Maki over at Just Bento wrote this week in her Bento Challenge that,
By no means am I saying that everyone should stop eating out. I love going to good restaurants myself. But my reason for going to a restaurant is not really for sustenance. (When I do the household budget, I categorize restaurant meals under ‘entertainment’, not ‘food’.) It’s to have a good time – to try out new dishes and wines, enjoy the ambience, and of course to have a good chat with my friends. If you have the time and money to do this every day for lunch, you are probably not reading this anyway! I’d rather save up by making bentos most of the time, and splurge (entertainment wise and calorie-wise) once in a while.
I feel exactly the same way about eating out. I was so happy to read this idea summed up in this way, and would like to expand upon it.
Today was the first day in three weeks that I did not have a lunch prepared. On the one hand, we did not have enough leftovers last night for a complete lunch, and on the other hand, I have been craving this gyro sold near my office. I decided that the lack of leftovers and my cravings had aligned to allow myself an entertaining little lunch with a treat I could really savor. It also didn’t hurt that the gyro is the second cheapest lunch in my neighborhood.
When I eat out, I like to try to make it an occasion. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive necessarily (heck, I love cheap, greasy, fast food, so sometimes that’s enough). If possible, I just like to maneuver my restaurant or take-out trips so that they are something I will really enjoy and not just because I need to fill my stomach.
This also ensures that I don’t have to waste money buying something that I could make better myself at home. A friend of mine mentioned that she feels that way about sandwiches: why pay upwards of $7 for something you could make at home for under $2 with the works? I agree, although, I don’t mind paying for a really good, huge or unique sandwich. I’m a sandwich fiend. Moving on…
I don’t only look at restaurants and take-out food as entertainment. I look at the food I cook as entertainment as well. I try, as often as possible, not just to sustain myself with the food I cook. I am lucky enough to live in a city where almost any food item is available, and I am lucky enough to have the resources to procure them. I am not just trying to survive. Therefore, I try to make everything I put in my mouth an enjoyable experience. I try to have fun cooking, trying new techniques or new ingredients, mixing things I haven’t mixed before. I try to sit back and taste what I’m eating, and make it an event, if a minor one.
I’d decline to say I’m a food snob in the general sense of the word. I don’t think food as entertainment consists only of “high culinary” French delicacies. Nor do I agree with trendy foodists who are always searching for the latest “thing” in flavor. I eat three times a day. I just try not to let those moments go by unobserved, ordinary. You don’t have to have a food obsession to do this – we all have to eat, so why not use food as something more than body fuel?
So do me a favor: enjoy the next thing you eat. Even if you don’t love it, just take it slowly and pay attention. Does it make you love whatever you are eating just a little bit more? Did it put a little smile on your face?
Sorry for this little aside. I think about food more than anything else, clearly. I hope you all have a delicious day!
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...