Highlights from Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch

I just finished, and enjoyed, Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch. It’s chock full of fun guidance for anyone with an adventurous spirit seeking better food. Below are my highlights, which I made on my Kindle version as I read it. All are direct quotes, and they’re representative of the book’s style, though certainly not an exhaustive reflection of its scope and content. That it’s a fun read should be clear from the quotes, though the wisdom of some may not be. That’s what the rest of the book is for, and I don’t want to spoil it.

  • American has been about perfecting diversity and choice, rather than about perfecting any single style.
  • Avoid dishes that are ingredients-intensive. [America]
  • Go for dishes that are composition-intensive. [America]
  • Order the ugly and order the unknown.
  • If you are stuck in midtown, and you want good, cheap ethnic food, try the streets before the avenues. [Manhattan]
  • The best strip malls, for food, are usually those without Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or other big-box stores. [America]
  • The next food revolution in the United States is likely to be a mobile one and it will be advertised on Google and Twitter, not through fancy commercials during Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Google “Washington best cauliflower dish” even if you don’t want cauliflower. Get away from Google for the masses.
  • It is often best when the people in a restaurant look a little serious or even downright grim.
  • Eat barbecue in towns of less than 50,000 people.
  • The key point of Vietnamese dining is to use the sauces and condiments.
  • Hip people do not always have superb taste in food.
  • The two worst signs for Thai restaurants are Thai restaurants with large bars and lots of drinks and also Thai restaurants that serve sushi.
  • Eat at a Thai restaurant that is attached to a motel.
  • Eat some sardines at home and save up your cash for an occasional splurge on better Japanese food.
  • Pakistani food in the United States is better than Indian food in the United States.
  • Sometimes the easiest way to trade water is inside a tomato.
  • The environmental impact of food comes from its production, not its transportation.
  • Every time you substitute some canned sardines for junk food, just about everyone is better off.
  • Food is a product of economic supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed.
  • The best French food in the world today is served in Japan.
  • Unless you are spending a log of money, Paris is the worst place to eat in all of France.
  • Everything in Switzerland is good. Everything in Switzerland is expensive.
  • If you can’t name a famous landmark in an Italian city, it is likely to have superb food at an affordable price.
  • Go to Sicily and stay as long as you can. And eat.

[Cross-posted at The Incidental Economist]

Austin Frakt

Austin Frakt is a health economist and an assistant professor at Boston University's School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He blogs at The Incidental Economist.