Forget the Big Mac Index, check out the Quesadilla Index!

I just finished a tremendously funny book called Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos. The English translation by Rosalind Harvey is excellent, but the book was so good that I’m going to buy the Spanish version and read it next.


One of the best parts of the book was the way in which the narrator used the quality of his family’s quesadillas to the Mexican national economy.  Here is a great quote from p. 9 of the paperback edition:

“We entered a phase of quesadilla rationing that led to the political radicalisation of every member of my family. We were all well aware of the roller coaster that was the national economy due to the fluctuating thickness of the quesadillas my mother served at home. We’d even invented categories – inflationary quesadillas, normal quesadillas, devaluation quesadillas and poor man’s quesadillas – listed in order of greatest affluence to greatest parsimony.

The inflationary quesadillas were thick in order to use up the cheese that my mother had bought in a state of panic at the announcement of a new rise in the price of food and the genuine risk that her supermarket bill would go from billions to trillions of pesos. The normal quesadillas were the ones we would have eaten every day if we lived in a normal country – but if we had been living in a normal country we wouldn’t have been eating quesadillas and so we also called them impossible quesadillas.

Devaluation quesadillas became less substantial for psychological rather than economic reasons – they were the quesadillas of chronic national depression – and were the most common in my parents’ house. Finally you had the poor man’s quesadillas, in which the presence of cheese was literary: you opened one up and instead of adding melted cheese my mother had written the word ‘cheese’ on the surface of the tortilla. We were yet to experience the horror of a total absence of quesadillas.

I think I’m going to start using this novel in my Mexican Economic Development class!