Learn economics from your cookbooks

Asian ingredients

Jane recently pointed out a thought-provoking article from Foreign Policy - not a usual source of inspiration for these blogs. In his article, The Cookbook Theory of Economics, Tyler Cowen presents an insightful thesis on how to look at cuisine-specific cookbooks and judge the economic status of the underlying country and its possible future development - among other things.

For example, take this paragraph: "Cookbooks -- the more practical kind -- also turn out to be good guides to which countries and regions are on the cusp of economic progress. Look at chef Marcus Samuelsson's African cookbook,  The Soul of a New Cuisine, or Naomi Duguid's  Burma: Rivers of Flavor, both of which are vast improvements on earlier offerings in their respective regions. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that Africa's economies are booming at near double-digit growth rates or that Myanmar is going through a fundamental economic and political revolution, moving from a closed society to a globalizing developing country."

The Soul of a New Cuisine is owned by almost 200 of our members and Duguid's book is owned by almost 50 members - plus it has won numerous best cookbook listings and an IACP award. So we'd argue that the correlation works both ways - cookbooks are guides to economically progressing countries and the latter are guides to the next popular cuisines(s).

And, for a second example, we were also intrigued by this process of how  cuisine-specific cookbooks gain popularity: "Thai cuisine hit U.S. shores in the late 1960s, thanks to American troops on R&R in Bangkok during the Vietnam War who brought the taste home, and it wasn't long before restaurants followed. Soon, a booming economy and international trade made it a whole lot easier to find galangal and lemongrass, which allowed Thai restaurants to thrive. Today, any major U.S. city has at least a half-dozen places where you can find a decent green chicken curry. And once a cuisine proliferates, people want to be able to cook it at home."

Everyone (at least in the U.S.) can mull this over while having a wonderful 4th of July. And if you're looking for last-minute inspiration, check out our Red, White, and Blue Pinterest Board for a variety of great recipes.




 

2 Comments

  • sir_ken_g  on  7/3/2013 at 1:34 PM

    Well there is economics involved - but the conclusions seem simplistic. A lot of cuisines in the US are common because people fled those countries. The Chinese came for the California Gold Rush and building the railroads. More came because of the corrupt ineffective governments there. Likewise we have Vietnamese, Cambodian and to some extent Thai restaurants because of post-Vietnam refugees. Cleveland is full of Hungarians because of the 1956 revolution. In each case economic tragedy and hardship - not development.

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