Monday, August 03, 2009

Home-cooked Companionship

I was reading Michael Ruhlman's blog today, wherein he summarized Michael Pollan's NYTimes Magazine Article about the demise of the home cook, and then went off on a bit of a rant about the difference between "Cooks" and "Foodies".

Honestly, I don't know what category I fall into. I love fine ingredients and different foods, and I love to cook, although my skills are limited and my time even more so. But still, I manage to keep everyone fed and occasionally delight one family member or another with something I've whipped up.

The whole conversation on Ruhlman's blog, however, underscored an observation I made this weekend.

On Saturday, we took long-time friends, a few of their kids and our two girls out to dinner. It was a local place that specializes in Brazilian barbeque, outstanding salad bar, all you can eat meat on a sword. The guys’ inner cavemen were howling with joy at the prospect. It had all the makings of a great evening. Except that it wasn’t really all that great. It was crowded and a bit noisy, the food was good, but the service chaotic, everyone over-ate and went home not feeling well, we really didn’t have the conversation we hoped to have, it was expensive, and all in all, wasn’t a terribly satisfying experience.

I’m contrasting that with Sunday night, when I made homemade pizza crust and the four of us decorated pizzas with whatever we wanted, baked them on the pizza stone, and giggled for most of the experience. The food was fresh, delicious, everyone stopped when they were full, because the left-overs weren’t going anywhere, and it was extremely satisfying. And it made me think that, had we chosen the pizzas in the kitchen option for Saturday, we might all have had a much better evening. For about 20% of the price.

Most people say they’d rather go out to eat with friends, rather than cook at home, because they don’t want the time and hassle of cooking a meal – they’d rather spend the time in conversation. I find increasingly, however, that I get less stress and more “quality time” with my friends when we cook together.

I hope cooking doesn’t go out of style in the manner Mr. Pollan says it will. I think it’ll be a loss for our mental health, even more so than for our physical health.

What about you? Do you prefer to eat out with friends or cook in? Do you have a favorite "cooking as socialization" recipe?

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Alison said...

I love cooking for friends. Especially when we can sit outside and yeah, we entertain much less in the winter.

bhd said...

We much prefer to share meals with friends at home. (Well, when we're feeling sociable, that is.) When we lived in IL we had friends with whom we'd cook: 4 recipes, 2 each couple. One tried and true, one that might have had a technique or ingredient which was foreign to us. Oh, and many, many bottles of champagne. A great evening of trashing a kitchen, eating like kings, and cleaning up together - accompanied by lots of chatter and laughing. Can't beat that.

Crabby McSlacker said...

To be honest, my favorite is home cooking... at someone else's house! I love THAT part of getting together with friends; it's the part where we have to host and clean up the house and shop and cook etc that I'm not as crazy about. Yep, I'm not lying about the McSlacker part.

Lisse said...

I read the Pollan article last weekend and was looking forward to what Ruhlman had to say on the subject. I just got to read his post this afternoon.

On my own, I would have come to exactly the opposite conclusion that Pollan did, and so the article really surprised me. One of the reasons I don't hate Rachel Ray is that I sort of consider her like Oprah's book club - at least she's getting people reading/cooking.

But, to answer your question, or not; it depends. I enjoy going out to eat, being waited on, trying new foods I wouldn't make at home, but I also really enjoy cooking with or for my friends.

When we renovated the house, we designed the kitchen with that kind of activity in mind.

winter said...

I prefer meals at home, too. It just feels more personal, more intimate.