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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies [Hardcover]

Tyler Cowen
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 July 2012
Tyler Cowen, widely acclaimed economist, wants the world to know that just about everything they've heard about how to get good food is wrong. Drawing on a provocative range of examples from around the world, Cowen reveals why airplane food is bad, but airport food is improving. Why restaurants full of happy, attractive people usually serve mediocre meals and why American food has improved exponentially as Americans have begun to drink more wine. At a time when obesity is on the rise, Cowen's expose will appeal to everyone who is concerned with global economics and good food.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Frequently Bought Together

An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies + The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: E P Dutton & Co Inc (19 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525952667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525952664
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'The author's heart, or rather stomach, is in the right place. He has a winning enthusiasm for sampling exotic cuisines... All told, Mr Cowen makes for an engaging guide to the kitchens of the world. Foodies will enjoy his insights.' --- Economist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars But I'm not an American!! 27 Aug 2013
I bought this book based on the stellar review in the Economist.

Well I was mislead. This is a book entirely for and about Americans. And even at that it isn't particularly good.

The author will wax rhapsodic about suburban strip mall ethnic cuisine, prohibition and the decline of American dining and how to find the best BBQ. I stuck through it for a good while but eventually the mind numbing parochialism of the book just wore me down.

Also the economic aspects of the book are presented as they would be for a 14 year old child. Simplistic and obvious.
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3.0 out of 5 stars sort of ok 26 Oct 2013
By edward
Format:Kindle Edition
I also read the review in the economist and did not think it sounds that interesting. After reading the end the end of average i decided to read this book. Its ok for what it is. For a food book some anyalis. If people look happy or a restrant if full of beautiful women tyler advises the food may not be brilliant as people will go for the happy social seen or the beautful women so restrant can reduce quality of food. I found it interesting but kinda true what said about london basically good food at low price not so easy. Although in Uk did say bradford and curry restrants a good opion. I have noticed this also in bradford great curry at a great price.

You could also be to be amusing apply the anyalis in reverse. If want somewhere with beautiful women or with good social sense go somewhere the food is bad value or price.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sort of like "Moneyball" for the food enthusiast 12 April 2012
By Eric - Published on
I've read 4 of Tyler Cowen's books, and this one is definitely my favorite. Much of Cowen's popular writing involves applying economic reasoning to the decisions we make in our everyday lives, and this book is no exception. Food is an especially suitable topic for this kind of approach. After all, we make decisions about what (and how) to eat multiple times every day, and Cowen encourages us to weigh these decisions so as to make every meal count. We might think of this kind of writing as having two complementary goals: (1) the stated goal of using economics to offer guidance on a particular question of interest, in this case how to eat well; and more subtly, (2) to use the problem at hand (how to eat well) to teach something about economic principles to a broader, perhaps unsuspecting audience. My verdict is that this book delivers strongly on both.

Whether you approach it as a food enthusiast looking for a new perspective on finding quality meals or as an fan of popular economics writing interested in a new application for these ideas, you'll find plenty to enjoy and learn from in this book. It's more methodical, more to the point, and less pretentious than most food writing and more fun and practical than virtually all economics writing.

Most of Cowen's advice flows directly out of the book's central mantra: "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." Although this may sound like a rather professorial maxim, the spirit of the book is lighthearted and entertaining and Cowen doesn't hesitate to venture beyond economic certitudes to offer some more speculative tips ("Eat at a Thai restaurant that is attached to a motel," for example, or "The more aggressively religious the decor [in a Pakistani restaurant], the better it will be for the food"). When the book ventures into more serious territory, such as discussions of eating to reduce your environmental impact or the issues surrounding GMOs, I read Cowen as being more playfully contrarian than political or ideological. Some of his views may not accord with those of many of his readers (Cowen leans libertarian. I don't, for what it's worth), but if he intends to provoke us a bit he doesn't do so angrily or peremptorily.

Skeptical readers might look at the book's approach and find something cute or amusing in the economic reasoning, but remain dubious that Cowen's suggestions will lead to improved dining experiences. To conclude with a bit of empirical support for the Cowen method, I'll mention that I'm a resident of the Washington, DC area and have used Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide regularly for several years now. The Dining Guide has led me to a number of gems I would never have otherwise found, and I can't think of an occasion where it's led me astray either. I already owe more quality meals to Cowen than to virtually any other writer, and I suspect the rules from this latest book will leave me even deeper in his debt.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustratingly Disappointing 24 April 2013
By Daniel Ferris - Published on
What I tend to 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 any 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 come from the most obvious places. But for whatever reason, he comes across as an awkward balance between Anthony Bourdain and Michael Pollan/Mark Bittman, all of whom are better writers.

The most interesting part of the book was the brief exploration of the development of food culture in the United States going back to prohibition and WWII. But it's a bit contradictory when the author claims that the best food can be found at low-scale spots around the country but at the same time the inability of fancy high-end restaurants to serve alcohol in the 1920s curbed the development of American cuisine.

Skip it.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So much potential, but ... 9 Aug 2012
By Bruce Harrington - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Two of my great interests, food writing and economics, brought together in one book seemed like a sure bet. It almost was for the first two or three chapters. George Mason economist Tyler Cowen makes it immediately clear that he isn't interested in food snobbery or pretentiousness. He just wants a good meal at a fair price. These are the two points every dining location, every food preparation method, and every discussion revolve around. Unfortunately, this rhythm neither strays far from these two points nor is clarified. Strange as it seems, Cowen works from principles to conclusions and spares or skips the data. For example in a section on raw ingredients he announces, "The American restaurants with excellent fresh ingredients -- the ones good enough to serve naked on the plate -- commonly cost fifty dollars and up for dinner." He cites a Sushi restaurant as evidence, but muddles his point as he takes you through an odyssey of caveats.

More disappointing is how Cowen fails to bring insight into the two issues he focuses on, food prices and food quality. His chapter on finding a good place to eat only meanders around old territory and common knowledge: restaurants have huge margins on booze and soda, casinos subsidize food because they make up for it by gambling, and hospitals don't have an incentive to make good food so most don't. We don't even learn much about what he means by "good" or "bad" food.

Save your money and buy something else.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Longer than necessary, not very well put together, but very good anyway 8 Sep 2012
By Diogo F - Published on
People are right when they say the chapters lack a backbone supporting it. I wasn't able to figure out which criteria ruled the sequence, as sometimes the subjects come out of the blue. Even though it feels better reading ideas which go on building some higher rationale, I don't see why it hurts to just read a set of random thoughts on a subject of your interest, provided they're well written and insightful, which is definitely the case.

Don't expect it to go right to the point, as the rhythm is intended to match some kind of personal report full of humor and anecdote. That is: it's at least twice the length necessary. But that can be an upside too - you may read it in a lighthearted manner and skip some unappealing sections.

Don't expect, also, it to resemble hard science in any way. It will feel like reading an hour-long set of blog posts on some pleasant and contemporaneous topics. Good read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow 12 Jan 2013
By Joshua D. Hamilton - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be interesting in parts, particularly in his discussion about Thai food and how to identify good restaurants. For the most part, this read like a blog, with little depth and all based on his personal observations about restaurants and food around Washington DC. Not what I was expecting.
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