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the art of eating inThe Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, by Cathy Erway

“…people will say that the world of restaurant food is vast. But the world of cooking and eating in far exceeds it in scope, even in a city as seemingly disinclined toward home cooking as New York.” -p. 317

As someone who used to have an (almost) daily restaurant habit and slowly became a (mostly) scratch cook, I truly loved this book. In The Art of Eating In, Cathy Erway tells the story of both extremes. Immediately on Page 1, she sets the context of common food attitudes in New York City by describing a showing for a two-bedroom apartment that didn’t have a kitchen. While the very idea sounds like science fiction to my Midwestern sensibilities, Ms. Erway patiently and thoroughly explains the saturation of dining establishments, normalcy of evening take-out, and patterns of socializing over food that are common in the burgeoning city she calls home.

Then, she deconstructs these norms with precision as she unveils her plan to avoid any and all New York City restaurants for an entire year. Cathy Erway leaps right in, walking the reader through her own personal journeys of cooking and baking, creative food sourcing, and grappling with the sometimes awkward realities of developing and maintaining personal relationships sans restaurants. From urban foraging adventures to unabashed dumpster diving to underground supper clubs, Cathy Erway leaves no stone unturned in her exploration of the expansive culinary world beyond the restaurant scene.

As I read this book, I was captivated by Ms. Erway’s candor and her learning curve. For example, while she entered into this project without any experience (and little enthusiasm for) yeast baking, she was undaunted by meat processing or cooking with offal. This runs completely contrary to my own kitchen experiences, and was fascinating to ponder. I found myself on more familiar ground as Ms. Erway earnestly described how her project made her acutely aware of the waste associated with restaurant food. At one point, she even designed an experiment whereby she weighed and measured the waste associated with a restaurant meal compared to a similar home cooked meal. Very interesting. Her commitment to becoming better informed is clear in her references to the works of authors such as Michael Pollan and Mark Schapiro.

Cathy Erway’s book is written from a refreshing perspective – rather than teaching the reader from a position of preexisting expertise, Ms. Erway invites the reader to share in her own journey of learning and discovery. Along the way, Ms. Erway shares fun recipes and quirky stories guaranteed to keep the reader engaged. If you could use a boost of enthusiasm to enjoy your kitchen even more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Cathy Erway’s The Art of Eating In!

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