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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies
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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,059 ratings  ·  193 reviews
One of the most influential economists of the decade-and the New York Times bestselling author of The Great Stagnation-boldly argues that just about everything you've heard about food is wrong.

Food snobbery is killing entrepreneurship and innovation, says economist, preeminent social commentator, and maverick dining guide blogger Tyler Cowen. Americans are becoming angry
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Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Dutton Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
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DeAnna Knippling
Bleah.

I had such high hopes for this. Food! and Economics! Yay!

But it was illogical, poorly edited, and a general waste of time. The book splits into two general areas: tips on how to deal with food from a personal basis (like - if you want good Chinese food, go to the kind of place where large tables of Chinese people are arguing, which indicates that people who know the food are truly regulars and feel at home there), and why those damned liberal foodies are stupid.

There's a chapter on how Mon
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Cat
Scattershot observations about food, contemporary culture, politics, and price vaguely yoked together by the author's training in economics. Economics speak does not make the banal insights that hole-in-the-wall restaurants in strip malls can be amazing or that milky sugary drinks in Starbucks are overpriced more exciting, and Cox's conviction that lax consumers are to blame for the broken U.S. food system and for the obesity epidemic is simplistic at best, pernicious at worst (as in the aside w ...more
Zach
I really enjoyed this book. It is breezy, informative, and occasionally provocative. Roughly 70% of the book is devoted to stories about his food travels, discussion of different cuisines, and advice to the reader. Everyone should enjoy this material.

More controversial will be the handful of chapters dedicated to (partially) defending modern agribusiness and debunking some of the conventional wisdom that self-described foodies have collectively internalized about the virtues of locally-grown foo
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Joe
Consider this book the highlights of a unique food blog, where an economist living in the suburb puts a great deal of thought into what he eats, where he eats it, and why. The best parts of this book read like smart New York Magazine pieces. For instance, Cowen only shops at an Asian grocery store for an entire month in one fascinating chapter; in another, he expertly runs through the various regions of the world with quick-fire eating advice that both informs and entices. For instance, he expla ...more
Dan
What I like about pop-culture economics books is how they look between the lines at trends, studies, statistics, etc, and unpack them in an interesting and accessible way. This book struck me as more anecdotal without any real evidence to back up its claims. For example, going to one ethnic grocery store for a month is drawn into an entire painful chapter of conclusions and commentary. Without a doubt, the author loves food and getting off the beaten path to find quality eats that may not always ...more
Ensiform
The author, a professor of economics, writes about everything food-related, from “how American food got bad” (answer: Prohibition, watered-down immigrant food, the modern mania for catering to kids’ tastes) to eating great barbecue, from the delusion of the locavore movement to how to shop astutely at small groceries, from tips on finding a great restaurant (answer: find a hole in the wall with low overhead and loyal customers) to why Mexican food tastes better in Mexico (answer: America’s ingre ...more
Jennifer
If you want advice on how to find a good meal while globetrotting, this would be the book to read- for example, if you are in India, your best shot at getting a good meal is at a hotel. Go to Sicily for great food. Swiss food is good and expensive, except for the bland cream sauces. He also has advice for finding a good meal while you are in the States: "eat at a Thai restaurant attached to a motel". A Thai family probably owns the motel, and someone in the family is a good cook. They're not pay ...more
Richard
A very quick read and fairly light on content (most of the good stuff was already in articles written about the book), but the author's background as an economist and conservative made his take on things different in interesting ways from most foodie books. I don't buy his arguments downplaying the importance of local foods (much less his defense of agri-business), but his approaches to different cuisines were thought-provoking, and he makes excellent points about the negative effects of Prohibi ...more
Margaret Sankey
Cowen confirms many of my own theories on finding good food--go to places with cheap rents, a clientele of the ethnicity the food claims to come from, uses locally-sourced appropriate food to do it (i.e. Coq a Vin requires an old stringy chicken) and has a grandma in the back screaming at the sullen teenagers forced to work there. His tip for foreign eating is also a favorite of mine--enlist an older cab driver and ask him to eat with you, a move that has guaranteed me some of the best weird lit ...more
Jessica
I love the idea of this book, so I persisted with it much longer than I ought to have, but I just could not finish it.

I should admit there are interesting nuggets in here, if you're patient. For example, I loved hearing about the author's experience shopping exclusively at a Chinese-American grocery for a month: turns out supermarket design does nudge people toward certain choices (in this case, more greens).

