Reason for Not Eating Out #24: No shirt. No shoes.

This twenty-fourth Reason of the Month for Not Eating Out marks a milestone: Whoa, it’s been two whole years. That’s 187 recipes, 89 ruminations, 10 foodie profiles, several cooking events, a couple videos and whatever other crap I fill these pages of not eating out with later. What better way to celebrate this special eve than by cooking in my blog-birthday suit? (Oh, you were hoping for a photo at the top of this post, too? Well, sorry… )

Seriously, though, last Reason I talked about “good service.” This time I’m going to extoll the virtues of bad customer behavior when dining in. Because when you play both server and diner, you get to have the best of both worlds. I can be as flamboyantly hesitant about what dish I’d like to choose as I want, and no one will roll their eyes at me. I can have seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths and have to pay for it only in terms of bellyache. I can have, really, almost anything, looking back at the variety of dishes that I’ve made over the past two years. Do I feel like Chinese dumplings tonight? Or how about a custom-made house special sushi roll? Moroccan vegetable couscous? Rack of lamb? Country pate? How about just whatever’s in season, fresh from the Greenmarket and sparingly seasoned? Done! And I don’t even have to tip myself (or be presentable).

That won’t be my last Reason For Not Eating Out, nor the most compelling. That said, I have a little announcement to make that I hope won’t sound too shocking. When I began my quest to not eat out in New York City, not ever, unless I was going to endanger myself or my feeble grasp on employment, I never meant it to be a permanent thing. I also never meant to imply that it was something people should do, out of principle. Because my principles don’t stand merely with not patroning restaurants when it comes to food. In the past two years, I’ve met many fascinating folks who are tied in some way to the service industry and with whom I share a lot of food-related values with: Fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable values; a consciousness of rising food costs; fair labor issues; communal or unconventionally social cooking experiences; charitable cooking events; and most of all, a passion for creative expressiveness through food. I respect and admire people striving for all these things and would never want to coerce everyone from boycotting well-meaning neighborhood cooks and restauranteurs completely, as I have done.

With a heavy heart and a weirdly intense knot in my stomach, I’ve decided to end my strict dietary rule of not eating out in New York City. This blog will still be strictly focused on fun, inventive and economical home cooking, community amateur cooking challenges and events, and reasons of the month that shed light on the little advantages of eating in one might not normally not stop to think about. I think there’s so much more to explore about not eating out, even if it’s done while not completely not eating out. (If you’re still following me here… ) But, as they say, it’s time to move on and see what else there is to see.

And to kick-off my official end to only eating in toward the end of this month, I’m doing another experiment on my stomach. I’ll call it “Opposite Week.” During that week I will only shove food through my mouth that’s been prepared by a restaurant (only!). All this will be chronicled for the upcoming book, so I can’t spill too much about it, but I do have an extensive hit list of restaurants which include those of some the biggest names in chefdom as well as average quickie take-out meal standbys.

Finally, thanks for bearing with me through these last couple sluggish weeks of blogging, during the last couple sluggish weeks of summer. It won’t be like that for long. Sandwiched in between Opposite Week is much home cooking mayhem. First, I’ll be trying to defend my “Most Original” title at the pie contest at Governor’s Island. Then, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual celebration of capsicum the Chile Fiesta has invited the Chili Takedown to participate, and host an audience-judged chili cook-off on the big day. I won’t be one of the judges this time — but one of the five competitors! Come help me out by eating some of my free, spicy grub! Along the way this fall I’ll be throwing more food personality profiles at you, announcing a newly organized Greenmarket Shopping Club and tour series, attending classes in molecular gastronomy and perhaps pig butchering, offering a risotto-making demo at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, and resurrecting That Crazy Cooking Gadget blogging challenge.

Yes, it’s back to school season over here. Maybe I should get myself some new clothes. You know — shirts, shoes. Eh, it can wait…

14 Responses

  1. Mark

    Wow… and with my birthday tomorrow, I guess you will need to take someone out to dinner soon, may I suggest, humbly, myself… I cross country trip will be need though… Just a thought!

