Results for “food”
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I answer food questions over at Freakonomics

I liked the whole interview, here is the concluding segment:

Q. What restaurant or food type would Tyler Cowen, Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises enjoy for lunch? Why? –Bill N.

A. Rothbard was quite a conservative eater, but he loved the Bavarian culture of the Baroque.  Mises grew up in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  So I suggest that we would all sit down and have a Wiener Schnitzel together.

You can buy An Economist Gets Lunch here.

More food writers should be making this kind of point

Arabic [email protected]: So when companies like Wal-Mart bring their logistics ability to Africa, it actually could be a good thing for the poor people of Africa?

Cowen: It’s exactly what we need more of. Yes.

Arabic [email protected]: Yet there’s a fear Wal-Mart will put the smaller stores out of business.

Cowen: Yes, they do so sometimes, but they do so by charging lower prices. It makes it more accessible and more reliable. It’s not just the pricing at any one point and time. It’s what happens in the very worst periods. Companies like Wal-Mart are very, very good at keeping up supply and being regular.

Here is more, in interview form.  Much of the discussion is about the Middle East:

Plus, it depends on which country in the Middle East you’re talking about. So Tunisia is better run than most places. Lebanon has a saner agricultural policy than most places. Yemen is a total disaster. Algeria and Egypt have not gone so well. So there’s a lot of variety within the Middle East. If you think of a model like Turkey, which isn’t technically in the Middle East, they’ve liberalized and encouraged agribusiness. Turks are much better fed than 20 years ago. When you ask a country like Iran, what should we do? It’s hard to know even where to start.

And this:

I’m not even sure Yemen is even a viable country because there’s some chance, they will literally run out of water in the next 20 years in a lot of parts of the country. At this point, I don’t know what they can do.

The globalization of the food truck?

Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than “très Brooklyn,” a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality.

And this:

An artisanal taco truck has come to Paris. The Cantine California started parking here in April, the latest in a recent American culinary invasion that includes chefs at top restaurants; trendy menu items like cheesecake, bagels and bloody Marys; and notions like chalking the names of farmers on the walls of restaurants.

The full story is here.  And if you were wondering, and I hope you were:

Ms. Frederick waded through the thick red tape of four separate Paris bureaucracies: the business licensing commissariat; the mairie de Paris, or the local municipal office; the prefecture of police; and the authority that oversees the markets. Unlike some food trucks in the United States, the ones here are not allowed to troll for parking spots, or roam from neighborhood to neighborhood. They are assigned to certain markets and days.

How to find good food in American bars

Jacob Grier has an excellent post on this topic (which I do not cover), here is just one part of a longer discussion:

Reading An Economist Gets Lunch inspired me to think explicitly about how to find good food in American bars. Here are a few general suggestions based on my own experience:

Avoid places with lots of vodka and light rum. These can be bought cheaply and are easy to dress up in crowd-pleasing ways with liqueurs, fruit, and herbs. If these are what the customers are demanding than the food may be equally designed for broad appeal.

In contrast, look for ingredients that signal a knowledgeable staff and consumers. Italian amari, herbal liqueurs, rhum agricole, quality mezcal, batavia arrack, and – lucky for me – genever are good indicators. If I see a bar stocked with these I’ll want to see the food menu.

Go into the city. The density of consumers with expendable income, knowledge of food and drinks, and access to transportation that doesn’t require them to drive is in urban areas.

Laws matter. In some states regulations require that places selling spirits also serve food. Where these laws don’t exist, many of the best cocktail destinations won’t bother much or at all with food, so one might plan to eat and drink separately. (These laws are bad news if you just want to drink, since your drink prices may be covering the cost of an under-utilized cook and kitchen or bars may simply close earlier to save on labor. Virginia’s law creates particularly perverse incentives.)

Is Africa the next big food trend?

Josh Schonwald says yes:

One night, after reading about sugar-cane drinks and fresh lobster skewers, I started cooking. I made a spicy okra salad, grilled shrimp piri piri and steamed vanilla pudding. The next night, Zanzibari pizzas—chapati stuffed with eggs, meat and spices. Later, I had a Mozambican seafood stew with Senegalese-style jollof rice. I started seeing it.

…As fast-growing African nations become more prosperous, they will develop something that is rare right now—a middle class with disposable time and income. Poverty, hunger, war and sickness are why Africans—from Cameroon to Mozambique to Namibia to Congo—have been unable to develop a baobab-infused vinaigrette.

I very much enjoyed Josh’s new food book The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food, and I can recommend it for its pro-science stance, its interesting speculations, and its excellent reporting.  My prediction, by the way, based on demographics, is that the next big food trend will be more from the Latino cuisines, fused with American ideas to appeal to the (North) American palate.  Chipotle is but one step in this direction.  Sadly, in my view most Americans have room for only a few foreign cuisines in their lives.  Thai and Indian are knocking on the door of Mexican and Chinese (all in their American versions), but I do not see new contenders for that throne.

