Pros: Creative Culinary Thinking
I wanted to like it, I really did. The book is about a young lady, Cathy Erway, and the year she took off from eating out in one of the finest culinary cities in the world, New York City. Cathy dedicated herself to learning to cook and not to eat out except for when it was nearly impossible, i.e., when traveling. I had chosen to review this book because I thought it was a novel idea. Being in NYC she was in the middle of some of the finest restaurants and also surrounded by some of the best local ingredients. As I set in I was curious to find out how far her culinary talents would progress and if she would actually make it through the year.
Unfortunately, I just could not make it through the book. I know it has received great reviews, and I am willing to admit, maybe it is me and this just was not my “cup of tea”. The first couple of chapters grabbed my attention and I was eager to get further in but once I hit the chapter entitled “Mise en Place”, it started losing me. Mise en Place was about Cathy cooking a Taiwanese dish for dinner guests but it kept wandering off path to discuss the roommate’s cat, Dracula. Maybe if the cat had ended up in the dish my review would be completely different (just kidding PETA). At one point my wife thought I should take a more light-hearted approach and not look at it so much through the eyes of a former kitchen grunt but more like a “Sex in the City” kind of fun angle. I think that is an angle I am not capable of reaching. Kind of like the “peacock” yoga pose. I even reread the chapter later thinking maybe it is like one of those cd’s where the first time around you are lukewarm to it but the more you play it the more it grows on you. Nope. Still could not get into it and the cat continued to not be an ingredient.
At this point I had to make a decision, call it a day or give it one more shot. There are six quotes on the back of this book telling me how entertaining it is, so let’s put the still living cat behind us and trudge forward. I moved into the next chapter cautiously and came out on the other side thinking maybe that was just a bad chapter for me. Like that really bad song the musician puts on track #3 just to get it out of the way early. Then the book goes into the trash, literally.
Chapter 5 is about trash diving for unused food that can be cleaned and turned into dinner. Not compost, but dinner. And, unbeknownst to me, those practicing this “trend” have a name, “Freegans”. It is a cross between “free” and “vegans” if you haven’t figured that out already. At this point I check out. I am all for reduce, reuse, recycle, but the dumpster diving lost me so this is where my journey with Cathy ended.
I admire Cathy’s adventurous spirit and the unorthodox path she took to reach her end goal of completing a year of not eating out, assuming she did finish it. She could have just gone to the market daily, bought ingredients and learned to cook but she found other ways to get there. Obviously the book has an audience, most reviews are positive, but it was not for me. In closing, although it did not hold my attention, I would recommend it for those who are looking for light reading about a young lady’s attempt to try something new.