Tyler Cowen on the “But We Just Had Indian Food” Argument

Tyler Cowen, an economics blogger I enjoy reading and the author of An Economist Gets Lunch, has a post this morning about how he doesn’t understand the following argument when people are trying to decide where to eat: “But we just had Indian food yesterday!”

How should people cope who live in India? They have Indian food many, many days in a row, and often (not always, by any means) poorer Indians are choosing from a less varied menu of that food than Americans who visit Indian restaurants. Would it be so terrible to eat only Indian food, whether at home or in restaurants, every day for a week?

Well, of course it would not be so terrible! It’s just that we have so many options when it comes to what is available for us to eat that it’s not so surprising that we’d want to mix it up — to try Korean food for the first time, or Vietnamese noodle soup, or Turkish kebabs, etc. I didn’t eat a falafel until I was 24.

I made this argument the other week when a friend and I were deciding where to order takeout and she gave me a list of options in the neighborhood: “I made chicken mole last night, so I’m up for anything except Mexican food,” I said.

My friend, who is from Texas, said, “Oh, you know me, I can eat Mexican food every night if I wanted, but let’s get something else then.”

The New York Times profile of Daniel Radcliffe revealed that the actor subsists on a diet of mostly pizza and cheeseburgers. My mother’s diet consists mostly of fish — baked or stewed or fried — with a side of greens or rice. The great thing about having options is that you can choose one option over and over again if you want. And if you’re in the mood to try something new, “But we just had [x] yesterday!” is a pretty solid argument for convincing your dining buddy to go somewhere else.

Photo: Patty Ho

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