to love money above anything else

Michael Lewis has a fascinating review of a new biography of Warren Buffett, The Master of Money, by Alice Schroeder. Buffett apparently had dinner at Akio Morita’s house and did not eat any of the food.

He avoids social conflict, unless there is money on the line, and also all sorts of new experiences. His long-time partner Charlie Munger likes to call Buffett a “learning machine,” but there are whole swaths of human activity he actively resists learning anything at all about, such as the entire high-tech industry. He confines himself to the diet of an eight-year-old, refusing to eat anything much beyond spaghetti, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. [Warren Buffett biographer Alice] Schroeder describes a bizarre scene in which Katherine Graham escorted Buffett to dinner at the Manhattan apartment of Sony Chairman Akio Morita. Japanese chefs served plate after plate that Buffett left completely untouched. “By the end of fifteen courses, he still had not eaten a bite,” writes Schroeder. “The Moritas could not have been more polite, which added to his humiliation. He was desperate to escape back to Kay’s apartment, where popcorn and peanuts and strawberry ice cream awaited him. ‘It was the worst,’ he says about the meal he did not eat. ‘I’ve had others like it but it was by far the worst. I will never eat Japanese food again.’” Buffett ate what he needed to eat to remain alive–and learned what he needed to learn to invest shrewdly.

Clearly, I’ll never be a billionaire because I don’t care about money in the single-minded way Buffett does.

Frankly, I don’t think a billion dollars would be enough to force me into a diet of only spaghetti, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

via Curzon at Mutantfrog Travelogue

3 Comments on “to love money above anything else

  1. It seems unlikely that Buffett’s food issues are wholly by choice, but are more a compulsion produced by a miswired or unbalanced brain. What would be signs of madness or illness in the poor are often waved off as “eccentricity” in the rich 🙂

  2. There are probably plenty of finicky eaters out there who might behave this way if they felt they could get away with it. I don’t think his eating habits are as peculiar as his unwillingness to accept personal discomfort to maintaining social harmony. I have no idea if this can be blamed on his money, status or age, but it’s hard to imagine that those didn’t help his eccentricity to metastasize.
    Considering the funny circumstances of this story, it’s hard not to also mention that the Japanese are usually much more open minded about new foods than Americans, whose food preferences are usually well tolerated both in restaurants and the home.

  3. Whether it’s culinary xenophobia or dietary conservatism or just a miswired brain, I think not getting to love and enjoy Japanese food is punishment enough for any person to have to suffer. That being said, given the incredible amount of wealth that Buffet has donated to the Gates Foundation, and the effectiveness and intelligence with which that foundation is achieving some truly important goals, I’m not sure it’s fair to say he loves money above all else.
    Hell, I’d say that people who *do* love money above all else are rarely as successful as him. And I’d save my contempt for, say, Larry Ellison. While he’s a fan of japanese culture (at least in as much as he can acquire parts of it) he’s also the sort of billionaire who uses his money to buy off his accusers in sexual harassment lawsuits. That seems more like the kind of person to vilify. In Buffet’s case, I’d rather have someone with no taste in food but a bit of a conscience.