I first heard about Cathy Erway’s new book, “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove”, as I sat down to another Tuesday-night-post-soccer-practice meal at a local Mexican joint where the food comes to the table so quickly that it has me wondering just when it was cooked (as in, before I got there?) and as I was explaining to my husband my need to purchase a Staub Dutch oven that has a charming little escargot topper on the lid. That is to say that when the esteemed AltCon publisher asked me if I wanted to review “The Art of Eating In”, I was hungry.
Like Cathy Erway, (photo of CE, at left), I spent many happy years eating my way through New York City and remember many of those meals as delicious “events” rather than simple repasts. I can recall my fellow diners with ease, and can even conjure up memories of some flavors of the best meals I had in Manhattan. In fact, I can remember eating very few bad meals in New York. So I was suspicious when I read that Erway had given it all up, from the street vendor, to take-out, to the crisp linen-lined tables of the finest restaurants, to pursue her experiment in “eating in.” For two years? As Erway herself puts it, this was a little “like not not drinking the tap water in Mexico.” Potentially dangerous territory, to say the least.
But abstain she did, from eating out, that is. And to her credit, Erway taps many unusual resources to enrich her experiment such as underground supper clubs, freeganism, pot-lucks and cook-offs. Her chapter entitled “Getting Dirty,” in which she raises the curious question of “what all [her] friends had against eating garbage”, was almost enough to create a “gut reaction” in me. She eats alone and with friends and family. She eats traditional fare and the new and unusual. And she cooks up a storm amid relationship troubles, moving house, beer and wine hazes, working, family responsibilities and many of the ups and downs of a young woman living in New York. And she pulls it off, with creativity, courage, humor and aplomb. I mean, just how many people have the patience (or the need, really?) to braise beef cheeks for six hours and then move on to cooking live lobsters procured in Chinatown (which somehow gives them an added mystery).
A tasty cook-and-tell, “The Art of Eating In” is satisfying as part memoir, part manifesto and part cookbook. Erway learns plenty along the way, and so will her readers, not the least of which is that with a kitchen and a little imagination, anyone can cook up some wonderful possibilities. Learn more @ theartofeatingin.com and find where to buy here.