You know what time of the month it is? No? Reason for Not Eating Out rant time?… Well, that’s okay. I don’t even know when the correct time of the month to post one of these things is myself, and I think I may have skipped a month altogether sometime in the summer. But hey — that’s okay. Because I make up the rules. This is exactly what my Reason for Not Eating Out #14 is all about. In the eloquent words of our president, I’m the decision maker here. Moi! (Okay, maybe he didn’t say “moi.”)
I recently listened to a panel discussion called “This is DIY” hosted by the School of Visual Arts. The student moderators there characterized the principle of DIY as “empowerment through self-sufficiency” and “an effort to reclaim lives mediated through consumer goods,” among other descriptions. Though the panelists discussed more or less visual examples of DIY, I found myself nodding frequently — especially when Steve Englander, founder of ABC No Rio, brought up a point about amateurism vs. professionalism, and how the former often requires serious passion and time commitment outside of what one does for a living. But getting back to my main point, “being The Man,” making something truly tasty instead of eating out really began, for me, as a certain mode of taking control.
You see, my first two jobs after college were essentially those of an executive assistant — aka, a gopher to two older, richer, white men. I watered their plants. I opened their mail. I answered the phone saying their name followed by ‘s office. Thankfully I’ve nothing to do with this field any longer, but you can imagine the dementia that it must have caused. During that time, I desperately needed to rule some space that I could call my own. I needed to be The Man of something. Somewhere, somehow. Hence, I decided to cook everything I ate.
You don’t need me to tell you that living in New York can sometimes make you feel like a card in some omniscient dealer’s hand. You get lost in the shuffle. And you end up in places or with people that you didn’t plan on or imagine you would have before. That can be great — sometimes. No doubt, eating out is a way of pampering ourselves, too, but for better or for worse we waive control of some aspect of our daily being every time we rely on a professional to cook our meals. We are guests every time we sit down in a restaurant. We cannot reach for anything ourselves without asking. And we hope that the person we’re asking is halfway competent in fulfilling our requests.
By sticking it to the restaurant industry, as it were, I’m sort of saying, my ravioli (or whatever) can be as good or better than yours. Is it frightfully haughty to say that any discerning foodie can be satisfied solely by his or her own home cooking? Maybe. But consider that this competition for your tastebuds is exactly what got the restaurant industry going in the first place: Our ravioli is better than yours, the restaurant says — and your Mom’s, too! Ooh. Now that’s harsh.