However, so many parts of this book were so offensive and/or false that I ended up con
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Doug
I was a little disappointed - and disappointed to be disappointed if you know what I mean. I am a fan of Tyler Cowen and a regular reader of his blog, Marginal Revolution. I find him to be brilliant and iconoclastic. I expected this book to be the same. Instead, I am sorry to say, I found it tedious. Many of his so-called insights - expensive restaurants aren't such a good deal, you can eat great food cheaply off the beaten track, US agricultural techniques produce less tasty food than small, lo ...more
The Joy of Booking
I…really struggled with this book. I read Discover Your Inner Economist by the same author when it came out, and I don’t recall struggling with that, so perhaps it was not the writing so much as the topic of An Economist Gets Lunch that I had a hard time with.

The book just seemed so scattershot. It jumps from a chapter on barbecue to a chapter on Chinese food to one on corn production to global warming to a chapter on Mexican food and then a world tour of the best places to eat in Asian and Euro
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Kelsey
Okay, so I was really excited about this book-- three hundred pages on the economics of food? I mean, come on, how much better can it get? (Well... for me anyway...) Unfortunately, this book is not a look at the food industry in the vein of Freakonomics, but is rather the scattered musings of an economist on whatever takes his fancy regarding food. Cowen jumps from the evils of junk food to the positives of GMOs to the best types of Asian cuisine to the different styles of BBQ in the South... yo ...more
Marie
I liked this, which is not too surprising - I'm into eating good food and I'm interested in behavioral economics. Some highlights:

* One of Cowen's main messages is this: deregulate food (for example, drop stringent restrictions on food trucks and revoke the ban on importing unpasteurized cheese) and we'll get access to better food. (I support this SO MUCH. Basic safety is one thing, "saving" us from the horrors of unpasteurized dairy is quite another.)

* The best and most expensive seafood restau
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Sara
Economists have been writing on any number of topics lately -- having more children, saving the planet, and now, having lunch. In this book, Cowen addresses what he argues are the fallacies of modern "food snobbery," -- the ideas that the best food is expensive, cheap food is bad, and consumers are a poor source of innovation (8). He tests this hypothesis by partaking of local food overseas, shopping in ethnic markets, breaking down the costs of an expensive restaurant, and discussing the child- ...more
David R.
This book really only ended up reminding me why I don't prefer the company of "foodies" (at meal time at least). Cowen lives the high life and attempts to give an economic rule-based gloss to his culinary pleasures. But the consequent diatribe is off-putting. What do you think of a guy who thinks it is an environmental crime to compost food scraps but has no problem riding an ancient, polluting taxi two hours in Bolivia just to buy lunch? Or one who sneers at American produce and raves about Mex ...more
Teri L.
This book was all over the board - some economics of the food supply, some food politics, some travelogue and restaurant criticism, some rants about author's food preferences and tastes. In my opinion, it could have used a good edit to bring the various essays together into a cohesive unit. The general theme of this book is a criticism of the views of the alternative food movement (environmentalists, locavores, and "greenies"), as well as an apologia for the industrial/commercial food system. Ye ...more
Sean Goh
Good advice for food-hunting before I fly (:
"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 wealthy have servants to cook for them, so the food at a lot of upper-end establishments is only so-so.

Children have less discerning taste buds, so allowing them to dictate the dinner choices usually ends up with fast food.

The rise of the television led to the spread of convenience foods (p
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Ying
"ถาเราใสใจกับอาหาร เรากตองใสใจการใชเหตุผลทางเศรษฐศาสตรดวย
อาหารเปนผลพวงของอุปสงคอุปทานตามหลักเศรษฐศาสตร เพราะฉะนันจงพยายามคนหาวา อาหารสดเอย ผูจัดหาทีชางคิดสรางสรรคเอย และผูบริโภคทีรูขอมูลดีอยูตรงไหนเอย" - เปนใจความหลักของหนังสือ

สิงทีผูเขียนหนังสือเลมนีพูดบอยๆ กคือ ความดีงามของผูอพยพ และอาหารของชาติอืนๆ ทีอพยพมาอยูทีอเมริกามักจะรสเลิศเสมอ

