We were in a local diner the other night. It is a place that markets itself to a younger transient market, looking for fast food. My wife and I did seem a little out of place. Perhaps that is why we sat near the back, away from the door. Anyway, the point is that the restaurant was playing the radio as its background music, and the music was classic pop and rock from the 1960s. I knew every tune, and the lyrics to most. The music was ours -- and forty years old or more!
I tried to imagine sitting in a coffee bar in London in the mid 1960s and listening to recordings of tea-dance music from the twenties. It never happened and never could have happened. In those days, we were still obliged to listen to the occasional Frank Sinatra or Perry Como tune; but they were from the 50s, just a decade before. Some of us reached back and appreciated the big bands of the 40s. But even that was twenty years or less before our time. Listening to 40-year old music would have been unthinkable. But today it is standard.
This reverie was triggered by a story in today's Boston Globe: "Some like it hot: how boomers' failing taste buds are shaping the future of American food." The article describes the increasing use of increasingly hot spices. Then asks the question:
"Why is hot so hot? The conventional explanation is that the nation has an increasingly adventurous palate. Immigration and prosperity have made Americans more sophisticated eaters, pushing wasabi peas into the mainstream, along with chili-Thai lime cashews, cayenne chocolate bars, and other high-octane combinations.
But some food scientists and market researchers think there is a more surprising reason for the broad nationwide shift toward bolder flavors: The baby boomers, that huge, youth-chasing, all-important demographic, are getting old."
You bet we are!
"Increased spiciness is just one of many ways the wealthiest, most influential demographic group in US history is changing how we eat. Market research shows boomers have helped drive consumer demand for organic foods, grab-and-go foods, nutritionally enhanced products, and fresh local produce.As boomers continue to age, they will almost certainly keep reshaping the American foodscape, ushering in the same kinds of changes they have brought to sectors of the economy as disparate as music and mutual funds. And as restaurants and food manufacturers come to terms with the surprising new preferences of older palates, their influence will affect what we see in stores and on menus for years to come."
It is an irony -- one that should have been forerseen by anyone with a single working neuron, but an irony nonetheless -- that the generation that made a fetish of youth and of distrusting age have become the dictatorial arbiters of taste; and a taste built entirely of their own nostalgia and failing bodies.
We should all have been shot on our thirtieth birthdays.
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