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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies

I missed the meeting that decided our May book club read would be Tyler Cowen’s nonfiction work, An Economist Gets Lunch.  At first glance, I knew it was something very different from what I usually read, so I was excited.  After all, I love good food.  I also love saving (some would say hoarding) my money.  And I’ve been interested knowing more about our food and where it comes from after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and viewing documentaries such as Food, Inc.  As a result, I expected to really enjoy reading this book.  After giving it a lot of thought, both my book club and I had mixed reviews.

The book is unique – I’ll give the author that much.  However, often the tone of the author was a little off-putting.  At several points, Cowen seemed obnoxiously pretentious, name-dropping expensive restaurants that he’d spent hundreds of dollars on a single meal, and even rejoicing when he wasn’t the one that had to pick up the bill.  Often, it seemed the author was bragging about the many diverse places he’d been.  Don’t get me wrong, travelling is a fantastic experience and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to have as many of those experiences as possible.  But it often seemed that Cowen used his experiences abroad to glorify himself – not the fantastic places and food he got to experience!

In addition to the author being difficult to relate to as a reader, several of the chapters seemed disjointed and unconnected to one another.  At one point, he’s describing the best dishes and places to find them in countries around the world (I loved this part), but in another chapter he’s glorifying Monsanto’s GMOs and in yet another, explaining why he shopped only at a small Asian food market near his home for a month.  My book club and I agreed that we could get past the strong opinions the author presented which many of us disagreed with (hey, everyone has opinions – no issue there) but the disconnectedness of each chapter really threw us off!  Who knows what pressures are put on by publishers to please everyone with a different chapter, but I think the pieces would have been more effective as separate articles.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.  Though it did provide me with cravings for ethnic food (and writing this blog post around lunch time is causing those cravings to make a strong comeback!), it didn’t do much else for me.  Throughout I was usually bored, confused, or completely unable to relate to the author.  Though I do consider myself an everyday foodie… I cannot and will not ever spend $500 or more for a meal!  I give this book 1 star.

– Becca


2 responses »

  1. As a fellow foodie, I can relate to the last lines of your post ! No matter how much we love food, there is a limit to how much we can spend. But what was the author’s objective overall ? Does he analyse the market and prices, etc or is it just a personal account ?

    • It was hard to determine the author’s overall objective – there was some analysis of market and prices, and how supply, demand, and aesthetics can affect the quality of food in different restaurants and areas. That part I wasn’t a huge fan of. I’d say the bulk of the book was a personal account of where and how to find the best food around the world – that part I really liked, even if I wasn’t always a fan of the author as a human. I still crave Thai food constantly and I finished the book almost a month ago!

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