Economic explanations can be like trying to explain why a joke is funny: it takes a long time, and by the end it’s not funny any more. Our explanations can also be like dissecting a frog: it’s weird, and anyway the frog is dead. You get the picture — we can be a dismal science. The aim of our class potluck is to keep our topic fun and alive, poking at dinner just enough to get a clearer picture of what we want when we choose what to eat.

As you can tell from past blog posts, we have prizes for the dishes that contribute most deliciously to a healthy diet while also being either: (1) least cost, (2) most convenient, (2) most environment-friendly, or (3) most culturally significant. Friedman students love their food, so it’s fun:

Diane took this picture, standing on a chair — I’m lost in the far back left

This year I introduced a surprise new award. I do some actual research on contest design, which teaches us that unanticipated prizes can be especially helpful to recognize and reward things people do for their own reasons. When we introduce new incentives, it’s important not to lose sight of those intrinsic motivations.

The new award this year was for dishes that are most ethical regarding workers in the food system. That’s a top goal for many eaters but it’s so difficult to tell how workers are treated. The prize, a hoodie celebrating the milk with dignity campaign, went to Julia Ryan for honoring the humble but powerful potato on which her Irish ancestors relied.

Before we eat, students explain a bit about what they brought and our faculty judges take careful notes.

A favorite awards category is the most significant, won this year by the poly-cultural Christl Li with a dish she learned from a Ghanaian housemate. And like last year, this year’s potluck featured new recipes — here is the winning entry for a delicious & healthy but also very low-cost item, from our sprouting champion Kelly Cara:

In the end… leftovers!

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