Friday, November 2, 2012

The Art of Eating In - Book Review

The library and I have an on-again, off-again kind of relationship. I seem to go through seasons where I am obsessed with taking out library books and I read through five or six books in a month ... and then there are other seasons where I'm lucky if I can reading finish a magazine article in thirty days. Lately I've been in a reading season and I've been reading a bunch of books about food. I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts on those books here on the blog in case any of my readers (all three of you) are looking for reading material.

I'll start with The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway. I actually read this book back in August, but it seems right for it to be the first book I share here on the blog as this was the book that really inspired me to start cooking proper meals at home.

Alan and I are both "foodies" so when we were dating the majority of our dates involved a restaurant. Then we got engaged and were crazy busy planning the wedding, so we ate out pretty much non-stop out for six months because it was just so convenient. By the time we actually got married we had settled into a routine of eating out 3 or 4 times a week, and I had gained almost 20 pounds. No joke. Apparently, restaurant food is pretty bad for you - even the nice, expensive restaurants load up their dishes with sugars, sodium and fats.

The Art of Eating In is the story of how author Cathy Erway gave up eating out in restaurants/bringing home take-out for an entire year. Oh, and did I mention that she lives in New York City, restaurant capital of the world? The book is a unique blend of genres ... part memoir, part cookbook,  part non-fiction ... but despite the hodge-podge of styles I thought it flowed really well from chapter to chapter. Erway introduces readers to a whole new world of dining options - urban foraging, freeganism, supper clubs, cook-offs, etc. If you're looking for ways to creatively indulge in good food without spending tons of money at restaurants, then this book is an absolute must-read.

My only disappointment with the book is that the title is a little misleading. There's actually not that much information about cooking and eating at home. Erway spends a lot of time discussing alternatives to traditional restaurant dining, but doesn't provide much practical information for those of us who just want to cook a basic meal at home. How does she get the most bang for her buck while grocery shopping? What's her backup plan when the meal she's spent the last hour preparing turns out to be an epic fail? Those kind of questions go unanswered in the book, but you can find the answers on her blog, Not Eating Out In New York.

The focus of The Art of Eating In is definitely the foodie scene, not so much the actual art of staying in. Even though I would have preferred more info on cooking at home and perhaps less info on elaborate cook-off competitions, the stories and anecdotes were interesting and inspiring. It was great to read about someone just like me (aka a city girl who works full-time and isn't a trained chef ) cook from scratch for an entire year.  Not only was I motivated to get my butt into the kitchen, but some of the statistics she provides regarding restaurants really challenged me to curb back on how often we eat out. If you eat out in restaurants more often than you probably should, or if you're looking for some cooking motivation, then you should add this book to your November reading list.

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