As told in this great NYT article about the "Four Star Soup Kitchen" of chef Michael Ennes, aesthetics matter a great deal. Certainly more than we give them credit. The care and attention to detail which goes into a meal, for example, can be a source of great pleasure and meaning for both cook and diner. Even in the context of a so-called soup kitchen.
Of course, you needn’t trust me on this. Virginia Postrel has written a wonderful book on the subject, The Substance of Style, and you simple must check out her 2004 article titled Why Buy What You Don’t Need? The Marginal Appeal of Aesthetics. I use stories and arguments from her article in a yearly lecture I give at Stanford on the topic of meaning and the design of meaning. I love her take on Maslow’s hierarchy, and where she places aesthetics in the stack. And I think you already know I believe it’s Virginia who is right.