Food and Drink

The data start in 1880 and run through 2013.  Based on my visual reading of the chart, discussion of Chinese restaurants appears to have peaked in the 1940s (!).  German restaurants are the biggest loser over time, with plunges during each of the two World Wars; French falls more steadily.  American and Japanese go up slowly but consistently.  The big winner: Italian restaurants go up by far the most in discussions, starting in about 1940, and never stop rising.

The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune show broadly similar patterns, though the absolute level of discussion for Mexican is much higher in Los Angeles.  For the Western world at least, Italian cuisine is the major winner from globalization.

It is in the 1890s by the way that restaurants are discussed more often in The New York Tribune/Herald than are saloons.

That is all from Krishnendu Ray, The Ethnic Restaurateur, which is intermittently quite interesting.  Here is the Google Books page.

It is commonly held up as a model of dietary paternalism, but the most recent trends suggest a reversal of sorts:

Coca-Cola Femsa SAB, the country’s largest Coke bottler, said last Wednesday that its Mexican soda volumes rose 5.5% in the first quarter from a year earlier. Arca Continental SAB, the No. 2 Coke bottler, reported soda volumes surged 11%.

The turnaround began last year, when Mexican soda-industry volume rose 0.5% after falling 1.9% in 2014, said data service Canadean.

Consumers also aren’t flocking to untaxed zero-calorie sodas. The market shares of full-calorie Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola inched higher last year to 48% and 11%, respectively, according to Euromonitor, another data service.

Antisoda groups aren’t ready to declare the tax a failure and say sales got a boost from unusually warm weather.

And note this:

Even the initial downturn [in soda consumption] only lowered the average Mexican’s daily caloric intake by 6 to 7 calories, or 0.2%, according to the study.

I do not think the correct conclusion is “Mexico’s soda tax is failing,” rather “it can take a very long time to discover whether or not policies are working well.”  For instance the tax may be step one in a longer-run beneficial shift in norms, or going the other way the tax may end up as irrelevant or possibly even counterproductive, if individuals end up substituting into something even less healthy.  This point about the long run is relevant for assessing the ACA, minimum wage hikes, the euro, various tax cuts, financial regulation, and many many other policies.  Relative price effects, secondary consequences, and “chances” of gaming the system are all much higher in the long run than the short.

Global fishing stocks are collapsing due to the tragedy of the commons and the resulting overfishing. Technology, however, suggests a possible solution:

Global Fishing Watch is the product of a technology partnership between SkyTruth, Oceana, and Google that is designed to show all of the trackable fishing activity in the ocean….

The tool uses a global feed of vessel locations extracted from Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking data collected by satellite, revealing the movement of vessels over time. The system automatically classifies the observed patterns of movement as either “fishing” or “non-fishing” activity.

This version of the Global Fishing Watch started with 3.7 billion data points, more than a terabyte of data from two years of satellite collection, covering the movements of 111,374 vessels during 2012 and 2013. We ran a behavioral classification model that we developed across this data set to identify when and where fishing behavior occurred. The prototype visualization contains 300 million AIS data points covering over 25,000 unique vessels. For the initial fishing activity map, the data is limited to 35 million detections from 3,125 vessels that we were able to independently verify were fishing vessels. Global Fishing Watch then displays fishing effort in terms of the number of hours each vessel spent engaged in fishing behavior, and puts it all on a map that anyone with a web browser will be able to explore.

Can vessels turn AIS off?

Sure, but that is certain to draw attention, like wearing a trenchcoat and sunglasses on a hot summer day. Global Fishing Watch will enable us to flag suspicious behaviors like suddenly disappearing, or appearing as if from nowhere, or jumping 1,000 miles and appearing to fish in the middle of Asia. It will give us the opportunity to identify who may have something to hide, and who is operating openly and transparently. Secondly, more countries and intergovernmental agencies like Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) are requiring AIS use within their waters, so more fishing vessels will be legally compelled to use AIS in the coming years. Many already are. For example, as of May 2014, all European Union-flagged fishing vessels over 15 meters in length are required to use AIS. Perhaps most importantly, AIS was primarily designed as a safety mechanism to help avoid collisions at sea. Turning off your AIS just to avoid being tracked puts your vessel and crew at risk of being run down by a cargo ship in the middle of the night.

Mark this as another example of the end of asymmetric information.

Hat tip: GHABS.

Here is the transcript, the video, and the podcast.  We covered a good deal of ground, here is one bit:

COWEN: You once wrote, I quote, “My substitute for LSD was Indian food,” and by that, you meant lamb vindaloo.

PAGLIA: Yes.

COWEN: You stand by this.

