Harvey Levenstein, in his review of Turning the Tables, maintains that Haley ignores the effects of Prohibition (1919-1933) on restaurant culture in America. While I understand that Haley’s book does not focus on the Prohibition era, I thought it might be interesting to present an interpretation of the effect of Prohibition on American restaurants. The three links below are from the well-known (and somewhat iconoclastic) Freakonomics blog and stem from a new work by economist Tyler Cowan. Essentially, Cowan argues that more “basic” fare in American restaurants became an economic necessity when Prohibition went into effect and restaurants lost the profits they garnered from the sale of alcohol. Those profits, Cowan maintains, essentially subsidized the more expensive, better quality food served in restaurants.
Cowan also makes some interesting points about the impact of immigration restriction on the quality of American food.
On an unrelated note, I wonder what Haley would say about ethnic restaurants that currently list their food in its “native” language, and then offer an English translation below (or, those that offer no translation at all).