The Art of Eating In

by Rachel on April 12, 2010

I had been dying to read The Art of Eating In since I heard about it a couple months ago, and it seemed like the perfect way to spend my Easter money. It’s based on the blog Not Eating Out in New York by a twentysomething New Yorker named Cathy Erway who decided to give up eating in restaurants and blog about it — and she did it for two years.

That’s a pretty long time in general, but in New York — where many apartments don’t even have working stoves and there’s a new restaurant opening every week — that’s pretty impressive.

I wish I had followed her blog while I lived there, because the thing is, Cathy is a total foodie. I think her love of food would have really inspired me to take advantage of the city’s rich food scene, which I didn’t do very often.

I wish I had been clued into the experience of an NYC foodie who didn’t eat out. This book really shows that there’s more to loving food than eating in restaurants.

But what’s also cool is that this book is a total book, not a blog. It’s really a memoir of this time in her life in NYC, when she was around my age. It’s so about being in your twenties; when she describes the all-night dance-and-drink party she and her friends have at her apartment after lamenting being so cool yet still so singe, I couldn’t not relate. I love that the story of her food experiment is just a part of the bigger story of finding the right career, dating, breaking up, getting hangovers…a story we can all relate to. And by not dining out, she explores new social activities with her friends, like picnics and dinner parties.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that each chapter ended with two recipes. I guess this seems obvious, but I loved it, because the things she cooks and describes are absolutely drool-inducing.

The other thing I like about Cathy is that she’s so about good food karma. She does an experiment in the book when she realizes that eating at home means way more dishes, but way less trash. She weighs the trash that comes with a takeout meal and compares it to the trash she produces when it comes to preparing the same meal at home; the takeout meal produces a ridiculous amount of waste. It makes you consider the wooden chopsticks, stack of napkins, and individual packets of sauce that you get (and toss) with every meal. She also comes to the realization that the money she saves not eating out is money that can be spent to get better ingredients, sustainable meat, and to try cool or exotic things.

Now, I always cook at home, for many of the reasons Cathy does. But if you still don’t brown-bag your lunch or you get restaurant food most nights of this week, I am sure this book will inspire you to get to know your stove. (On her blog each month she lists a reason for not eating out; check those out if you still don’t believe me that it’s worth it. I love the food porn of #30: This Is Why You’re Not Fat.)

I found The Art of Eating In so inspiring and I do cook. What really clicked for me is that Cathy rarely uses recipes or cookbooks. I’m a good cook but I’m not a chef. Well, sometimes, I can be, but in the past year, cooking at home has gone hand in hand with reading tons of cookbooks. She made me want to see what I could come up with based on the cravings I have each day. I also loved that many of her recipes came from friends, and, quite often, friends’ mothers and grandmothers.

I spent the entire day reading it Saturday because I was just so into her journey, and then, naturally, I wanted to go to the grocery store. I didn’t consult recipes; I consulted my cravings and planned my recipes based on that. Saturday night I was craving tofu and green beans, and because Cathy is half-Chinese, I was so into all her impromptu Chinese dinners. I really wanted to buy peanut oil. Peanut oil is like $7 a bottle so I keep putting off buying it, but then I considered that I can’t get lunch at Panera for $7 and the peanut oil ends up costing only 11 cents a serving.

So my first meal was tofu and green beans (plus mushrooms, carrots, ginger, and garlic) sauteed in coconut oil and served over noodles tossed with cilantro and peanut oil.

Such a win! I loved every bite and even though I cook all the time, I still got that feeling of pride when it was done.

I definitely recommend this book as both a great read (it made me miss NYC so much!) and an inspiration to get in your kitchen more. She didn’t eat out for two years. Do you think you could do it for a month?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lia April 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

Rachel I loved this post! I would love to read this book. I think I could eat in for a month, but it would be really, really hard.
.-= Lia´s last blog ..Home Food =-.

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2 Allison (Eat Clean Live Green) April 12, 2010 at 10:18 am

I’ll have to check out this book – it sounds great!

I don’t think I could even do a month – what did she do about work/family dinners when they wanted to eat out?

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3 Melissa (It's a Veggieful Life) April 12, 2010 at 10:31 am

Great review! I have this book on hold at the library. This makes me want it even more now!
.-= Melissa (It’s a Veggieful Life)´s last blog ..Fat Flush Fruit Smoothies =-.

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4 melissa April 12, 2010 at 10:32 am

gorgeous photos. I am very interested in the book!
.-= melissa´s last blog ..Nature Made Giveaway =-.

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5 Heather April 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

I’m pretty sure I could do it, because I rarely eat out as is. I have to bring everything to work (working at a gym, eating out is frowned upon as you can imagine), and the last time I went out to eat was when my parents were here. I do think a good challenge for me would be to actually COOK things, since right now all I do is cook chicken for the week and toss it on a salad to bring to work everyday. (exciting)

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6 Rachel April 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

@Allison — She does do work lunches/dinners when they arise, but there aren’t many. And the big focus was not eating out in NYC, so if she went home to see her family or on vacation she could. But if her fam came to NYC, they didn’t eat out.

@Melissa — You were one of the first people I thought of when I was reading it…I think you’d like it!

@Heather — You need to upgrade this whole chicken thing, dude. Spices, oils, a new meat…try, please?

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7 Lauren April 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

I’m totally putting this in my cart on amazon!!

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8 christine April 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

one year for new year’s I decided to stop eating out for an entire year. I made it! and I loved it. lost weight + saved money. no idea why I went back to eating out.

I haven’t eaten fast food in almost 6 years (in May).

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9 shelby @ eatdrinkrun April 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Ooh, I’ll have to read this! As someone who lives in NYC and *only* eats out once or twice a week, sometimes I feel like a freakshow compared to friends who use their ovens to store shoes.

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10 Jennifer Seamans April 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Living in (non-Buenos Aires) Argentina has totally put a damper on my eating-out habits. In California, it was a HUGE pleasure, mostly because there are so many different foods that it would cost me way more to master than to simply buy.

Here, the menus are virtually the same at every restaurant. (Ethnic food is Chinese or virtually non-existent). So how do they compete? They charge enough that they don’t really have to. With the exception of pizza, restaurant food is at least 3-4 times the price you’d pay at home. (My personal estimates are that in the US, it costs double, and less if you lack the expertise for ethnic food.) And most the dishes are pasta or breaded, fried meat, so…even if you account for mastering how to cook it, it’s still super expensive.

I eat out about once a week here, and it’s usually pizza or empanadas, often a social experience. We could eat at home, but I’d miss the local corner shop’s empanadas. However, after a month, I could probably replicate them, although the work involved is costly. (In California, I’d typically eat out 5-6 times per week, money permitting, half the time for social events, half the time for a special craving.)

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11 Katie April 13, 2010 at 10:07 am

This book needs to be on my list. I go out way too much on the weekends. I enjoy it but lately I’ve been freaking out about it, especially when the meal sucks. I just paid $15 for THAT??!

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12 Nicci@NiftyEats April 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I think eating in for two yrs would be hard for me. I;ve done a month though…not bad. I learned some new recipes and really daved money. My thing is friedns tend to get together and catch up…always over food too. lol I think I need to add thhis book to my reading list.

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