It hasn’t been easy for Gen Z, what with coming of age as they did in a time of economic, social, and political crisis. They entered adulthood during a pandemic, when they were told to stay home and prioritize safety (not just for themselves but for others, too). Forget about going out, seeing friends, or getting a job.

But now we’ve moved past the COVID emergency, and Gen Z’s denizens are emerging into the world as consumers with seemingly unending disposable income (how?) and an insatiable appetite for food as a spectacle.

For this generation, raised on TikTok, food is not about flavor or texture or taking delight in the very thing that gives us sustenance. Rather, it’s a status symbol used to project pseudo-sophistication and a meticulously crafted image that elicits envy and admiration from a social media following.

A generation more hungry for social validation than nourishment is choosing to spend $22 for sturgeon spread on a bagel, $45 for a cocktail, and $25 for a smoothie from a Los Angeles health food store with a cult following.

Enigmatically, Gen Z has also embraced the low brow when it comes to eating. Last year, an odd hashtag — #girldinner — started trending on TikTok. The phenomenon involved young women sharing pictures of sad, meagre meals made up fruit, salami, cheese and crackers, or potato chips.

READ MORE: Gen Z’s culinary escapades are a symptom of societal decay