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.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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