• Kelly O

In case you haven't heard and been appalled yet, toast in San Francisco now costs $4 a slice. Not at home—at your extremely expensive San Francisco home, you can still make toast for a fraction of that price, or a fraction of a fraction if you use crummy supermarket sandwich bread (which San Francisco has not yet outlawed). This $4 toast is toast that you order at a cafe or a restaurant—toast that someone who is not your mom makes for you. It may be toast made with artisanal wood-fired-oven-baked bread, spread with hand-churned butter from Marin County–dwelling cows, topped with jam made from fruit handpicked by angels. (One place, the Mill, serves toast with "small-batch almond butter.") Nonetheless, it is just toast.

In San Francisco, $4 toast has quickly become a symbol for the city's rampant nouveau riche and everything that is wrong with them—I mean, Christ on a bicycle, they don't even make their own toast, and they pay the price of an entire loaf of bread for one slice. Part of the moral outrage here is economic: Toast is meant to be a thrifty food, meant to make homespun, happy use of otherwise less-than-optimally-fresh bread. (French toast, in French, is pain perdu, the would-be "lost bread" that you are rescuing instead of throwing away.)

But the sense of perversity goes deeper than that...