In America today, more than 50 percent of families no longer share mealtimes together. Many of us are now eating ‘on the move’ – and with microwave dinners, fast-food, drive-thrus and take-aways at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that the act of preparing and sharing a meal at home is falling out of fashion.
The damaging impact of fast food on our health is now well documented. However, the cost of fast food on our environment and our food chain is also devastating. Many of us are unaware of the massive carbon footprint associated with the food we’re eating, not to mention the lack of sustainably sourced produce. All of this is wrapped up in excessive plastic and paper packaging – much of which ends up in methane-generating landfill, continuing its dirty work long after we’ve finished eating.
Cathy Erway, an amateur cook from New York, believes there is another way to enjoy food. In fact, she’s decided to stage something of a cultural revolution, publishing a book called ‘The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove,’ (Gotham, 2010) which aims to encourage people to start cooking in their own homes.
Not eating out in New York
It started with a blog entitled ‘Not eating out in New York,’ where Erway charted her efforts to avoid dining out in any of the city’s over-priced and unethical eateries. If it’s money-saving tips you’re after, then Erway claims that she spent just $25 per week when dining in, compared to over $200 per week when dining out – an incredible saving of $700 per month!
Erway contends that as a nation, we’ve begun to normalize the idea of eating out – it’s no longer considered to be a luxury or a treat; it’s an every day affair. In contrast, cooking at home is now seen as major surgery, with many people afraid or unsure about how to prepare and cook simple, healthy meals. Erway’s book is generous and shares many of her own culinary adventures, including a range of easy to follow recipes for cheap and hearty meals.
Erway also goes in search of an alternative food scene at the heart of New York City. Her book uncovers a sub-culture of people cooking and eating in their own homes, hosting dinner parties, foraging for edible ingredients in local parks, running secret supper clubs and dumpster diving (or ‘freeganing’) at local supermarkets for edible food that’s past its use-by date. It’s an inspiring account of a whole network of people who are returning to their own kitchens, and their own dinner tables to celebrate the joys of a home-cooked meal.
Eat in for a week
Erway’s book is an inspiring story – and demonstrates that it’s possible for all of us to think about dining in a little more often. Following the publication of her book, Erway championed the ‘Eat in for a Week’ challenge, encouraging ordinary people to make a concerted effort to eat in for just one week – with some fantastic results.
So, if dining out is your norm, and eating in is the exception, it might be time to take the challenge. Good luck!