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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies Hardcover – April 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525952667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525952664
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

An Economist Gets Lunch suffers from a good deal of sloppy diction and a casual, haphazard, all-over-the-map structural strategy. Meanwhile, Cowen's pedigree as an economist can make for an unfortunate tendency to present either obvious or loony ideas as new insights. . . . As an eater, I often found myself agreeing with Cowen's commonsensical (if fairly obvious) recommendations for eating out and shopping at grocery stores. As a would-be reformer, he is much less convincing. —Kate Christensen

Review

"A perfect marriage of economics and food. Tyler Cowen is my newest guilty pleasure."
-Rocco DiSpirito, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Now Eat This!


"Tyler Cowen's latest book is a real treat, probably my favorite thing he's ever written. It does a fantastic job exploring the economics, culture, esthetics, and realities of food, and delivers a mountain of compelling facts. Most of all it's encouraging--not a screed, despite its occasionally serious arguments--and brings the fun back to eating. Delicious!"
-Stephen J. Dubner, author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics


"A gastronomic , economic and philosophical feast from one of the world's most creative economists. Tyler Cowen offers the thinking person's guide to American food culture, and your relationship with food will be hugely enriched by the result."
-Tim Hartford, author of The Undercover Economist and Adapt.


“A fun and informative book that environmentalists, economists, and (most of all) foodies will enjoy."
-Library Journal


"Cowen writes like your favorite wised-up food maven...a breezy, conversational style; the result is mouth-watering food for thought."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review



"Economist reveals how to find great food."
-Seattle Weekly



"Tips on eating food that's better for you, your wallet, and the environment."
-Fast Company


“Tyler Cowen explains with great authority why good food doesn't have to be expensive and why expensive food isn't inevitably good. Cowen makes an argument for affordable food that results in both economic and sensory benefits. He espouses a fascinating new discipline I couldn’t help but think of as ‘Foodienomics.’”
—Barb Stuckey, author of Taste What You’re Missing


"An Economist Gets Lunch is a mind-bending book for non-economists."
-USA Today

Customer Reviews

Having travelled in Argentina, I was a little surpised that Cowen really didn't seem to know much about it.
Chris Edwards
I learned not to eat French food in France but, rather, in Japan and not to buy seafood in places where people carry groceries on their heads.
Stephen Sykes
George Mason economist Tyler Cowen makes it immediately clear that he isn't interested in food snobbery or pretentiousness.
Bruce Harrington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Eric on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've read 4 of Tyler Cowen's books, and this one is definitely my favorite. Much of Cowen's popular writing involves applying economic reasoning to the decisions we make in our everyday lives, and this book is no exception. Food is an especially suitable topic for this kind of approach. After all, we make decisions about what (and how) to eat multiple times every day, and Cowen encourages us to weigh these decisions so as to make every meal count. We might think of this kind of writing as having two complementary goals: (1) the stated goal of using economics to offer guidance on a particular question of interest, in this case how to eat well; and more subtly, (2) to use the problem at hand (how to eat well) to teach something about economic principles to a broader, perhaps unsuspecting audience. My verdict is that this book delivers strongly on both.

Whether you approach it as a food enthusiast looking for a new perspective on finding quality meals or as an fan of popular economics writing interested in a new application for these ideas, you'll find plenty to enjoy and learn from in this book. It's more methodical, more to the point, and less pretentious than most food writing and more fun and practical than virtually all economics writing.

Most of Cowen's advice flows directly out of the book's central mantra: "Food is a product of economic supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Harrington on August 8, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Two of my great interests, food writing and economics, brought together in one book seemed like a sure bet. It almost was for the first two or three chapters. George Mason economist Tyler Cowen makes it immediately clear that he isn't interested in food snobbery or pretentiousness. He just wants a good meal at a fair price. These are the two points every dining location, every food preparation method, and every discussion revolve around. Unfortunately, this rhythm neither strays far from these two points nor is clarified. Strange as it seems, Cowen works from principles to conclusions and spares or skips the data. For example in a section on raw ingredients he announces, "The American restaurants with excellent fresh ingredients -- the ones good enough to serve naked on the plate -- commonly cost fifty dollars and up for dinner." He cites a Sushi restaurant as evidence, but muddles his point as he takes you through an odyssey of caveats.

More disappointing is how Cowen fails to bring insight into the two issues he focuses on, food prices and food quality. His chapter on finding a good place to eat only meanders around old territory and common knowledge: restaurants have huge margins on booze and soda, casinos subsidize food because they make up for it by gambling, and hospitals don't have an incentive to make good food so most don't. We don't even learn much about what he means by "good" or "bad" food.

Save your money and buy something else.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Diogo F on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
People are right when they say the chapters lack a backbone supporting it. I wasn't able to figure out which criteria ruled the sequence, as sometimes the subjects come out of the blue. Even though it feels better reading ideas which go on building some higher rationale, I don't see why it hurts to just read a set of random thoughts on a subject of your interest, provided they're well written and insightful, which is definitely the case.

Don't expect it to go right to the point, as the rhythm is intended to match some kind of personal report full of humor and anecdote. That is: it's at least twice the length necessary. But that can be an upside too - you may read it in a lighthearted manner and skip some unappealing sections.

Don't expect, also, it to resemble hard science in any way. It will feel like reading an hour-long set of blog posts on some pleasant and contemporaneous topics. Good read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Ferris on April 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What I tend to like about pop-culture economics books is how they look between the lines at trends, studies, statistics, etc, and unpack them in an interesting and accessible way. This book struck me as more anecdotal without any real evidence to back up any claims. For example, going to one ethnic grocery store for a month is drawn into an entire painful chapter of conclusions and commentary. Without a doubt, the author loves food and getting off the beaten path to find quality eats that may not always come from the most obvious places. But for whatever reason, he comes across as an awkward balance between Anthony Bourdain and Michael Pollan/Mark Bittman, all of whom are better writers.

The most interesting part of the book was the brief exploration of the development of food culture in the United States going back to prohibition and WWII. But it's a bit contradictory when the author claims that the best food can be found at low-scale spots around the country but at the same time the inability of fancy high-end restaurants to serve alcohol in the 1920s curbed the development of American cuisine.

Skip it.
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