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

An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies

Tyler Cowen. Dutton, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-95266-4

Enlightened consumerism, not ideology, is the surest path to tasty and responsible dining, argues this yummy gastronomic treatise. Economist and restaurant critic Cowen (The Great Stagnation) takes readers along as he eats, shops, and cooks in a diversity of spicy settings, including a Nicaraguan tamale stand, the greens aisle at the Great Wall supermarket chain, backwoods barbeque pits, and his own kitchen, where he wrestles with Mexican cuisine. He focuses on how the interplay between creative suppliers and demanding customers produces good, cheap food, an approach that yields offbeat insights into, for example, why the menu item that sounds the least appetizing usually tastes great and why you should never eat in a place filled with beautiful people having a great time (that restaurant’s specialty, he reasons, is the scene, not the food). Cowen also offers a telling contrarian critique of high-minded food orthodoxies that extols agribusiness, debunks the environmental benefits of locavorism, and toasts genetically modified organisms. Cowen writes like your favorite wised-up food maven, folding encyclopedic knowledge and piquant food porn—“the pork was a little chewy but flavorful, and the achiote sauce gave it a tanginess”—into a breezy, conversational style; the result is mouth-watering food for thought. (Apr. 12)