Reason For Not Eating Out #40: Strength in Numbers

You know the saying. If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you? It’s a small reminder to use your own head, and not follow the masses mindlessly. So no, of course not. But if you did, or had to — jump off a cliff, take a leap of faith — and all those masses were at your side, it would sure make you feel a little better about it. And that’s what’s gradually happening with not eating out.

On the latest episode of Let’s Eat In, four of the five food bloggers I’d asked to take the Week of Eating In challenge came on air as guests, and we had a powwow about how it had gone. At one point, upon being asked what was most difficult about eating in for a week straight, Marc from No Recipes said that he felt like, “we were all in this together.” And that had helped him bluster on. From our separate kitchens, separate blogs, and separate lunches, dinners and breakfasts (only if there was time), a team mentality was forged, and it was encouraging. But even though this challenge was a very deliberate, controlled experiment, with us subjects making it a point to not eat out, a community of cooks who prefer doing so at will is growing steadily, it seems.

This observation, of course, is coming from a source distinctly slanted in favor of more everyday home cooking, for no other purpose than just to eat. But I will say that the Week of Eating In was not my idea — it was Huffington Post Green’s. When Katherine Goldstein and Adam Estes wrote eloquently about the eco-conscious potentials of cooking and eating in, and called on readers to take the pledge for a week, we didn’t really know how it would go. But more than 1,500 people signed up, and several other bloggers wrote about their week. An innocuous slideshow of winter recipes from my archives was compiled for the Green page, and it received a wild number of hits and comments — for a brief moment of Zen, appearing in the top five most viewed column on the site, below Pamela Anderson’s “barely-there jumpsuit.”

who knew HuffPost readers were such foodies?

The chorus continues, as I view my incoming links, and I’m deeply humbled as well as inspired by these tales from other kitchens. From Serious Eats cooking three recipes from my book (and quite well, from the photos of that bread!), to blogs like Forking Tasty and The Young and Hungry making others, or taking up brown-bagging cues, or writing about the merits they’ve found most beneficial to eating in, I’m feeling the team effort, indeed. There is a not-so-quiet revival in home cooking, for the unlikeliest set: young, busy urbanites. And beyond: even my Aunt Amy, one of the few family members who was spared of mention in the Art of Eating In, fell in love with her homemade version of san bei gi, according to Facebook photos that she tagged me in (no, that was not me chopped up and sprinkled with Thai basil), and she doesn’t cook too much normally. Perhaps the craziest compliment to home cooking that’s come my way recently was from an acquaintance who’s in a band in Brooklyn, and as such doesn’t have much time to cook in between practice and travel. But, so compelled to “stop spending and love the stove,” he decided to start writing a blog himself “documenting my continued denouncement of restaurants.” I can’t wait to check that one out.

What’s next for not eating out, if so many people were to adopt it that it’s no longer anti-mainstream? What happens if everyone else jumps off the cliff? (For the record, doing the opposite of what everyone else seemed to be — ordering in, and taking out for almost every meal — was what got this blog started in the first place.) I never imagined a paradigm shift might take place, and am sure that it still hasn’t or won’t yet for some time, at least not in New York. But for the time being, seeing others cook more at home has been empowering. We’re in it together, and that keeps me plowing on. And in the near future, I plan to expand the scope of making food to include growing it, too. More on that soon.

the start of a new season

12 Responses

  1. Jake

    Sometimes I eat in for a week out of necessity. It’s cheaper and saves me money that I’m able to spend on other things. I made bean soup this weekend: came out awesomely.

  2. Stephanie Manley

    I like to cook in, I can eat in for 3 or 4 days for what I can for a day eating out. I can typically prepare better food too. Wonderful concept.

  3. […] Not Eating Out in New York » Reason For Not Eating Out #40: Strength in Numbers […]

  4. geek+nerd

    Yeah! This post just made me do a little fist pump in the air! Strength in numbers 🙂

  5. CeeCeeCooks


    You don’t know me from anyone, but as someone working in NYC and living in Jersey City, your book recently inspired me to forge an even deeper connection with my stove (actually, my last blog post was called “Home with the Range”)and home cooking.

    Was sad to miss Souperama a few weeks ago, but your post about it inspired me make my own spin on Split Pea Soup this weekend.

    Hoping to be out and about at the next cook-off (and be brave enough to enter!) and maybe get the spider tendrils of slow food in NYC to expand across the Hudson to my ‘hood.

    Thanks for writing – and for cooking!

  6. Barry Schwartz

    Loving your blog…and noticed you are going to some blogging about growing your own. I would love to share my wonderful “Garden in a Bag” with you. A way to grow sprouts and microgreens no soil or sun required. the perfect urban garden and it takes only 4-6 days. I put together combinations of seeds, to grow a diverse garden that compliment each other nutritionally and are so value added it costs just pennies a serving…and is live. what a concept!!!

  7. Yevette Gooden

    Began reading your book last week after reading a brief description in Shape Magazine. This after my initial disaster at attempting to cook red beans on my own. Thanks to you I’m still trying.

  8. Lauren

    I just found your site and I am so excited to try some of your recipes. I will be honest though, this whole “not eating out thing” boggles my mind! I was raised rarely, if ever eating out, and I just kinda assumed most people cooked at home most of the time!

  9. Melissa

    I love your reasons for eating in. We recently decided to take the plunge to eat-in. It has only been two weeks, but we are already feeling better and making amazing meals that we would have to pay a lot for in the restaurant world. As full time students and part time workers all we did was eat out and never had money or time, but now with your blog and twits we get motivation everyday. Thank you, Cathy.

  10. Jackie

    cathy, your book inspired me to try my hand at no-knead bread for the first time. i can’t believe how astoundingly easy it is and how insanely good it tastes with that crackly crisp crust! i don’t know what took me so long…thanks! 🙂
    i, too, had a chance encounter with jeffrey steingarten once. sat next to him at an event at astor center and he gave me his home address(?) and phone number and said to contact him. which i did, but to no avail. he also told me i was quite old to be starting food writing at 25! haha.

    your book was a fantastic read – kudos!

  11. fit, fast, frugal foodie

    Hi Kathy, I am so happy to have stumbled onto your website from a blurb I read about you in Shape Magazine. You caught my attention immediately b/c I am single working mom, along with married SAHM who has decided to eat and cook in for a year as well. My reasons were threefold(and in this order)economics, health and time with my son. Two and a half months into the project I still have the same motivations, however the order of importance in my head has been revised. While I am saving tons and tons of money(the savings is ridiculous) and we are unbelievably healthy everynight, the time I am spending with my only child who 11 is invaluable. We are not eating on the run, on our way to a game, or in the car or at a crowded fastfood restaurant. We are sitting down, even talking about the dinner, ie likes/dislikes, changes we would make etc… My son is even incharge of the picture taking. I was hung up for a long time that because it was just the two of us, it didnt constitute a “family” dinner, how silly I was. Our family dinner has become our favorite part of the day.
    Thanks, going to get your book this weekend.

  12. Grant

    really? I have no idea what you are talking about

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