I just finished reading “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove” by Cathy Erway. Erway was a typical New York 20-something who spent a good deal of her paycheck on take-out and restaurant food. She decided to drastically change that. For almost two years she chose to not eat out in New York. She blogged about her scandalous decision on Not Eating Out In New York; then, she got a book deal.

It’s an inspiring book. I cook a lot, but after reading the book, I’m inspired to try new recipes, cook more for friends, and maybe even take a foraging tour in my area.

Reading “The Art of Eating In” brought to my mind a piece that Michael Pollan wrote for The New York Times last year titled Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch. In the piece Pollan discussed that for all of The Food Network that Americans watch, we’re not cooking much more than we were before Emeril caught our attention with his trademark “Bam!”

We’re eating our processed and restaurant-made foods in front of the television as we watch others cook real meals. At the end of the piece, Pollan asks that after so many decades of minimizing home cooking, “Can we ever put the genie back into the bottle? Once it has been destroyed, can a culture of everyday cooking be rebuilt?” Pollan hopes so.

“The Art of Eating In” dishes up some optimism to go along with Pollan’s hope. In the book she describes an entire culture of 20-somethings and beyond who are cooking every day in New York City. They are hosting dinner parties in their homes for their friends, creating super-secret supper clubs, learning artisanal food-making, routing through supermarket Dumpsters (freeganing) for still-good food, and having long conversations about everything during hours-long meals.

As Erway shares her culinary creation tales and some recipes, she lets us in on her personal life — how her friends, her boyfriend and her family initially react and eventually feel about her decision to eat at home in a city were some people only eat out.

Toward the end of the book, the stories of dinner parties, cookoffs, and super clubs start to run together a bit, but the book is still well worth the read. It's an inspiring story of a woman who found more than extra money in her bank account when she started cooking at home: she found her passion. 

MNN homepage photo: the loushe/Flickr

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Book review: 'The Art of Eating In'
Cathy Erway’s personal tale of not eating out in New York City is inspiring and optimistic.