The Boston Globe on Cowen on food

Cowen’s book offers more than ethnic-dining tips, however; it situates them in a broad historical context. Many of today’s mainstream foodies, Cowen argues, have the history of American food all backwards. They assume that American food is so terrible and unhealthy because of agribusiness: We eat terribly, the thinking goes, because our food is frozen, packaged, and trucked over vast distances before we eat it. Cowen has an entirely different explanation for the mediocrity of American food. As he sees it, American food was ruined by a series of entirely contingent historical events — Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the rise of TV — which effectively ruined the restaurant industry. Those events were especially damaging, he argues, because immigration was so severely restricted during much of the 20th century. Immigrants were the people who can do the most interesting things with the cheap food on offer in the United States; without them, American food became boring and bland.

Now that immigration is on the rise again, America is a food paradise: the extended food supply chain created by American agribusiness means that food is plentiful and cheap, while our vibrant immigrant communities take that cheap food and make it awesome in a million different ways. (Barbecue is an example of a home-grown food culture which acts, in many respects, like an immigrant one.) The essence of American food, Cowen argues, is that it’s inexpensive, innovative, and various. To eat well in America, you have to embrace its unique history, and start from the fact that “the United States is a country where the human beings are extremely creative but the tomatoes are not extraordinarily fresh.” If you’re obsessed with the farmer’s market, you’ve got American food wrong; instead, think of America as a hotbed of “food innovation,” where the best food is getting made at strip malls and in food trucks. It’s an alternate vision of food in America.

That is Josh Rothman, there is more here.  Here is a Q&A with me on food, and what is always in my cupboard: “Goya beans, cumin seed, dried ancho chilies.”

The idea of the “food desert” is fading

Poor neighborhoods, Dr. Lee found, had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores as wealthier ones, and they had more than three times as many corner stores per square mile. But they also had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile. Her study, financed by the institute, was published in the March issue of Social Science and Medicine.

From another paper:

Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.

Here is much more.

Some food notes from Mexico City

My favorite sandwich (ever) is the Hawaiiana, at “Tortas Chapultepec,” turn left out of the front of Hotel Camino Real in Polanco, and it is on the corner at Victor Hugo and Mariano Escobedo.  They usually are open by 9:30 and I suspect they close fairly early.

Pujol does wonderful things with vegetables and is perhaps the best fancy place to try; I recommend the Menu de la Tierra.

They have done away with the food stalls at the Zócalo.  In Mexico City calorie-counting menus are common and gelato is being replaced by frozen yogurt (!).

Tres Marias is a “food village” right off the highway on the way to Cuernavaca.  Look for the place on the southbound side which specializes in green chilaquiles and also chorizo tacos, but in general standards along that strip are remarkably high.

Here is the most important food advice for Mexico.

Overall, Mexico City is becoming a safer city, and compared to four years ago one sees many signs of economic progress.

Victorian street food

Victorian street food was a huge industry.  In the north you would find tripe sellers; I remember the one in Dewsbury market that sold nine different varieties of tripe, including penis and udder (which is remarkably like pease pudding).  Another popular street food was pea soup with, according to where you lived, either pig’s trotters or bits of ham chopped up into it.  Peas boiled in the pod and served with butter were similarly popular.  Stalls known in my youth as whelk stalls also sprang up, selling jellied eels, whelks, winkles and prawns, all by the pint or the half-pint.  You could splash a bit of vinegar on them and eat them at the stall or take them home with you.

That is from the new and excellent A History of English Food, by Clarissa Dickson Wright.  This book also offers up a good deal of confirming evidence for Paul Krugman’s prior hypotheses about English food.

How American food got so bad

Here is a podcast with me, interviewed by Stephen Dubner.  Excerpt:

I think there is a very bad period for American food. It runs something like 1910 through maybe the 1980’s. And that’s the age of the frozen TV dinner, of the sugar donut, of fast food, of the chain, and really a lot of it is not very good. If you go back to the 19th century and you read Europeans who’ve come to the United States, they’re really quite impressed by the freshness and variety that is on offer.

I attempt to explain how this came about, in the podcast and in one chapter of my forthcoming book An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies.  Believe it or not, a lot of the blame can be placed on government, including Prohibition and immigration restrictions.  The book is due out in April, in both physical and e-copies, and it’s the longest and most comprehensive book I’ve written (yet without the price being high).

By the way, am I a food snob?  I told Dubner:

Let me just give you a few traits of food snobs that I would differ from. First, they tend to see commercialization as the villain. I tend to see commercialization as the savior. Second, they tend to construct a kind of good versus bad narrative where the bad guys are agribusiness, or corporations, or something like chains, or fast food, or microwaves. And I tend to see those institutions as flexible, as institutions that can respond, and as the institutions that actually fix the problem and make things better. So those would be two ways in which I’m not-only not a food snob, but I’m really on the other side of the debate.

The fight to liberate food trucks

The Institute for Justice, a self-described “libertarian public-interest law firm,” launched its new National Street Vending Initiative early this year in Texas and has since expanded it to Atlanta (where city officials had decided to reserve all public property for a single vending company) and Chicago (where aldermen have proposed rules so severe, they could cut off vending in the entire downtown area). The institute even released a report, “Streets of Dreams,” which reviews vending regulations in the country’s 50 largest cities, including Washington.

Here is much more.