By Lane Florsheim
For two years one New Yorker did the unthinkable: She ate in (like all the time).
In 2006, New Yorker Cathy Erway began a two-year experiment. She decided that in lieu of eating restaurant, take out, or street food, she would instead prepare all of her own meals. She wanted to save money and was excited about a project that would take her back to cooking, a hobby she loved while growing up.
The project she chose sounded nearly impossible, given the New York City lifestyle and the strain of working from nine to five. Today, however, Erway is the author of The Art of Eating In, as well as the popular blog “Not Eating Out In New York,” where she chronicled her two-year journey.
“It was really challenging at first, just to keep it up,” Erway explains. “I thought I wouldn’t come up with enough [recipe] ideas on my own, but you get into a rhythm.”
The recipes Erway has concocted are accessible, affordable and incorporate unique ingredients, from peppercress and poached egg salad to tea leaf-smoked chicken to salty caramel banana ice cream.
Erway’s recipes also contains a point system that determines the cost, health, and, most recently, environmental factors associated with each one. The health factor, for example, is measured in brownie points. Unfortunately, no recipe has ever received the coveted one brownie point (an ultra-healthy rating) though she believes it can be done.
The biggest benefit Erway experienced from years of eating in was an increased awareness of where her food and ingredients came from. “It forces you to really think about the background and where you bought it, how it was grown, where it was grown””all these questions,” she says. “I think that it gives me purpose and makes me inspired, knowing all the time about how hard it is to actually grow food.”
The task of creating meals with ingredients that were both affordable and sustainably grown also led Erway on new adventures like trash-diving and foraging for edible weeds. Erway recounted a supper club party where she made a salad with dandelion weeds foraged from a nearby park. When she announced the ingredients to guests, she got a lot of strange looks. “But it was delicious,” she says, laughing. “Once people let it sink in, I think most enjoyed the dandelion greens.”
Erway has also embarked on culinary adventures across the country and around the world. For fellow travelers, she recommends exploring grocery stores in new cities in addition to the restaurant scene. “I think that’s one of the most fun activities to do when you’re in another place,” she explains. “That’s when you see what people really eat, and what they really cook.”
For those looking to get involved in the eating in movement that she has pioneered, Erway recommends making eating in social and fun by beginning with a series of dinner parties. She advocates potlucks, saying that starting on that level is an easy way to become excited about cooking at home on a daily basis. “I think most people will find it’s infectious,” she says. “It’s really fun and carefree. I’m very excited to see a lot of people getting involved.”
About the Writer
Lane Florsheim is a senior at Tufts University where she is studying International Relations. She loves writing and reading about culture, politics, and women’s issues. Lane delights in jewelry making, captivating novels, and travel and exploration. Her personal website is available here. Follow Lane on Twitter @laneflorsheim.