Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Calling all gourmets...

Tyler Cowen offers some tips for committed foodies:

For those looking to take a food vacation, I have a recommendation. Choose a country with a great deal of inequality. It sounds heartless, but look for a big gap between the rich and the poor. Iron bars on the windows and barbed wires on the fences, however bad for the residents or for your safety, are both good signs for the food.

The presence of a wealthy class of people, all other things equal, is good for food because the wealthy are a strong market for a tasty meal. That encourages quality food.

But, when we look at producers, a certain amount of poverty is sad to say, likely to produce gourmet meals. The higher the level of wages at the bottom, the harder it is to employ labour to cook the food, prepare the raw ingredients and serve and bus the tables. So, the committed foodie should look to regions where some people are very rich and others are very poor. The poor people will end up cooking for the good people. My meals in Mexico, Brazil and India are typically delicious and cheap.

….In India, the very poor cook for the wealthy, perhaps in restaurants but more commonly as their servants. It has been said that India consists of two nations. About 100 million people have living standards comparable to those of Europe and about 900 million people live in poverty, often on a dollar or two a day. The 100 million are all hiring domestic cooks and the 900 million are competing for the jobs of serving the food and doing household chores.

… Avoid desserts in ethnic restaurants in America. Calcutta may have some of the world’s best sweets but it takes a lot of time and trouble to make them right and to ensure that the ingredients are fully fresh. Quality Indian sweets are usually profitable only when the cost of labour is low and that is not the case in either Chicago or London.

- From the book, “Discover Your Inner Economist”


Usha said...

My house consist of one member who belongs to the 900 million category (me) who cooks delicious food for two people from the 100 million. can their be worse inequality than this?

Raj said...

Usha, if the food tastes good, there is inequality. Otherwise, no. Equality or good food. You can't have both.

Hip Grandma said...

good tips.I dream of the day when I can hire a cook and become a member of the 100 million club.Dreams don't cost a penny.Right now I belong to Usha's category.