PAGLIA: Yes, I’ve been in a rut on lamb vindaloo.

COWEN: A rut, tell us.

PAGLIA: It’s a horrible rut.

COWEN: It’s not a horrible rut, it may be a rut.

PAGLIA: No, it’s a horrible rut. It’s a 40-year rut. Every time I go to an Indian restaurant, I say “Now, I’m going to try something new.” But, no, I must go back to the lamb vindaloo.

All I know is it’s like an ecstasy for me, the lamb vindaloo.

COWEN: Like De Quincey, tell us, what are the effects of lamb vindaloo?

PAGLIA: What can I say? I attain nirvana.

And this:

COWEN: This is Sexual Personae, your best known book, which I recommend to everyone, if you haven’t already read it.

PAGLIA: It took 20 years.

COWEN: Read all of it. My favorite chapter is the Edmund Spenser chapter, by the way.

PAGLIA: Really? Why? How strange.

COWEN: That brought Spenser to life for me.

PAGLIA: Oh, my goodness.

COWEN: I realized it was a wonderful book.

PAGLIA: Oh, my God.

COWEN: I had no idea. I thought of it as old and fusty and stuffy.

PAGLIA: Oh, yes.

COWEN: And 100 percent because of you.

PAGLIA: We should tell them that The Faerie Queene is quite forgotten now, but it had enormous impact, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, on Shakespeare, and on the Romantic poets, and so on, and so forth. The Faerie Queene had been taught in this very moralistic way. But in my chapter, I showed that it was entirely a work of pornography, equal to the Marquis de Sade.

COWEN: [laughs]

PAGLIA: How interesting that you would be drawn to that.

COWEN: Very interesting.

Camille

You also can read or hear Camille on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Byrds, Foucault, Suzanne Pleshette vs. Tippi Hendren, dating, Brazil, Silicon Valley, Harold Bloom, LSD, her teaching career, and much, much more.

Typically a Conversation with Tyler is about ten thousand words, this one is closer to fifteen thousand.

A new pop-up restaurant coming to central London this summer will give diners the option to eat in the nude.

The Bunyadi, which is opening in June for three months, will be split into clothed and unclothed sections, and even feature staff in the nude with certain body parts covered up, Time Out reports.

The concept is already wildly popular. So far, nearly 4,000 people have signed up for tickets on the restaurant’s website.

Here is the story, via the excellent Samir Varma.

And here from Washington,D.C., via Ninjaeconomics, is “on-demand limousine service for pets.

That will be the new Fuchsia Dunlop book, due out in October, July in the UK, self-recommending.  Her work is far more than recipes, but rather an extended meditation on food, history, culture and many other things.  She is one of my favorite authors on any subject.  Here is previous MR coverage of Fuchsia Dunlop.

My favorite (readily available) American chocolate bar is the dark Chocolove XoXoX, but recently they changed it.  The packaging went from very dark to to gold, and the flavor is now a little sweeter and less nutty.  The cocoa content is higher, but somehow it doesn’t quite shine through as strongly.  It still might be the best on the American market, but now I wonder, because it is modestly worse than before.

I no longer find the old bars in supermarkets, and an Amazon order of the old bars brought a shipment of the new bars instead.  But when I go to bookstores which sell chocolate, their supply turns over not so quickly, and so some of them still carry versions of the old bar.  For now.

I have five copies of the old bar left in the cupboard, and no guarantee for when I might replace them.

Chocolove Xoxox Premium Chocolate Bar - Dark Chocolate - Strong - 3.2 oz Bars - Case of 12 - Kosher - 70% Cocoa

My intuition is to eat them next in sequence, rather than postpone the exhaustion of their supply.  Eventually I will engage in an optimal forgetting of their very fine taste, and it is best that happens sooner rather than later.  To cite George Constantinides, that would be an optimal smoothing of habit-forming consumption.

An alternative philosophy is to consume them later in life, as late as spoilage costs will allow, so as to spread out aesthetic peaks over time.

Yet another alternative is give them away to latter-day customers who only have known the slightly inferior bar, and thus wreck their lives for sport.

Dousing every meal in salt might make food tastier, but all that extra sodium is eventually going to raise your blood pressure—giving you bigger problems than bland food. So researchers in Japan have built a prototype electric fork that uses electrical stimulation to simulate the taste of salt.

Designed and engineered using the research on electric flavoring at the University of Tokyo’s Rekimoto Lab, the battery-powered fork features a conductive handle that completes a circuit when the tines make contact with a diner’s tongue, electrically stimulating their taste buds.

