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?