Based on a highly popular New York blog, Brooklyner Cathy Erway went two years without eating out in restaurants in one of the biggest and most culinary metropolitan cities in the nation. How? She made copy-cat meals of restaurant favorites at home, learned how to forage for food and entertain friends with dinner parties during her quest to forgo convenience for quality.
I connected very strongly with this book right from the start. Cathy is a wonderful narrator. She is quirky, introspective, and her social commentaries throughout the book definitely provide some good food for thought. My biggest compliment to her writing is that she is not preachy. Let me say that again, but in all caps: SHE IS NOT PREACHY. I have read, or tried to read, far to many books about cooking and healthy eating that have just been riddled with judgement and a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and that is a major turn-off. That was my biggest qualm about Animal, Miracle, Vegetable by Barbara Kingsolver. I think I got through 2 chapters before I gave up on the entire concept.
The Art of Eating In is in a way, what I expected Animal, Miracle, Vegetable to be. After reading through her blog, Cathy’s book is not a retelling of her posts from the past 4 years. She provides a lot of unique insights and knowledge into food culture in America. She is incredibly well read, citing a number of books, writers, columnists, journalists etc, throughout the book. Each chapter has a different focus, a different anecdote and ends with two or three recipes that were discussed in that same chapter. The subtitle of this book, however is a lie. For one thing, Cathy did not learn to love the stove. She began the book with a healthy background of home cooked meals and eating-in. Although a switch from eating out to cooking in can be extreme, Cathy had an advantage because she already possessed considerable cooking skills from the start.
Since this book and the blog is written by a 20-something year old in New York, that should be definitely taken into consideration when picking up this book. She leads a single lifestyle through most of the book and a scheduling flexibility of 10pm dinners that parents do not have. She also lives in a major metropolitan city where pretty much everything you want to do or try is available at all hours of the day.
The way the book is written reminds of French Women Never Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. It has the same mix of memoir/biography/recipe/cookbook with a unique spin on youthful urban society.
Being in my 20s and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m lucky enough to have just many foodie resources as Cathy to explore at my own pace. Food being my third favorite hobby (right after reading and knitting) I found her challenge to be interesting. Although I don’t experiment with or cook as much as I want to, I definitely don’t eat-out frequently for a challenge like this to make much of an impact on either my wallet or my waistline. I’ve stopped eating at national chain restaurants for well over a year (except the occasional Panda Express and McDonald’s cravings) and now look for places with intriguing and unique menu items — Lobster corn dogs as one example.
This is by far my favorite non-fiction book read of 2010 and I’m really glad I stumbled upon it.The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway Gotham Books, 2010 ISBN 9781592405251 320 pages