In the best of times, it's easy to imagine that commodities and currencies are stable, unchanging things. After all, if gold was worth $400 an ounce yesterday, there is no reason to imagine that it will be worth a great deal more or less tomorrow. Similarly, if the dollar was able to buy a certain amount of goods or services last week, then one can be forgiven for imagining that it will be able to buy a comparable amount of goods or services next month. In good times, prices don't fluctuate all that much, and we can make long term plans, secure in the belief that the economy or the markets won't leave us holding the bag.
Unfortunately, the past few months have been a long, painful lesson in the pitfalls of currencies and commodities. When the value of gas skyrocketed and the value of the dollar plummeted, prices that had long been stable began to bounce up and down. Stocks that were once worth a fortune were suddenly devalued, while gold that was once worth a reasonable amount was suddenly worth a whole lot more. In the midst of this crisis, some necessities began to look like luxuries and thrift once again became a virtue.
On the bright side, as great fortunes have evaporated, luxuries that were once priced well out of the range of the average person have started to come within reach. For example, lobsters are now going for about $2.50 per pound wholesale, down from a high of about $10 per pound in spring 2007. In terms of retail price, this translates into a drop of about $4 per pound. In some Boston-area seafood markets, the price hovered in the $7 range earlier this year; depending upon one's location, it has subsequently dipped well below that.
One reason for this drop has been the fact that many high-end consumers, the kinds of people who can afford to eat lobster regularly, are out of work, facing the loss of their yearly bonuses, or are former associates of Bernard Madoff. With their recent introduction to the world of thrift, these former gourmands are discovering that lobster is more of a luxury than a necessity. Added to this, the collapse of Iceland's economy directly translated into a collapse of the lobster economy, as seafood producers in Canada were no longer able to get the credit they needed to buy large amounts of lobster.
I'll probably be taking advantage of the plummeting price of lobster. While I'm not a big fan of shelled lobster - to be honest, the huge crustaceans remind me of aquatic cockroaches and the whole lobster dining experience is disturbingly like an alien autopsy - I must admit that lobster tails always put a smile on my face, and lobster bisque is a heavenly experience. What's more, with lobster going for a fraction of its former price, this might be the perfect time for a Monty Python recipe that I've always wanted to try: Lobster Thermidor Aux Crevettes with Mornay Sauce, Truffle Pate, Brandy, Fried Egg and Spam. I''ve already got the Spam.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He can only pray that "He's got the Spam" will not become his epitaph.
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