: “I wouldn’t be surprised if soon we get a call from a Middle Eastern prince or Shah willing to give something sweet to his many wives on his next trip to the city.” Isn’t that sweet? Brucey’s multicultural knowledge seems derived from Hollywood melodramas of the forties. Perhaps we should send him off on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East, armed with his chocolate and gold.
Good kitchen workers everywhere know how to sully the meals of unpleasant guests, without the unsavory substances being detectable to the taste. (Of course, something tells me Bruce isn’t letting any of your typical sub-minimum wage kitchen staff handle this particular menu item.) Still, I’m sure some of the folks toiling in Bruce’s kitchen might wonder just who it is that can blow 25k on a fucking dessert.
There is another application of the trope of Spaniards eating gold. Having become aware of the Spaniards’ cruelty and boundless avarice, the native populace, when Spaniards were captured, were said to tie their captives down, melt gold over flames, and pour the molten gold down their captives’ throats, shouting “eat, eat gold, Christians!”
I believe this is known as “just desserts.”