บททีชอบทีสุดในหนังสือเลมนี คือบทที 3 ปฺฎิวัติการทองซูปเปอรมารเกด ผูเขียน ทดลองงดบริโภคอาหารจากซูเปอรมารเกตกระแสหลัก 1 เดือน แลวอุดหนุนซูเปอรมารเกตตางชาติเจาเดียว
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Jeff
The world is perhaps weary of popular econ, but this book by my favorite economist does a great job of how economics can help us understand and better enjoy the food system. If you read nothing else, skip to Chapter 8 and read about how using prices helps us make rational green choices.
Seán Brady
I got half way through, but it moved slow. Slow and dull. Then I realized that it has a chapter called, "Eating your way to a Greener Planet." The obvious #1 way is to be vegetarian; he lists nothing about that. So, this proves the author did little to no research for the book. Just writing based on his current thinking. He does mention that sardines are a good food because "they are at the bottom of the food chain" and are a "good substitute for meat"; that's the closest he came to advocating v ...more
Hope
I really really enjoyed this book.

Chapter 3 on Barbecue will make sense to anyone from Texas.

I am admittedly not a "foodie," but I think this book will give those with such inclinations some food for thought.
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Cowen makes sage and practical observations on the cost of food and the cost of eating. Supermarkets, the stripmall eatery, ethnic groceries and restaurants and sustainability are all treated with detail and good examples. Many of the examples, perhaps too many, are from Cowen's neighborhood, which while are still valid, lend a parochial air to the text. Love that barbeque is the original slow food, something that can't be delivered with chain store efficiencies. Love that there is some logic to ...more
Ada Ma
Tyler Cowen puts up several straw men and went on to dismantle them to show how smart he is. Straw man number one: he accuses food writers / commentators / foodies of believing in slow and expensive food are better. It is silly - as according to him, slow food is more expensive, and not necessarily better. Ironically he made that accusation right after he described how he had a cab driver drove all over the place to find two homemade tamales in León in Nicaragua. Isn't that BOTH expensive and sl ...more
Kelly
Cowen thinks anything American is pretty crummy. While I thought some of his insights were interesting, for the most part, I found this to be self-indulgent and snobby.
Taffnerd
Not bad but not very good either. It was surprisingly light on the economics and full of restaurant reviews for places I'll probably never eat.
Donald
An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies, by Tyler Cowen, is really two books in one. The first is about where and how to find food that is tasty and reasonably priced. The second is about solving the world’s food problems. The overall effect would be better if this book were actually broken into two slightly longer books.

In the book Whitebread Protestants, Professor Daniel Sack deals with the effects of moralism on the eating habits of Americans. In the early going of An Economis
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Ben
What a disappointment. The book started out with some promise, but it quickly plunged into a superficial discussion about the author's thoughts on food.

It is badly edited, lacking coherence and organization.

It is also very simplistic. Sure, he does mention some economic theories like "price elasticity" in passing, but fails to provide any detail or analytical rigor. It is rather a collection of puerile observations.

Ultimately the title is apt. It's a story of an economist getting lunch, nothin
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Jewel
This book started well, with some interesting perspectives on why food in America is not that good. But I found his jumping from thought to thought with no help for the reader (bad editors!) too hard to follow. The straw that broke the camel's back is when he mistakes "Adobe" for "Adobo" (maybe another editorial oversight, but still) - but as a Filipino American, I feel entitled to be annoyed at that. His whole "privileged, well-traveled white dude who *really appreciates* ethnic food" schtick o ...more
K. Bird
What do you do if you're a foodie and an economist concerned with the planet's environment and fair social trade?

You write a book like this one.

This is not your average locavore ode to locally grown, organic produce. As a former coop worker, die-hard cloth shopping bag carrier, and organic produce eater, I was suprised (and a bit dismayed) by some of what I read here.

The hints about where to go to find reasonably priced, delicious food both in the United States (for ethnic food, strip malls!) an
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Tyler Cowen (born January 21, 1962) occupies the Holbert C. Harris Chair of economics as a professor at George Mason University and is co-author, with Alex Tabarrok, of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution. He currently writes the "Economic Scene" column for the New York Times and writes for such magazines as The New Republic and The Wilson Quarterly.

Cowen's primary research interest is
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More about Tyler Cowen...
The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures

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“Once you're using sides and sauces you're on the right track and you're also following the general principles about how to eat well in the United States.” 5 likes
“Food is a product of supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed.” 5 likes
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