Acquired tastes

by Peter Mayle

Hardcover, 1992




New York : Bantam Books, 1992.


Acquired Tastes, originally published as Expensive Habits, is a celebration of life's extravagances. It explores an aspect of human nature that, although dormant in hard economic times, is capable of erupting with the hint of good fortune and the drop of a credit card. It samples the luxuries of Havana cigars, Parisian hotels, bespoke London tailoring, and hand-made shoes; discusses the proper color for a stretch limousine; and weighs the cost versus the pleasure of keeping a mistress. The proper way to eat true caviar is explained while providing the listener with hours of pure, unadulterated escapism.

User reviews

LibraryThing member justine
Peter Mayle turns his considerable wit towards the lush life.
LibraryThing member drbubbles
Reads very much like Bill Bryson's writing, especially those that are more or less a collection of vignettes.
LibraryThing member BakuDreamer
Not nearly enough detail, but overall okay ( lots to look up )
LibraryThing member ecw0647
Mayle set out to sample the excesses of the wealthy. The problem with having serious money is that one can never be satisfied. Nothing is ever just right. "Expectations tend to increase in direct proportion to the amount of money being spent, and if you're spending a fortune you expect perfection." Consider cutlery that is so expensive the hostess is required by her insurance broker to count it after each meal and lock it in the safe. Or the slightly under-boiled breakfast egg; or the chauffeur with a hint of garlic on his breath. You see the problem.
Of course, the wealthy are constantly being sued, so it's important to understand lawyers who create a language only they can understand. It's also imperative they never admit to being wrong, for it would tarnish their aura of omniscience. "The best way to avoid being wrong is to never state a clear opinion. And every case has the infamous' gray area' which allows lawyers to say absolutely nothing in a highly professional manner."

Unless, of course, your case happens to be identical to a case that was decided fifty years ago, in which case you have precedent. Precedent is a wonderful tool because "it permits law-yers to be decisive without having to take any responsibility for the decision." Litigation is, of course, one of the hobbies of the rich.

Christmas is another occasion rendered impossible by ''The Man Who Has Everything" Stores stock their counters with bizarre, unsalable items that normally would not get a second glance. At Christmas, everything sells. Rarely, a gift is received that brings joy to the callous heart. "I have a friend whose dislike of Christmas is matched only by his profound aversion to his mother-in-law, whose annual visit is the low point of his year. But one Christmas Eve, in addition to the customary necktie, she gave him the flu. It was necessary that he retire to bed, congested but happy, until she left on New Year's Day. He s aid it was the first time he hadn't wanted to take a gift of hers back and exchange it."

The secret to being rich is to flaunt. Why bother "eating plover's eggs and wearing four-ply cashmere sweaters" if everyone else can afford them too. Christmas, which started as a simple religious holiday, has managed to establish itself as the "universal expensive habit ... a commercial orgy with a Pentagonsized budget... Otherwise sensible people give serious consideration to the attractions of multilingual speak-your-weight machine s, platinum toothpicks ... personalized replicas of nineteenth-century spittoons, and luminous bedroom slippers. "

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