It’s time for me to come clean.
Before I moved to New York, I was highly judgmental of our friends who lived in the city and ate out almost every night. “Not only is that a waste of money,” I thought, “they are missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures, cooking and sitting down with family to a home-cooked meal.” When apartment-hunting, our broker asked us what room was most important to us. “The kitchen,” we replied without hesitation. In fact we turned down an apartment that had a closed-off kitchen. We wanted something big, open and airy. “So you like to cook?” the broker asked. “Yes,” I said smugly, “we love to cook and will be making dinner most every night.” Six months later and I am loathe to admit that I probably cook dinner once or twice a week. Now it’s my turn to justify why my oven is collecting cobwebs.
1) It’s partly seasonal. Whether at the Anderson family reunion, a friend’s lake house, visiting Mom and Dad in Pennsylvania, or attending weddings, we’ve been gone nearly every weekend this summer. That’s two or three days a week we’re not home.
2) I also work with Mom testing recipes for her new book. I’m gone two days and one night. We cook together and I bring home leftovers which Andy and I have for dinner that evening. So that’s two more nights we don’t cook dinner.
3) Groceries are very expensive and nine times out of ten it’s truly cheaper to get take-out than to buy groceries and not even I can resist that temptation.
4) In New York, take-out is not just pizza and Chinese food, you can get everything from Peruvian roast chicken and avocado salad to sushi and curry delivered to your door. We wouldn’t eat out half as often if there weren’t so many healthy and delicious options.
5) We meet up with friends at least one or two nights a week, so we either skip dinner, opting for nibbles at the bar or have dinner out.
6) There are thousands of amazing restaurants in New York!
It’s not easy for me to admit this. Not only because I am a food blogger who truly loves cooking, but also because I was so sure I wouldn’t be like everyone else. But now I understand that life is just a little different in the Big Apple than in small-town Farnborough, England when I was whipping up delicious dinners six or seven nights of the week. And loving it.
In the hope of re-igniting my passion for weeknight cooking, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of making dinner (even if it means spending more money than it would to get take-out) starting with simple recipes and relatively inexpensive ingredients. I’ve been cooking a lot from Mom’s new book and also from her old books. Her Asian Lettuce Cups from Perfect Recipes for Having People Over are to die for. Simple, delicious and healthy. And dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes.
We did exactly the same thing when we moved to NYC. The choices are many and you could go for months exploring the restaurants in a three block radius from your apt. Enjoy it and don’t feel guilty, but definitely bring out those recipes from your mom!
Souffle Bombay says
Maggy, loved reading that. I have friends in NYC and they tell me the same thing – so fun to live there not just for everything it offers, but for the food choces as well!
I think it’s that you’re on-the-go that you don’t cook more in NY. If you didn’t work with me two days a week (and come home with bag full of food) you’d be home during the week when most people cook.
Also, those first few grocery shopping sprees are expensive–you need everything–so it appears food shopping is more expensive. Remember when you spent $35 to make to make that batch of chocolate chip cookies? You had to buy flour, vanilla extract, a dozen eggs, baking powder and soda, butter, oil, but the next time around it’s much cheaper.
Or when you wanted to make pizza which meant buying a bottle of olive oil? Those pantry staples are expensive, but once you make the investment, cooking and eating at home is probably more economical.
But then there’s the fun factor…. that I get!
Barbara | VinoLuciStyle says
Mother does know best! I worried about my daughter’s budget when she moved out because she was used to going out so much (and living rent free) but she’s trying to eat at home more. It seems a misnomer that you can save money at warehouse stores like Costco the first couple of times you shop there (which is what we did for her) but as your staples pantry gets filled, your mom is right…the upfront expenses will not be an ongoing thing.
Trust me, Lauren hits me up too…and sometimes not in a good way! Now exactly where is that brand new bottle of vanilla that I know I just bought…hmm, one guess?
I remember when I was cooking with Mom, I cooked almost never. It’s really amazing that Mom still does!
After two days of being on your feet, washing dishes, lugging out ingredients, testing something, tasting it, going back to the drawing board, and doing always more dishes. And then starting ALL over again? I didn’t have the energy to do it the other 5 days of the week. And then, of course, she sends you home with a bag full of food that I could never finish (even eating it every night) before it went bad. So, I feel you there.
And Mom makes a GREAT point about pantry staples. Man, the first few times I went grocery shopping in New Haven, I almost cried when I got in the car…250 dollars?! For ingredients that didn’t really make a meal? Flour, sugar, coffee, canola oil, corn starch, olive oil, baking powder, kosher and regular salt, three kinds of vinegar. UGH. you need that stuff, but you can’t make dinner with it! Now, I am more like 50-70 bucks a visit at the store (and being part of a CSA doesn’t hurt.)
I applaud your eating out in NYC, there are amazing food opportunities to be had there. But if you ever want to start cooking again, seriously just join a CSA–the pure excitement about your weekly box of fresh produce, combined with the guilt of letting it go bad will surely motivate you.
Also, what helped me really start cooking–every. single. freaking. day–was cooking with Tony. Our love of food combined with his culinary courage, and my mom-taught skills really just makes it fun. We try new things, we mess up, we drink wine, we create masterpieces, we taste, we season and taste again–all while listening to great music (and sometimes with a little dancing thrown in).
So, keep dining out (and telling me about it, so I can live vicariously through you!). I find that restaurant menus always inspire me to cook. They have such interesting pairings, such cool ideas! But do take time to cook–it’s good for the soul, and makes going out so much sweeter (since you know all the work that goes into it).
When things calm down for you, get some fresh veggies, pull your awesome hubby into the kitchen (I know he can dice a mean onion), put on some funky music, and cook something. Maybe invite me over when you do it 🙂
Chris and I did the same thing when we lived in Chicago and New York. Who can beat having fabulous food delivered right to your door? And you’re newly married, so just enjoy. Trust me, the time will come when you’re at home cooking for your family every day. Those newlywed days will seem like a dim memory when you’ve got little scamps running around. 🙂
Torrie @ a place to share... says
This is something that we’ve all dealt with (it appears) at one time or another (and I’m dealing with currently!- kids, busy start-of-school time, husband’s- who I used to cook with almost nightly- super busy work/school schedule, etc.), but thank you for sharing and I am trying to get on the same track- with the help of your mom’s PERFECT (and newly discovered!!) cookbooks.
And I have to add…
I cannot tell you how much I love reading your ‘comments’ and discussion with one another. You each have such an amazing talent in writing, you offer a support that is inspiring and uplifting, and you share great points and unique aspects to the topic at hand!
I have to admit I am so jealous of all the eating-out options you have there. That’s why I cook; there’s nowhere to go here. I travel just as an excuse to try new restaurants. : )