  2. kiki

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with for the pie contest – that Savory Asparagus is still one of my favorites. Have you seen the movie “Waitress?” Maybe some pie inspiration there – I love the names and descriptions: “Spanish Dancer Pie with Potato Crust” and so many more! No idea what’s in that one, but it sure sounds interesting!

    Now go put yer shirt on!

  3. Julia

    While I admire your willpower over the last two years (!) I totally understand your interest to start eating outing out again. The more I’ve learned to cook, I no longer value going out to eat at an average place with food of questionable origins when I could eat more cheaply and cook it much better and more sustainably myself. But sometimes it’s a nice treat to kick up your heels at a restaurant that shares your values and let someone else do the work. Enjoy!

  4. Joanna

    Cathy, congrats on reaching the two year mark! Maybe you’ll find that eating out every once in a while will inspire you to try new things when you cook at home. Actually I kind of hope so, and then we can reap the benefits of the recipes you post! 🙂 Can’t wait to see where you go on your opposite week…

  5. Yvo

    Just a note, doesn’t seem like anyone else is going to go there… cooking naked isn’t as fun as it sounds. Splattering oil, nekkid fun body parts, NOT A GOOD IDEA. Should I admit to this being from personal experience? Let’s just say after a bacon incident, breakfast in bed has a whole new meaning… wait, that doesn’t even make sense. Whatever.
    Happy 2 year birthday to NEOINY!!! I’m glad I’ve been along for nearly the entire ride (I think) and have even met you a few times. I kind of have to admit that it excites me that you’re ending the “diet” because that means I can invite you to dinner now, and not have to tidy up, heh heh heh. 🙂 In fact, if you’re looking for a dining partner anytime soon – during Opposite Week or not – I’m totally down!!

  6. Ambitious

    Congratulations on reaching your two year mark!!!!! Enjoy not having to prepare, cook and clean up after eating 😉

    Please keep those wonderful recipes coming!

  7. Karol

    welcome back to the world of eating out, cathy! we’ve missed you. but be warned–since you’ve been away, “cheeseburger spring rolls” have made it onto the menu! hmmmm…

  8. Deborah Dowd

    Congratulations on your anniversary and I hope that your restaurant experiences won’t scare you back into your kitchen. There have to be lots of great places in NYC to eat well, and I can’t wait to hear your spin!

  9. Marc @ NoRecipes

    I just found your blog (heard about it from Andrea), I’ve been living here for about 2 1/2 years and I’m sure I would have saved enough money to buy a car by now had I eaten in more. That was part of the impetus of starting my own blog, but it’s hard to do in this city. Kudos for lasting 2 years.

  10. anna

    Congrats on your milestone! But I’m sure everyone is wondering: what restaurant have you been dreaming of as your return to eating out in NY?

  11. Lydia

    I’ll be so interested to see how you like eating out – the more serious I become about laying my hands on great ingredients and cooking myself, the more I think, “I could’ve made this better at home,” when I’m out. Unless it’s something I don’t usually cook – sushi, for example. Can’t wait to hear!

  12. akahn

    I bet starting to eat out some will make you appreciate certain aspects of home cooking even more.

    And hell yes to reason #24, I love cooking shirtless (except deep frying), or doing a lazy weekend breakfast in boxer shorts.

  13. cathy

    Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes, and (phew!) such kind and faithful support!! Seriously, could have never made this milestone without it.

    Yvo: You’re right, cooking “in the raw” should not be attempted at home. Anyhoo, yes let’s eat sometime!

    Anna: The whole David Chang explosion happened over the course of my not eating out, so I must to check that out…

  14. Anna W

    Congratulations on these two years. I’ve been reading your blog since you started it (and I moved from NY to Paris where cooking at home makes so much sense because eating out is preposterously expensive but high quality markets abound). It’s been great to read you regularly and to follow your food adventures. Keep up the good work and enjoy all those amazing restaurants NYC has to offer!

Leave a Reply