• 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.


    • I have to say that the worst French food I ever ate was in Japan — but that was 25 years ago.

      I agree wholeheartedly about the quality and expense of Swiss food. The same algorithm applies to everything else in Switzerland.

      Sicily surely has wonderful food, but we found the archeological sites even more rewarding.

    • If you are below 14th St., favor the crooked streets over the straight streets if you seek authenticity, (Manhattan), and order the wine that is hardest to pronounce (always & everywhere).