Food and Drink

Bleg for Cancun, Mexico

by on April 6, 2015 at 11:32 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Your answers here will help everyone at APEE, so please tell us what else should one do besides the usual?  Where is the truly good food to be had, including cocina economica?  I thank you all in advance for your assistance.

Bleg for Merida, Mexico

by on April 6, 2015 at 11:31 am in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

I haven’t been there for thirty years, what do you all recommend for a short stay?  And where can we find good marquesitas, pib x’catik, caballeros pobres, pucheros, and chancletas?  Among other delicious treats.

How to find good Iranian food

by on April 3, 2015 at 11:54 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

I hardly ever blog Iran, most of all because I’ve never been there, but perhaps the time has come to serve up the meager amount I do know about the place.  Let’s start with food, here are a few propositions about Iranian food, at least as it is found in the West:

1. Choose a restaurant which has a diversity of rices, such as zereskh polo (rice with barberries).  Or sour cherry rice.  The rice you order is a more important decision than the kabob you order.  Personally, I like to commit the heresy of loading up a tart rice with a gooey yogurt concoction, such as Mast-o-Mosir, spellings on that one will vary greatly.

2. Choose a restaurant with koreshes, namely stews.  The kabobs get boring, Afghan kabobs in this country are usually better anyway, so over time you should end up getting the stews in a Persian restaurant.

3. It is very hard to find Iranian restaurants in the United States which break from the usual medley of offerings.  The good news is that there are very few bad Iranian restaurants around.

4. The best Iranian restaurants in this country are probably those in and near Westwood, Los Angeles, not far from UCLA.

5. If you get Iranian bread, it looks boring.  But load it up with the spicy green sauce, butter, and yes sliced onion.  Then it’s really yummy.  Don’t be put off if your bread shows up cold and embedded in plastic wrap, just add the condiments and it will be yummy.

6. I always like the soups, but in this country opt for “minty” over “barley.”

7. Iranian food in Germany and London is also quite good, I don’t think I have had it elsewhere.

8.  Buying fesenjan sauce out of a can and cooking with it is much tastier than you might think.  This is super-easy and inexpensive.  Fesenjan sauce, in case you don’t know, is a kind of walnut and pomegranate mix, for you vegans it works OK with tofu.

9. At the end of writing this post, my own googling led me to a 2009 post I had written on the same topic but had forgotten about completely, it is here if you wish to compare.  If nothing else, it shows my views on Iranian food are pretty consistent over time, as is the food itself.

Colin M. MacLachlan, in his splendid Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, reports:

1. Corn gruel and tamales were reinforced with fish, seeds of various kinds, fruit, and honey.

2. Beans were supplemented with meat from iguanas, armadillos, and rabbits.

3. The calcium content of corn was (and still is) increased by alkaline cooking with lime (“nixtamalization,” duh).

4. “Pulque” has “substantial food value,” “whether fermented or fresh.”

5. Dried red maguey worms have 71 percent protein.

6. Axayacatl (a species of aquatic insect sometimes called “water boatmen“) have 68.7% protein.

7. Mesquite pods and seeds have high caloric value.

8.”Tecuitlatl (spirulina), the green scum collected from lakes with high saltwater content, was sold in the market to be eaten with chilies and tomatoes and has been shown to be a modern wonder food.”

As you can see, the world of food really could have evolved along very different lines.

I also enjoyed this line from the book:

The fundamental belief that the gods sacrificed themselves to create the Earth and continued to do so to sustain it locked the gods and humans into a circular dependency — a relationship characterized by fearful respect coupled with regulated violence.

Definitely recommended, and oh yes that reminds me, here is the livestream for my chat later today with Peter Thiel.

I may not follow any of your suggestions, but just thought I should ask for advice, for my dialogue with Peter next week.  I am the interviewer, he is the interviewee, more or less.  #CowenThiel

One of the most remarkable discoveries of economics is that under the right conditions competitive markets allocate production across firms in just that way that minimizes the total costs of production. (You can find a discussion of this remarkable property in Modern Principles. See also this MRU video.)

One of the necessary conditions for this result is that firms must face the same input and output prices. If one firm is subsidized and another taxed, for example, then resources will be misallocated and total costs will increase. In a pioneering paper, Klenow and Hsieh measure misallocation across firms in China, India and the United States and they find that micro misallocations can have large, macroeconomic effects. In particular, if capital and labor were allocated as well in China and India as they are in the United States then output in those countries would double.

We can get some intuition for the costs of resource misallocation by looking at water in California. As you may have noticed at the grocery store, almonds are in demand right now whether raw or in almond milk. Asian demand for almonds is also up. As a result, in the last 10 years almond production in California has doubled. That’s great, except for the fact that almond production uses a huge amount of water and water in CA is severely mispriced and thus misallocated.

In my previous post, I pointed out that agriculture uses 80% of the water in California but accounts for less than 2% of the economy. So how much water does almond production alone use? More water is used in almond production than is used by all the residents and businesses of San Francisco and Los Angeles combined. Here’s a chart from Mother Jones:

(Aside: Some of this water is naturally recycled so net use is likely somewhat lower but a lot of water in California is now being pumped from the aquifer and that water isn’t being replenished.)

At the same time as farmers are watering their almonds, San Diego is investing in an energy-intensive billion-dollar desalination plant which will produce water at a much higher cost than the price the farmer are paying.  That is a massive and costly misallocation of water.

In short, we are spending thousands of dollars worth of water to grow hundreds of dollars worth of almonds and that is truly nuts.

