Sunday, April 19, 2009

Competition Breeds Competence: Good Grub and The Spirit of Capitalism; Why NY Food is So Good

New Yorkers are, and always have been, more demanding than any other Americans when it comes to what they eat.


New Yorkers tend to order food as if they are spoiled children dining in their mothers' kitchens. They demand excellent service, which includes accommodation for their idiosyncrasies (that pickle on the separate plate). If they do not get what they want, they howl, return food, do not return to the restaurant, and verbally torch the place. If you open a restaurant in New York, you had better be good, or you will soon be gone.

If you are going to start a restaurant in Manhattan, you had better have something extraordinary in mind: Food of a kind not available elsewhere, or done better than anyone else is currently doing it. I don't know if Thurman Arnold or Joseph Schumpeter or any of the other theorists of the inner mechanics of capitalism have hitherto spoken of it, but there is, in capitalism, operating at a sufficiently intense level, a spirit of competition that can bring out the best in everyone, at least in those realms where you cannot fake it. Something similar operates in professional sports -- the Major Leagues, the NBA and the NFL. Room exists only for the best. What is operating here is the reverse of Gresham's Law, with the good driving out the bad, and in the gastronomic realm the result is splendid food.

~Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street Journal


14 Comments:

At 4/19/2009 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if you want a good cheap chicken salad sandwich without a lot of angst? Where you can eat it and read the paper, the ENTIRE paper with eating a load of crap.

Any small town, main street, diner will beat New York every time, and do so with courtesy.

RH

 
At 4/19/2009 9:38 PM, Blogger Bobby said...

The best might rise to the top in the NFL, but is it really capitalism at work? I might be far afield (no pun intended), but with the draft, the NFL is not really a free market system.

 
At 4/19/2009 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Bostonian who use to go to NYC often, I can attest to the premise of the article. If a place didn't offer good food cheaply, then they wouldn't last long. Of course there are rude people there but there are rude people everywhere. There is no doubt that there aren't many people hanging around reading the entire paper (except in Starbucks)but you are in NYC. Why would you want to waste your time inside reading a paper with so much waiting for you?

 
At 4/19/2009 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out here in mountain country it takes three squirrels to make a meal.
No tipping required.

 
At 4/20/2009 12:08 AM, Blogger like such as said...

Bobby, good point.

The major sports leagues are often called "capitalistic" but that is far from the truth. Even the Yankees, who "buy their championships," have to deal with revenue sharing, and have the benefits of excluding new competition etc. That's not even to mention the salary caps in the NBA and NFL.

 
At 4/20/2009 5:45 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"Any small town, main street, diner will beat New York every time, and do so with courtesy"...

Absolutely!

"but with the draft, the NFL is not really a free market system"...

What?!?!

Didn't you ever play sports?

 
At 4/20/2009 8:18 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Louis C.K. has voiced similiar theories about why the comedy scene in Boston is so good:

"In Boston, you can get your ass kicked. It's just different there. People will not only boo, they'll wait for you after the show and want to beat the shit out of you. Comedians get beat up all the time in Boston."

 
At 4/20/2009 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NFL is subsidized by the outlandish fees you pay for cable or satellite TV.

 
At 4/20/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"The NFL is subsidized by the outlandish fees you pay for cable or satellite TV"...

LOL!

Is someone holding a gun to the heads of cable subscribers making them take cable or die?!?!

ROFLMAO!

 
At 4/20/2009 3:32 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

RH - Only if you are lucky my man. I live in a small town with about 7 restaurants and they are all crap. Every "diner" is overpriced and serves stuff that wouldn't even pass for a Hungry Man microwavable meal. All the owners are lazy and content. I keep praying for at least some good fast food to come to town.

 
At 4/20/2009 5:32 PM, Blogger QT said...

Extreme,

Look on the bright side. Restaurant food is generally higher in saturated fat, calories and salt.

Chances are that you can still see your toes when you look down and your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. is far lower than the average NYr. Your health is much more valuable than a lifetime of high fat meals.

Just finished making a fantastic Thai mango salad that was better than anything I could get at a local restaurant. Preparing it took 15 minutes and the cost was far less than one would pay at a restaurant for a salad that was cut up hours ago could be easily mistaken for compost offerings.

There are lots of cookbooks that offer fast, easy, recipes. We've come a long way since Julia Child.

 
At 4/20/2009 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hobo: sounds like a bizopp to me.

There are also seven in my town, McDonalds, Italian Pizza and Subs (Not too bad on a good day, but inconsistent) a chain gourmet hamburger (Buy one, eat for a week), a greasy spoon that is utterly disgusting, One very nice local family style restaurant with a liquor license (good food, reasonable portions, acceptable prices, friendly, newspapers at breakfast and Karaoke on Sat night), the diner at the livestock exchange (pretty good food if you don't mind the ambience of manure, also has hysterically funny local entertainment, of the Darryl, Darryl and Darryl sort), and one very fine French restaurant for the horsey set( All a la carte, figure on spending more than $100, each).

Now, if we just had a hardware store.........

QT is right, stopped in at the Indian spice market, and walked away empty handed because it was just overwhelming.

Then there is also a specialty fish market in town offering what is actually pretty fresh fish from around the world. Being a translanted New Englander, it is a mecca for me.

I try not to think about the CO2 cost in airfare, but I rationalize it figuring it can't be much worse than the weekend I spend on he tractor to buy it.

You have to be philosophical about this. There are times I come in off the tractor and I'm too tired to eat, let alone fix. The town house will accept me as I am---they understand.

I've had good dinners in New York, even excellent, but all things considered I'm not quite so enamored as the good doctor. I'll take a fireman's oyster roast in the North Carolina lowlands, or a church supper in Louisiana any day.

Travel tip: check out the local bulletin boards. You go to a church supper as a stranger, tell a few stories, and you can leave with food for a week.

Hydra

 
At 4/21/2009 9:09 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

Yeah I either A) cook my own food or B) get food outside of the county. I work in Shortpump, VA and good food is quite easy to come by here :)

If I was to chose a good food city, I would choose either Las Vegas or New Orleans. I went to New Orleans a few months ago and the food was unbelievably good. Oh and if I want some good Pizza, the boardwalk of Atlantic City. Talk about Pizza competition moving up the standards of quality, i think there is a pizza shop every 10 yards on that boardwalk.

 
At 4/21/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"Look on the bright side. Restaurant food is generally higher in saturated fat, calories and salt"...

It also tastes better too qt...

"We've come a long way since Julia Child"...

Downhill all the way too...

 

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