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Publisher's Summary

One of the most influential economists of the decade - and the New York Times best-selling 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 that our agricultural practices have led to global warming - but while food snobs are right that local food tastes better, they're wrong that it is better for the environment, and they are wrong that cheap food is bad food. The food world needs to know that you don't have to spend more to eat healthy, green, exciting meals. At last, some good news from an economist!
Tyler Cowen discusses everything from slow food to fast food, from agriculture to gourmet culture, from modernist cuisine to how to pick the best street vendor. He shows why airplane food is bad but airport food is good; why restaurants full of happy, attractive people serve mediocre meals; and why American food has improved as Americans drink more wine. And most important of all, he shows how to get good, cheap eats just about anywhere.
Just as The Great Stagnation was Cowen's response to all the fashionable thinking about the economic crisis, An Economist Gets Lunch is his response to all the fashionable thinking about food. Provocative, incisive, and as enjoyable as a juicy, grass-fed burger, it will influence what you choose to eat today and how we feed the world tomorrow.
©2012 Tyler Cowen (P)2012 Random House
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Sean on 05-01-12


The premise for the book (as stated by the author) is to inform the reader how to locate good tasting food at the best price. Unfortunately, the book appears to be a collection of random anecdotes from the author's dining history.

There are some interesting ideas throughout the book, but they are buried between lengthy, uneven stories or history lessons that are only tangentially related to the theme. He is also reluctant to name names when it would be most helpful. For example, he gives detailed directions to an obscure food stand in rural Mexico but can't be more specific than "you can now find good food in some Las Vegas casinos."

His advice is simultaneously too vague and too practical. He says to avoid Chinese restaurants in midtown Manhattan becuse their rent costs make them cut corners on food quality. Who needs a book to tell them that? He follows this up with advice that since many restaurants have higher margins on wine you should go somewhere with a nice wine list but not order any drinks except water. That might be economical, but it's no way to enjoy a meal. The advice is also not completely trustwothy. He recommends family owned restaurants where family members work for little or no wages because of the labor cost savings. As though someone who is willing to take advantage of their own family would not also take advantage of the customer, who is a total stranger.

The writing is very uneven. There is an entire chapter devoted to the history and minutiae of barbecue which boils down to a paragraph of three simple rules. He then spends roughly the same time to encompass all Asian cuisine from Vietnamese, Korean and Thai thru Chinese, Japanese and Filipino.

It feels like he couldn't decide between an advice book and a food travel memoir.

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9 of 11 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jon M. Wilson on 05-04-12

Food for Thought!

Would you listen to An Economist Gets Lunch again? Why?

Yes, in fact, I have already re-listened to this book a second time!

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

I will now second-guess every food choice I make while out of the country. Just kidding! I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion of BBQ, and as a native Texan, the author is right on the money!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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