Hat tip: Walter Olson.

When Medolac Laboratories, a competitor of Prolacta, said last year that it wanted to buy milk from women in Detroit, it was accused of profiting at the expense of black women.

“We are deeply concerned that women will be coerced into diverting milk that they would otherwise feed their own babies,” the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association wrote in an open letter in January. Medolac, which said it was working with the Clinton Foundation and wanted to encourage breast-feeding by making it financially attractive, abandoned its plan.

The article, by Andrew Pollack, is interesting throughout. And here is Wikipedia on the history of wet nurses.

For the pointer I thank Pam R.

The article is here, by Lauren Pelley, here is one excerpt:

“It’s great news to hear,” echoed Ganesan Sugumar, CEO and director of Saravanaa Bhavan Canada, an Indian vegetarian restaurant chain. (Cowen’s tour group visited the location near McCowan Rd. and Finch Ave. East.)

“This is honestly the best cuisine, I could say, in Canada,” Sugumar added. “We have so many ethnic restaurants.”

The article also has a useful map of all the places we visited.  My original blog post was here.

It’s been a longstanding fear of travelers (or travelers like myself, at least) that global conglomerates like McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s might use the bludgeon of the Big Mac or the bluster of Flair to wipe out everything unique, provincial and good. But what struck me on this trip, not having seen BA for a decade and thus being more sensitive to what had changed, was how a different kind of sameness was permeating Porteño restaurant and bar culture—much more indie and elevated, but just as insidious.

The main argument is that when asking for food tips, you need to consider the age of the responder very carefully, and in many cases you should favor the older recommenders, up to some limit of course.  The full article is here, hat tip goes to Yana.

Wednesday night I was taken on a restaurant tour of Scarborough — four different places — plus rolls from a Sri Lankan locale, consumed in the office of the Dean of UT Scarborough and with the assistance of Peter Loewen.

After that eating, and lots of driving around and looking, I concluded Scarborough is the best ethnic food suburb I have seen in my life, ever, and by an order of magnitude.  I hope you all have the chance to visit Scarborough, Ontario.

If you are wondering where I went, that is beside the point.

You will find it here on my home page, scroll way down.  You should note it is more or less a copy of the blog version of the dining guide and does not contain new information if you have been following the blog.  Among the new and exciting places are Saudi food, Nanjing-style Chinese food, and I hear Peter Chang is opening his new Arlington place this coming Saturday.

Lars P. Feld, Sarah Necker, and Bruno S. Frey have done some new research on this question, I would say this is good news for us, and bad news for many of you, though apparently you are clawing back some of what you gave to us:

We study the importance of economists’ professional situation toward their life satisfaction based on a unique survey of mostly academic economists. On average, economists report to be highly happy with life. Satisfaction is positively related to spending more time on doing research. The lack of a tenured position decreases satisfaction. However, the extent to which the uncertainty created by the tenure system affects satisfaction varies with the contract terms. The effect is stronger if the contract expires in the near future or cannot be extended. Publication success has no effect if it is controlled for academic rank and the contract duration. The finding suggests that publications are rather a means to an end, e.g., to acquire a tenured position. While the perceived level of external pressure also has no impact, the perceived change of pressure in recent years is positively related to economists’ life satisfaction. An explanation is that economists have accepted a high level of pressure when entering academia but are not willing to cope with the recent increase.

The SSRN link is here, via

That is a new paper (pdf) by Xianchi Dai and Ayelet Fishbach,the abstract is here:

The proposed model suggests that desire depends on the length of nonconsumption of a good and the presence of salient alternatives, and that desire is at least partially constructed. In the absence of salient alternatives, a longer nonconsumption period results in stronger desire for the unconsumed good. However, in the presence of salient alternatives, individuals infer that they have developed new tastes, and thus a longer nonconsumption period results in a weaker desire for the unconsumed good. Five studies support this model across nonconsumption of various  goods: food from home when attending college (study 1); chametz food during the Passover holiday (study 2); social media (i.e., abstaining from Facebook; study 3); and cultural foods (i.e., forgoing Japanese food, study 4; and Thai food, study 5). We discuss implications of our findings for when and how the experience of desire is constructed and situationally determined.

Ms Schneider reckons that more than half of the world’s feed crops will soon be eaten by Chinese pigs.

That is from The Economist, via Scott Sumner, whose post is of interest more generally on numerous matters.  Scott also cites The Economist for telling us that in China smaller cities are more densely populated than larger cities.

Stone Age Britons imported wheat about 8,000 years ago in a surprising sign of sophistication for primitive hunter-gatherers long viewed as isolated from European agriculture, a study showed on Thursday.

British scientists found traces of wheat DNA in a Stone Age site off the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight, giving an unexpected sign of contact between ancient hunter-gatherers and farmers who eventually replaced them.

The wheat DNA was dated to 8,000 years ago, 2,000 years before Stone Age people in mainland Britain started growing cereals and 400 years before farming reached what is now northern Germany or France, they wrote in the journal Science.

“We were surprised to find wheat,” co-author Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick told Reuters of finds at Bouldnor Cliff.

“This is a smoking gun of cultural interaction,” between primitive hunter-gatherers in Britain and farmers in Europe, he said of the findings in the journal Science.

The find of wheat “will make us re-evaluate the relationships between farmers and hunter-gatherers,” he told Reuters.

There is more here, and the original research is here.  As I’ve said in the past, believing that early trade and globalization were more extensive than is usually believed is one of my “crank views.”