The prototype fork, which was built from just $18 worth of electronics, creates the sensation of both salty and sour, and has adjustable levels of stimulation, given that everyone has unique taste buds. When pushed too far, though, the fork can produce an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. So if it’s ever commercialized, there will need to be an initial calibration procedure to ensure a pleasant and tasty dining experience, without going so far as to cause physical discomfort.

Take that, gdp deflator!

Here is the article, and for the pointer I thank Peter.

Vansteenkiste says: “In former days, we had fake champagne, vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky. What we see now is day-to-day consumer goods, [things like] tomato juice and orange juice. You wouldn’t expect it for a low-priced item like tomato juice — for God’s sake, why would they fake it? The answer is people don’t expect it to be cheated, and the profit is very low, but people drink more tomato juice than champagne.”

Tomato juice is usually adulterated by diluting a famous brand name with a cheaper product. Chocolate, coffee and cookies are also targets, says Vansteenkiste.

That is from an excellent Natalie Whittle feature article at the FT.

Catherine Rampell’s excellent column considers the case for a soda tax in Britain.  Here is one bit:

Why not just target the output, rather than some random subset of inputs? We could tax obesity if we wanted to. Or if we want to seem less punitive, we could award tax credits to obese people who lose weight. A tax directly pegged to reduced obesity would certainly be a much more efficient way to achieve the stated policy goal of reducing obesity.

Of course, “fat taxes,” even when framed as weight-loss tax credits, seem pretty loathsome. Why is . . . unclear.

We tax soda instead, even though that is less effective, for instance because soda drinkers may substitute into other sugary beverages.  We are unwilling to humiliate the obese by taxing them directly, and so our chosen policies do less to help…the obese.  (That’s assuming that attempting to shift their consumption behavior helps them at all, which is debatable.)  As Robin Hanson has told us many times, politics isn’t about policy…

It was bound to happen eventually. The fact that it took Miami this long to invent a champagne machine gun is actually quite surprising considering that both items played an essential role in the formation of this great city. But it’s finally here. And it can be yours for only $459.

Jeremy Touitou is the man behind the invention, which, he says, is “the world’s first champagne gun.”

The full story is here, via Daniel Lippman, noting that here is Daniel’s recent piece on fact-checking you-know-who.

champagnegun

At [new D.C. restaurant] Pineapple and Pearls, Silverman says there will be no sticker shock. A $250 dinner will cost $250. When diners make a reservation, they will pay half upfront and will be billed the other half automatically on the day of their reservation. If they cancel 72 hours in advance of their reservation, diners will be refunded their initial payment.

…Pineapple and Pearls wants to “eliminate the guest from ever having to look at a bill,” Silverman says. “When you show up, you have nothing to worry about. Everything is paid for. All you have to do is sit back and have a good time. We’ll take care of the rest.”

Here is the full story, here is my earlier post “Why is it so hard to find the cash register?

The new pitcher, called the Brita Infinity pitcher, will be able to track how much water is flowing through the pitcher. When approximately 40 gallons of water have passed through the pitcher’s purification filter, the pitcher will then send a signal to the Dash Replenishment Service to reorder more filters.

The new Brita Infinity pitcher will sell on Amazon for $44.95. A three-pack of replacement filters costs between $15 and $20. Brita says the pitcher’s two lithium metal (non-rechargeable) batteries should last nearly five years, even if stored in a cold environment. You know, like your fridge. The pitcher holds up to eight cups of water, and is BPA-free.

Here is more, with a photo, via the excellent Samir Varma.

Birrieria Zaragoza

by on February 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm in Food and Drink, Uncategorized | Permalink

This small, family-owned Chicago Mexican restaurant specializes in barbecued goat.  It is the best barbecued goat I have had, the best accompanying sauce I have had outside of Mexico (you must order it separately), and the best tortillas I have had outside of Mexico.  It is one of the best restaurants in Chicago, for my taste perhaps the best.

Here is a short video about the restaurant.

Note also that goats are not in general raised on factory farms.  It is a significant question how steeply the marginal cost curve would climb, were we to substitute a lot of goat consumption for say pig or cow consumption.  In any case, at the margin it seems like a no-brainer, especially with the Birrieria to guide you.

Strongly recommended.

We match individual-level survey data with information on the historical lifeways of ancestors, focusing on Africa, where the transition away from such modes of production began only recently. Within enumeration areas and occupational groups, we find that individuals from ethnicities that derived a larger share of subsistence from agriculture in the pre-colonial era are today more educated and wealthy. A tentative exploration of channels suggests that differences in attitudes and beliefs as well as differential treatment by others, including less political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

That is from a recent paper by Michalopoulos, Putterman, and Weil.  Here are video and ungated versions.