Recently, a group of foodie friends and I finally landed a table at Ben Fatto, one of the hottest private-dining tickets in town. At one point during the multiple courses, which featured different kinds of artisanal pasta handmade by founder Lee Yum Hwa, we had the opportunity to try to make orecchiette shells ourselves. All of our attempts resulted in misshapen lumps, which we conveniently blamed on the fact that most of us were not cooks.
“Some people are producers, and some people are consumers,” declared one of my dining companions, as we returned to our comfort zone of eating, rather than making, pasta. Chomping on orecchiette made by Lee (of course, not us), she gleefully concluded, “I’m happy to be a consumer.”
I was struck by her declaration. It felt refreshing in an age when self-styled life coaches urge people to be creators, not consumers, and every other salaried employee seems to have a side hustle selling home-made products such as cakes or ceramics.
Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly much to be said about being a creator, and having the entrepreneurial, problem-solving mindset that goes with it. During a chat with watch brand owner Benjamin Chee, he shared his simple reason for starting his own watch brands, as well as past ventures such as a caviar business: “I always think I can do better. When you buy a watch or a tin of caviar, it’s often 90 per cent there, but you wish they hadn’t done this or that. So I made my own.”
But let us not forget that creators are also consumers. Chee, for instance, enjoys fashion as well. While he has tried his hand at fashion-related businesses such as tailoring as well as high-end polo shirts, both had their challenges. For now, he is content to go to those who can do it better — including his favourite tailors or brands like Loro Piana.
On a personal level, I try to balance my sizeable consumption, particularly of fashion, with the content I create. I hope that what I write has the value of entertaining while it informs. As a writer, consuming others’ works is a must. Nothing is more inspiring than reading words written by those at the top of their game.
This brings me to another point. If you brand yourself a creator, I think it is fair for others to expect a certain level of proficiency. Toni Morrison, the late Nobel Prize winner and novelist, once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Sagacious words, as opposed to an infamous quote by ‘90s supermodel Elle Macpherson, who once replied, when asked about her reading habits: “I never read anything I haven’t written myself.”
Some of us, indeed, are better off as consumers.