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The Tercenturian Hamper

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What can you buy for $40,577.90? A new car or two. A trip

around the world with stops at luxury hotels and the finest restaurants. One-third of a small home. OR, a Tercenturian Hamper from Fortnum & Mason. Mind you, this isn't an American hamper in which you'd place dirty clothes. This is more along the lines of what we'd call a picnic basket. The hamper, which the company is selling to commemorate its 300th year in business (truly amazing), is crafted from English willow and stuffed with the most luxurious foods on earth.

The folks at F&M say: "This is no useless hymn to opulence, nogormless glut of gilded lilies. Everything here is on depth of merit."

What's inside? Here's a smattering: Baron de Lustrac, Armagnac 1900; Beluga Caviar, 200g tin; Cropwell Bishop Whole Baby Stilton, min. wt. 2.2kg; 25 Person Foie Gras en Croûte, 1.09kg; Side of Smoked Scottish Wild Salmon, min. wt. 1.6kg...

There's also a 1955 port, 5 liters of Chateau D'Yquem and a few non-food luxury items such as pink and gray cashmere socks and hand-engraved stationary.

As much as I'm disturbed by the excess and have no need for a men's leather jewelry case nor a wood and steel cigar cutter, I'm also enthralled by the idea of trying things like 107-year-old liqueur and a 52-year-old port. Would I buy it if I were filthy rich and had already given huge quantities of money to charity? Possibly.

I view this ridiculous hamper in a different way than I do the wacky bagels that sell for $1000 each or gold-flecked chocolate desserts that cost $25,000 a pop (made at Serendipity 3, which was temporarily shut down in November after failing its second health inspection in a month due to an infestation of cockroaches and other beasties). Those items are ephemeral and, in my opinion, can't possibly be worth the money. I can eat bagels and ice cream whenever I want. But getting to partake of artisan foods and limited-edition aged spirits seems to be a different kind of thing, somehow. Plus, you can save the finest items for really special occasions...maybe bust out the now-150-year-old Armagnac at your 50th wedding anniversary, or something.

But whether or not I would actually buy one doesn't really matter, since they are delivered by horse and carriage inside the UK only. I wonder if J.K. Rowling will pick up a couple?

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