Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Not To Read While On Jury Duty

I took Cathy Erway’s book, the art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, with me when I reported for jury duty and I read it for almost two hours before anyone’s name was even called for a jury panel. I never imagined that my wish to get in more reading time would be granted in this manner.

Erway starts off her book by recounting a tale of a friend, Ari, who was looking for an apartment in New York.
One place had no kitchen and when Ari asked about it, the realtor said “This is New York – everyone eats out!” (1)
Erway’s book is based on her blog Not Eating Out In New York. She starts her experiment with one cookbook and a passion for cooking and dabbles with bread in the beginning; her Peppercorn, Potato and Parmesan No-Knead Bread ends up in a tie for best overall bread at The Brooklyn Kitchen’s “No-Knead Bread-Off.”

In the chapter “Getting Dirty: Trash Diving, Freegans, and Frugalistas,” Erway dumpster dives for, in most cases, perfectly good food that gets thrown away. Janet Kalish, an organizer of such freegan outings, points out to a French reporter that bread is one of the most wasted foods in New York:

“I’m sure you know that in Paris, if you go to a bakery toward the end of the night you’re picking through the last crumbs left on the shelf, maybe a croissant here, one last roll there.” The reporter nodded and scribbled. “But here the attitude is to always have fully stocked shelves.” (81)
Erway also realizes that in the process of eating in, she reduced her “garbage footprint.” (116)

Regarding garbage, Erway notes that:
China produces 45 billion pairs of chopsticks each year, which accounts for an annual loss of roughly 25 million trees and a deforestation crisis that in 2006 prompted the Chinese government to place a 5 percent tax on disposable chopsticks, in the hopes that businesses would begin using and reusing washable chopsticks instead. And yet, most still haven’t. (128)
An adventurous eater, Erway consumes dried cricket snacks and tripe along the way and she also attends a pig butchering class. Speaking of tripe, I didn’t realize that a cow had seven stomachs. Learn something new every day, hunh? Erway mentions how many Americans have a disconnect when it comes to the neatly wrapped meat they purchase and the animal that it originated from.

I’ve found that many people are horrified or offended by the sight of raw meat with telltale signs of the animal it came from, such as a quail with its feet still attached that I once cooked for friends, or a whole fish cooked and served with its head still intact. (222)
I completely related to Erway when she is baffled by her mother’s invitation to a restaurant. Her mother is annoyed and thinks that her daughter has become too invested in her project:

I could…meet up with them at the restaurant, sit and talk, but not eat? (258)
Erway decides to eat with her mom and uncle and I love it when she describes her meal and a favorite of her mom’s:

I spooned a knife-scored piece of squid into my mother’s rice bowl since I knew it was her favorite. (261)
After two years of not eating out, the author decides to have an opposite week and eat out for every single meal. She also decides to weigh herself before and after opposite week but, as she noted in the book, she is one of the lucky ones whose weight pretty much stays constant no matter what she’s eating.

I like that Erway found common ground with her dad through cooking. She wins third place out of five in a Chili Takedown competition with a recipe called “If I Had A Pepper.” In the book, she shares a recipe similar to the “If I…” one called “Four-Pepper Pulled-Pork Chili,” a recipe that her father tries to emulate.

Erway’s mother tells her:

“It’s like he never knew you before or something,” she said, after telling me that my dad had reported having a good time that day. She’d been slightly surprised by this. (309)
Earlier in the book, Erway says that her parents were skilled at finding superior Chinese restaurants and the experience was better if more people came along since there was more to sample.

According to my father, it’s completely not worth it to have dim sum with two people…(14)
Even earlier in the book, Erway talks about the evolution of eating out.

If national trends continue at the same rate, eating out will soon eclipse the home-cooked meal altogether. Eating out is also a habit that gets passed on to subsequent generations, something of a dominant gene. (7)
When the author’s parents were growing up, she was surprised to discover that they ate out but, as her parents informed her, eating out was a special occasion.

I decided that I liked that way of treating a restaurant meal: as something special. A special occasion, or a special dish you couldn’t easily make at home. (268)

Is there a special dish that you go to a restaurant for? A particular food that you enjoy sharing with someone? Some food that you won't share? Got a stash?

Have you gotten closer to someone as a result of your fitness journey?


One of Erway's former boyfriends gets annoyed with her 1:00 a.m. blogging habit. Anyone get irritated with you for blogging?


  1. At one point we used to eat out at least 4 nights of the week. Sometimes a sub sandwich restaurant, sometimes a chain like Chilis, and often a nice restaurant (not coincidentally I attribute a lot of my excess weight to that era). The habit of eating out gradually changed as I tried to lose weight—it's difficult to find a reasonable meal in a restaurant, and when you pare it down to healthy, nutritious items, you can make it at home just as easily! Two other factors contributed to the infrequency of restaurants meals: we moved to a neighborhood where the nearest ANYthing is four miles away - it's too much trouble to go out. And our income dropped significantly; we just can't afford restaurants anymore.

    I've gotten used to preparing my own food, and I don't miss the restaurants. We still enjoy going out to a nice restaurant for special occasions, and a casual, inexpensive place with our friends after work, but it's not nearly such a large part of our meal repertoire anymore.

  2. My hubby gets annoyed with me for blogging all. The. Time. Annoying! :) I honestly don't spend an exorbitant amount of time doing it, so I'm just not sure what's to complain about!

    When I go for Indian, I always get khorma. Always!

  3. @gingersnapper,

    I so feel you on the unreasonableness of restaurant fare. I have two upcoming restaurant outings at work and I've already done reconnaissance. What's up with the 58 grams of fat and 1,000 plus mg of sodium in one meal? That's just evil.

    I'm so glad that I saw the light and eat at home most of the time...

    @Nicole, RD,

    Re: annoying others while blogging, I had to ask myself if I was neglecting my crew but I've always written in journals; it's just a different medium now. So, either way, I would make time to journal...

    :o, I've never had khorma before.

  4. I think I would enjoy this book a lot! Sounds very interesting. We go out to eat for our anniversary and that's basically it. I got to the point where I like the way home cooked food tastes and restaurant food just tastes bad to me. (Not that I'm a great cook!)

    As far as blogging goes - no one complains and I'm not asking!

  5. Diane,

    I remember the first time that I cooked vegetarian chili at home; I couldn't believe how clean it tasted...

    Re: blogging complaints, you're probably better off not asking. ;)

  6. I am going to have to pick this up. I have gone from eating out 75% of my meals to eating out 10% of my meals in two years.

  7. Fattie Fatterton,

    That's a great percentage...