How a country's prestige affects prices
People prefer focaccia over tortillas, says Krishnendu Ray, because Italy is wealthier and more powerful than Mexico. Italians living abroad also share their country's economic and political prestige, which drives up the price of Italian food. Likewise, Japanese food is seen throughout the world as relatively expensive and sophisticated, whereas people still associate Chinese food with inexpensive dishes served at small shops. Here, it's not the country's economic standing that counts so much as its cultural prestige. Or at least how other countries perceive that prestige.
How a chef's ethnic origins affect prices
In the 1980s, Rick Bayless popularised a number of Mexican dishes in the United States. The Oklahoma-born chef has come to be seen, thanks to his cookbooks and restaurants, as an expert in high-end Mexican cuisine. But Ray believes many immigrant chefs are often confined to cooking only dishes that are 'native' to their home country.
How immigrants' success affects prices
The history of Italian cuisine in America is a prime example. Most people who emigrated from southern Italy between 1880 and 1924 were poor and were given derogatory nicknames such as 'garlic eaters'. But as their descendants began leaving the ghettos and moving up in society, Americans started to take a more favourable view of Italian cooking.
When foreign dishes become nationalised
Few today remember the German origins of American food. And yet, American culture was shaped in large part by its first German immigrants. German cuisine is now considered American, just like the descendants of those immigrants.
Advice from the author: "If you pay attention to any culture, you will find beautiful things in it, things to value, things to respect, things that are prestigious."