My husband and I are big stay-at-home’ers. From watching a movie in versus going out, to entertaining here versus meeting up with friends at a bar, to being home-based in our careers, we prefer to stay in (heck, we’re even planning on “staying in” for Nugget’s arrival). We love the comfort that being at home affords and often opt for it over going-out options.
This staying-in approach extends to our eating habits as well. More often than not, you’ll find us mixing, whisking, sauteing, and baking our meals in our kitchen as opposed to dining out. This decision is motivated by several factors. To begin, it’s geographically easier to eat at home when you live 10 minutes from the nearest dining destination (and that’s by car). It’s also considerably less expensive. For what we’d spend on ingredients in a dish that might last more than one meal, we’d be hard pressed to find a financial equivalent in a nearby restaurant (although, were we fast food eaters, we could probably do just fine, but that’s not the way we roll).
Furthermore, I’d argue that our food just tastes better. My husband does the lion’s share of the cooking around here. He does so with mindfulness to my eating preferences and propensities (“not too much cheese in my omelet, very little fried foods, nothing too terribly spicy, a heavy hand with herbs, a judicious use of fish sauce, pasta on only the rarest of occasions, etc.“) and a true chef’s heart, wherein freshness, playfulness, and inventiveness are always the order of the day. In short, his food is damn good and is my absolute preference (this holds true for friends and family, as we are rarely asked to dine at other’s homes, most of whom would rather eat here, as well).
Lastly, though, and perhaps most importantly, we elect to eat-in primarily because of the numerous opportunities for making sustainable food choices that doing so affords. Today’s small measure, then, is about eating in. Creating food at home is an immensely conscientious way of exercising environmental stewardship, I’ve long maintained. To begin, there’s the issue of waste. For those of you who have worked in the food industry, as I have, you’re well acquainted with just how much waste is produced in this field. From the food left uneaten on plates to the packaging tossed into the trash can (unless the dining establishment recycles or composts), the amount of waste generated is massive. Cooking at home heavily curtails the production of so much preventable waste. Uneaten food can be composted, given to pets (my chickens LOVE it when they are permitted to get in on the culinary action), stored for later use, or rendered into new incarnations. Packaging can be properly disposed of, via recycling, or omitted entirely from the onset, through use of using one’s own containers, purchasing foods in bulk, and carrying cloth bags to the market.
CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s “eating in” article after the jump!
If you keep a garden, no matter the size, you also considerably cut down on waste, as your produce won’t require the packaging often found in store-purchased items. The “field to fork” turnaround is drastically reduced as well. Considering that long-distance shipping accounts for a large percentage of the fossil fuels used in agriculture, grabbing fresh basil from your backyard (or balcony!) or even from a local farmer’s market for use in your kitchen is another way that eating in is a small measure towards benefiting our ecosystem.
In her blog “Not Eating Out in New York” Cathy Erway chronicles the advantages of cooking in versus dining out. Now available in book format, titled “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove”, the author details the benefits accrued by firing up the range. Interspersed between recipes and anecdotes are Erway’s “Reasons of the Month”, mini arguments in favor of the home-cooked meal. From the cheeky (Reason #39: Because the Hair In My Food Is Always Mine) to the health and flavor-oriented (Reason #17: Because You Can Salt To Your Taste), Erway articulates what provoked her to forgo dining out entirely from September 2006-September 2008 in a city where you can always find prepared (and often delicious) food right outside your door.
On of my food heroes, Michael Pollan, offers up my last argument in favor of DIY meals: knowing exactly what’s in it. As he opines in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto: As cook in your kitchen you enjoy an omniscience about your food that no amount of supermarket study or label reading could hope to match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists and processors, you know exactly what is and is not in it: There are no questions about high-fructose corn syrup, or ethoxylated diglycerides, or partially hydrogenated soy oil, for the simple reason that you didn’t ethoxylate or partially hydrogenate anything, nor did you add any additives (unless, that is, you’re the kind of cook who starts with a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off). To reclaim this much control over one’s food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; (here’s the kicker!) indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts.
In no way am I advocating the abandonment of eating out. I plan to do so in a couple of weeks, in celebration of both my husband’s birthday and our 3rd anniversary. I’m merely suggesting the notion that eating in allows you to connect with what Pollan refers to as the “web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on the other, and all of them ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight.” If you’re looking for ways to tread a bit more lightly on the planet (it is the only one we’ve got, after all, and it’s currently massively under siege by, among other things, a fountain of oil in the Gulf), consider eating in every so often. My sincere hope is that you’ll find it as nourishing on as many levels as hubs and I do. -ashley
*Speaking of eating (and drinking) in, I invite you to check out what has become a delicious homemade beverage staple chez English, my husband’s <a href=”http://small-measure.blogspot.com/2010/05/sublime-ginger-lemonade.html“> Sublime Ginger Lemonade </a>. Seriously delicious, seriously addictive. Consider yourself forewarned.