Reason For Not Eating Out #47: Because When You Do Eat Out, You’ll Feed Your Mind, Too

This post might double as a “Reason For Why I Haven’t Posted In More Than a Week,” and it has to do mostly with travel. Both alternate titles, that is. I’m currently in Taipei, Taiwan, eating a breakfast of warm soymilk with a savory doughnut stick, and plotting my next victims of rapacious culinary tourism in order to compile an excess of recipes for a book I plan to write. (Yes! More on that to come!)

This brings me to a Reason of the Month that might seem contradictory to the cause: when you do eat out, you’ll feed your mind, too. Many have asked if I do eat out now, in the aftermath of two years of forging a strictly home-cooked way of life. I admit that yes, I do occasionally — and I enjoy treating those occasions as something to savor, a special occasion, indeed. It’s essentially the reason that I gave up the strict rule, aside from practical considerations. But when I do eat out, it’s different; it’s as mentally stimulating as it is physically.

Restaurants are a great feeding ground for ideas about ingredients, presentation, and cuisines. You might not be able to learn just how to produce a dish with step-by-step instructions, but then again, you can’t taste anything you read about in books, blogs or magazines. I don’t allow that it’s absolutely necessary in order to explore unfamiliar foods — that can be done in home environments, too — but it’s nonetheless an easy way to tap into new and exotic cuisines, especially when traveling.

When you know how to cook, you’ll be able to gauge what’s on your plate all the better, and reach new depths of appreciation for it (or the opposite). In fact, I don’t think anyone who comments about food in a restaurant can be in a very plum place to criticize if he or she never cooks for themselves. That’s like being a sportscaster and not knowing how to play the sport. The experience gleaned from so many times searing meat, or boiling eggs, or roasting carrots to caramelized perfection makes it easy to expand your repertoire and recreate dishes at home. Plus, it’s fun to contemplate all this while enjoying a restaurant meal.

So while I’m noshing on pig’s blood and stinky tofu snacks, just sit tight for some comprehensive recipe soon to come on those (ha, just kidding, I’ve got a keen eye on “stuff we like”). And I’m encouraged that all I’ve come to learn from cooking a lot will help bring them into good form in time. So, too, should you be on your next eating-out adventure — should you dare to deviate!

8 Responses

  1. Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    This is a fantastic post, and one I can get behind 100%. When my husband and I first started dating, and then when we were first living together, we ate out or brought in takeout almost every night. I didn’t know how to cook anything, and he would rather do *anything* but be in the kitchen. It got to where we basically ate the same Thai food from the same place every Monday, the same burritos from the same crappy place every Tuesday, etc — no adventure, no engaging with our food, and certainly a lot of unwanted extra pounds.

    Now that we eat home-cooked meals together 5–6 days a week, going to a restaurant is a special occasion — we try new places and new foods, and it is like a little adventure we get to go on every once in a while. Makes all the difference in the world.

  2. Osman

    I’am absulately agree with you.

  3. jules

    Been following your blog awhile and I’m a fan!

    The funny thing about Taiwan is that eating out is often like just eating someone else’s homemade food in their living room “store”. Totally different dynamic than in NY. 🙂
    If you can, hop on the train down to Tainan City and enjoy the really traditional Taiwanese eats!

  4. Cathy Erway

    Thanks so much, everyone!
    @jules – I’m in Tainan right now!

  5. Kimberly V

    Great post! I wholeheartedly agree. And after one does learn to cook, you probably realize that you can make things at home better than what you find in most restaurants.

    I loved the stinky tofu I had in Taipei. How something that smells like the sewer can taste so good is a mystery!

    Enjoy your trip and eat some Xue Hua Bing at Ice Monster or the night markets for me.

  6. Tiffany

    I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this book you plan to write! I read your first one, and really enjoyed it. It transformed me to another place and I learned about many aspects of the food world that I had no previous concept of (like dumpster diving!). And actually, that is how I learned about your blog. So, if you are putting the feelers out for the interest level on another book, I say go for it!

  7. Anna

    I really enjoy your blog and getting ideas for meals from it! I agree with you that eating out is a way to expand your horizons, try something new, and take these things away back to your kitchen.

    But, just because you don’t cook, doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize cooking, after all, we all have to eat. Béla Károlyi was a great gymnast couch, couching female Olympic athletes and was never a female gymnast himself.

  8. Cathy Erway

    @Anna, nicely put. There are always exceptions to every rule and there will always be people to put forth rules that even he or she break — oh yeah, the Yankees stank this year! Oh wait, but I don’t know how to pick up a bat… Ha!!

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