Six Rules for Dining Out-The Atlantic
- Phaedrus Apr 14, 2012 04:36 AM
I don't buy a lot of his observations. It seems to me that he is making the exception the rule. For example, his argument that the strip mall would have cheaper foods is sound, but that those cheap food emporiums would be adventurous and try to do more to distinguish themselves culinarily is dubious.
His generalization of Thai and Vietnamese as well as Pakistani versus Indian is also dubious. There are differentiations between cuisines and his assumptions that they are equivalent is ignorant at best and jingoistic at worst.
Thanks for posting that link. I read the NY Times review of his book recently and, after their lampooning, I was curious about his writing. After that article, I'm glad I didn't bother with the book. Somehow, he managed to discuss food paragraph after paragraph without generating a single visceral impulse. I also perceived the chauvinism underlying the piece. It's funny, I'd bet that though I'd like eating much of the same food at the same places as the guy, I wouldn't like to do it with him.
Here's a link the the Times review:
Very interesting, but I feel the title needs to say "in a large city". Living in central PA,most of these rules just don't hold water.
The "good food" in the strip malls are going to be ethnic restaurants catering to a recent immigrant population, certainly that's the case in suburban DC and California where often the best and most "authentic" Chinese or Mexican or Korean or Vietnamese are in suburban shopping centers and not at the mass-market Americanized places in the touristy areas of Los Angeles or downtown DC. so I completely understood where his argument was coming from, even though it doesn't apply to all cuisines and certainly not cutting edge American or European cuisines.
His generalization about Thai and Indian restaurants versus Vietnamese and Pakistani wasn't so much to directly compare the two cuisines and allege that they are similar enough but to make the claim that it's much easier to find mediocre Indian and mediocre Thai food due to their widespread popularity that is in part the result of "dumbing down" the food to satisfy American tastes, so it's either too sweet (Thai) or not spicy enough (Indian). By contrast the demand for Pakistani and Vietnamese food is restricted to a much smaller audience, usually chowhounders or Pakistani/Vietnamese immigrants and their descendants, so his claim that you're more likely to get a better or more authentic meal at a Pakistani or Vietnamese restaurant does have some recognizable merit to it.
I didn't agree with all his rules but I could see why he made some of them.
If you were interested in this article you might be interested in the author's blog, marginalrevolution.com. He's actually an economist, and the blog tends to focus on economics, but he discusses food now and again. The comments tend to be quite good, too (although the whole thing is a little too conservative for me to wholeheartedly endorse).