Monday, August 9, 2010

The Art of Eating In

So, remember that book I said I couldn't wait to review and discuss? Well, it's finally here! The Art of Eating In is a kind-of-ah-mazing mini memoir that chronicles Brooklynite Cathy Erway's 2 years of not eating out in NYC. Yes, TWO YEARS! I had heard about Miss Erway months ago, as her name and book came up in a few of my magazines. I'd always torn out the pages to remind myself to read it, but with the move and all, it just slipped my mind. Enter: my NYPL membership.

I absolutely ADORE the New York Public Library and can't believe it's taken me this long to get on the library bandwagon. So long are the days of card catalogs and making multiple trips to various branches (although, admittedly, this can be fun, too). You can now search and reserve any book/dvd/cd/whatever you want online and have it sent to your local branch (which, conveniently for me, is on my block). I've been on a library spree since joining, and when The Art of Eating In came in, I immediately picked it up and took it with me to the beach last weekend.

I pretty much read the entire book that day. I remember my friend Steph looking over at me a couple of hours into our beach loungin' and being surprised at how far I had gotten. First, I'm a fast reader. Second, when I like a book, I LIKE a book. I couldn't stop reading and the only thing that forced me away that afternoon was the siren call of the chilly-but-refreshing waves. When I got home, I picked the book up once again and finished it. And now, I'm reading it a 2nd time...

The Art of Eating In, like many nonfiction books these days, began as a blog. Not Eating Out In New York is an immensely popular blog still maintained by Cathy and still fabulous. The book, however, is not merely a regurgitation of the blog, but a story that includes not just food and cooking, but tales of romance, friendship, family and Brooklyn. (Oh Brooklyn... I realize Brooklyn has become very much romanticized over the past few years, but I'm, like, in love. I can't wait to explore more of it and already have a dinner date in Williamsburg scheduled for next week.)

Cathy makes a number of valid points in her book, one of which really hit home for me. She explores how much waste is created by takeout in this city, and she couldn't be more right. Anytime I order takeout, I'm appalled by how much trash I create. From the plastic bag AND paper bags holding the containers of food, the containers themselves, the plasticware, the napkins, the excessive sauce packets... it's no wonder our kitchen trash fills up on a daily basis. Even though I try and request NO plasticware, 1 or 2 sets always finds their way in my multiple bags. It kills me. At one point in the book, Cathy decides to compare how much waste is created between ordering in and cooking at home. The dish of choice is chicken with broccoli, and the results are astounding.

{photo credit:}

The book also made me examine the whole "ordering in" thang that is so prevalent here (and admittedly, so appealing... at least, at first). You know I kind of died when I realized I could order whatever kind of food I wanted (online, no less!) and have it delivered to my front door. But then I got to thinking... how good is the food I've ordered in? Some of it has been great and has certainly hit the spot (great Thai food, excellent NY-style pizza). But quite frankly, most of it has been disappointing in some aspect or another. Furthermore, I realized that even though the food was relatively cheap, it probably wasn't made with the best ingredients nor was it particularly healthy. And, most importantly, I could probably make it and make it better. So why did I keep doing it? The novelty has worn off, and honestly, I'm sick of eating food prepared by someone else. And I am SO excited to get back in the kitchen.

Another aspect of the book I loved was the emphasis on the social nature of food. "I don't think there's anything more I could have wished for on that night. I had everything that I loved about life: good people (and not too many of them) and really good food (too much of it, but that was okay." I couldn't agree more. Some of my warmest and fuzziest moments from college and law school involve dinner parties, not going out to eat, but a group of us cramped around a too-small table, eating delicious homemade food and genuinely enjoying each other's company. Those were the best times.

Naturally, after finishing this delightful book, I immediately wanted to: (1) cook my heart out; and (2) throw a dinner party. #1 has been well underway, what with my kitchen clean-out and reorg. and my purchase of essential kitchenware. As for #2, it gets un peu trickier, as we don't really have a dining table, and let's be honest, I'm not keen on entertaining here. It's tres devastating, as I adore nothing more than cooking and entertaining for dear friends, but luckily, my friend (and fellow foodie) Stephanie has a fabulous apartment all to herself AND a wonderful outdoor patio (she's the one who threw me a dinner party on my first night in the city - love!). We immediately scheduled an intimate patio dinner party for next week, and guess who's in charge of the entree? Oui, c'est moi!

Cooking for friends who are not vegetarian (let alone vegan) presents a bit of a challenge. I knew my dish probably wouldn't be vegan, but I really REALLY don't feel comfortable cooking meat (let alone eating it). After scouring my fave food blogs, I stumbled across this tasty looking Spanish Tortilla with Kale and knew I had to try it. Simple but tasty ingredients make the best dishes, and Erin's recipes never fail. Still, I felt bad about using eggs... after all, Jonathan Safran Foer makes it a point to state in Eating Animals that eggs are probably the worst animal products to buy in terms of animal cruelty. But hey, I'm living in NYC now! Surely I can find eggs that come from a humane farm in which the hens live happy, pleasant, grassy lives. I found a number of suppliers at the Union Square Greenmarket and plan to do some research on the farms before buying any eggs. (Note: I realize there are still issues w/ buying these kinds of eggs, but I don't want to get into it here. I also realize I could prepare a vegan dish, but I'm not going to get into that here either. Sorry if that offends you...)

{image credit:}

So, if you enjoy food and cooking, then I highly suggest you read The Art of Eating In. I fell back in love with food and cooking and fell super hard for Cathy. Her fun, quirky personality is most appealing, and let's be honest, she's just adorable (half and half... always beautiful!). I've already ordered my own copy from Amazon (used for only $5!), as I know I'll be re-reading it frequently and trying out some of the recipes (yes, there are recipes in the book!). Don't you just love a good book? Especially one about FOOD?? Check it out, and let me know what you think!

(Note: I originally wrote this post on Saturday. On Sunday, I woke up with a massive sore throat and an ache-y body - no bueno. I immediately declared it a sick-bed-feel-sorry-for-myself-day and spent the first half of the day dozing in and out of sleep and swallowing painfully. Finally I got up and downed several cups of water and coconut water (the only liquids I had in the house) and realized around 5 p.m. that I was starving. Wanting soft comfort foods (think: mashed potatoes), I hopped onto seamlessweb and surfed for literally an hour trying to find something that sounded remotely appetizing. I finally settled on a comfort food/bbq joint from where I ordered a selection of sides and banana pudding. Ugh - this little experiment only further proved my point that restaurant food is rarely, if ever, better than home-cooked. This place was pricier than normal and had received rave reviews so I had high(er) hopes, but the sides were overly salted, heavy, and left me with a bad feeling in my tummy. The banana pudding, luckily, wasn't bad and soothed my throat. But it doesn't matter - I am so not ordering in again for a very. long. time. And I plan to whip myself up a comforting bowl of polenta later.)

(Oh and also? I requested no plasticware, but nonetheless found not one, not two, but three sets of plasticware in my bag. *shakes fist in air* Why?!)


Ellecubed said...

I absolutely adore your review of this book. I have been meaning to pick it up for awhile and now I am definitely going to.

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

OMG I remember reading this blog when I lived in Brooklyn - I can't quite remember why I stopped reading it, but I suspect it may have been lost when I was still bookmarking blogs (pre-Google Reader) and my computer died. That is a wonderful review of the book. So glad it inspired you to cook again :) {you know my bias on how much I enjoy cooking at home, even when it does feel like a chore}

Collins said...

Wow....this is my biggest issue with sticking to my budget. I am definitely going to get this book. Thanks for sharing!