Eat More Better: The economics of enjoyable eating

by October 31, 2014

Eat More BetterDan Pashman loves to talk about food. He loves to eat worthy food, too.  His podcast, The Sporkful, declares, “It’s not for foodies. It’s for eaters.”

Pashman has talked about everything from modern bagels to hot sauce to whether whoopie pies are pies (a show last summer that just happened to feature me). Now, Pashman has boiled (sorry) all his food philosophy down into a primer called Eat More Better: How To Make Every Bite More Delicious.

The book is hysterically funny but it also has a significant economic message. Eat More Better explains that eating well is the best possible use of your food dollars – what Pashman calls the “eatconomy.”  Junk food, conversely, is a waste of your money.

Dan and I chatted by email about the economic lessons of Eat More Better.

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1) You say, “A bite is a precious resource. It pains me to think of all the thought-less eating that takes place across the world each day.” Tell us why it matters so much to you that people eat wisely.

I just think that eating is one of the great simple pleasures of life. A good meal is such an easy way to brighten an otherwise dreary day. And “good meal” doesn’t have to mean fancy or expensive or elaborate. It’s just one in which you maximize deliciousness. I want to encourage people to think a bit more about each bite they take and try to help them to make each one a bit better. Even if you’re starting with the lamest cubicle lunch imaginable, there’s always a way to make it a little better.
2) You’ve done an enormous amount of analysis in this book, from slicing bread properly to properly assembling S’mores to the proper lining of greens on a sandwich. Does this stuff keep you awake at night?

It’s definitely something I think about a lot. I’ve always put a lot of thought into the eating experience. Friends who’ve known me for a long time, who long ago got tired of hearing me rail on about proper sandwich construction, can’t believe I’ve actually parlayed my strange theories into a job.

3) There’s a whole chapter, in fact, called Business and Economics: Profit for the Palate. Which turns out to be all about money and food. What are some of the most outrageous ways that food proprietors get people to waste money?

I talk at length in the book about the economics of the all-you-can-eat buffet and the Eater’s business adversary in this situation: the Buffet Master. The Buffet Master stocks the early part of the buffet with cheap filler like starch and salad, in the hope that you’ll fill your plate before you make it to the meat carving station. I also rail against beer companies that use ridiculous marketing gimmicks and compare the paleo diet to a Ponzi scheme. People aren’t rational actors. We eat things we don’t really want to eat, we spend money on the wrong foods for the wrong reasons. But by thinking more carefully about eat bite, we can take advantage of inefficiencies in the eatconomy.

 4) We have to ask you about the Vending Machine Decision Tree. 

It’s funny, you never know what will connect with people. That was something I threw in the book on a whim, and people just love it. I guess we all know the feeling of stumbling to the office vending machine at 3 or 4 in the afternoon when we’re feeling tired and a little strung out. Sometimes you end up in front of the vending machine without really knowing how you got there. Sometimes you’re not even cognizant of what you’re doing until you’re back at your desk and halfway through a bag of Peanut M&Ms. I hope the decision tree helps people end up with the right snack for their time and place.

5) But that brings up a point. Are we overthinking here, just a tad? Can’t I just rip open a bag of  Wasabi Ginger Lays and call it a night? Does it have to be so complicated?

I don’t think maximizing deliciousness is complicated. I think it’s fun. I enjoy trying to make every meal as delicious as possible, no matter how modest the culinary building blocks. And once that becomes a habit, it’s not even something you think about. You just walk around that much happier all the time.

6) Business involves a lot of event planning, and you have some tips for making a party a success. Can these safely happen in a professional setting?
Absolutely. First of all, course pacing and blood flow are key for any event. You don’t want people to get too full or sit for too long, or else party energy sags. I also think my section on Buzz Management would be very helpful for anyone at risk of drinking too much at an office Christmas party. Finally, I think the cocktail hour strategies in the book are especially useful for more casual business events, which may not include a sit down dinner.

7) As the Dean of Sporkful University, what can our #MoneyNerds do to make sure they graduate?

 The key is to keep striving for the Platonic ideal I call Perfect Deliciousness. Question underlying assumptions. Take risks. To put it in start-up terms, don’t be afraid to pivot, even mid-sandwich. As long as you’re doing that, you’ll graduate with honors.
Okay, #moneynerds, mangez encore mieux!

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