24 January 2009

fine dine & conflict

Okay, it feels so luxuriously decadent to go to a nice restaurant, and I do have a thing for restaurants coming from a family in the restaurant business (and both of my parents' parents were also in the biz), but what I love much more than restaurant food is home cooking.  The restaurant is a fantasy, an indulgence, and in the best cases like  you're a princess or a baby for an hour and everything is taken care of. 

(I realize not everyone shares my proclivity for dependence and shirking responsibility. . . .)

But daily life.

As much as I'm tempted to be an evangelist for home cooking and family dinners, there's a price to pay in time, money, energy, calories.  People I know who don't cook a lot have much cleaner houses than I do.

So here are the issues:

1)  fine dining is decadent--love it but feel guilty doing it
2)  most affordable restaurant food isn't very good, or prepared under ignomious circumstances, or terrible for you
3)  home cooking is the best, but sometimes i feel oppressed when i'm cleaning up and still have laundry, homework and practicing, and bedtime routines to do with the kids
4)  it's hard for me not to over eat when i'm cooking a lot--sometimes just because i spent so much time cooking!
5)  sitting down to dinner with my family everyday is usually my favorite time of the day, but sometimes i feel cranky when i've been rushing to prepare a meal
6)  we need sound absorption in our kitchen

Talk to me about dining.  Are you morally opposed to a fancy dinner out?   How do you solve your dinner dilemmas?   Diet issues?  What's your fantasy meal?  Your ideal dinner?  

Talk to me people.  (DNC, jr., my bro, are you out there?)


Quel said...

hmmm...i would dine out every night if ollie weren't such an amazing cook and if we had restaurants like the ones you've described! oh yeah, and if we could afford it.

i tend to fix straightforward meals. simple, fresh. a baked butternut squash with a pat of butter. some greens drizzled with vinegar and oil.

today i went to the drake family farm and had three yogurts. yum.

Marni C. said...

Well, remember that I'm from the family wherein we ate out at Mother's Pizzeria many a Sunday. And when I expressed righteous concern, dad would say, "Making your mother cook and clean also breaks the Sabbath." We would drink frosty pitchers of root beer too quickly and never save enough room for pizza. Then again, most Sundays and nearly every single night there was dinner on the table, mostly meat and two veg.

But now I find myself ordering Thai of Wedgwood or Pagilacci because I'm just too dang tired--not to cook but to clean up after. But I hate myself for it. I drove past (okay, so I went to the drive through for a diet coke) the McDonald's on 145th and Lake City Way, and reminisced with Amelia about the many afternoons you and I spent there grading papers while the kids played on the massive indoor play structure with the incessant Seattle rain through the windows. Ingrid had a birthday party there too. So I'm thankful for McDonald's, although I know that's embarrassing to admit. But we were very, very short on cash, and very much in need of a place for kids to play.

My eating out rule now is that it has to be food that I can't make myself, or wouldn't make myself as well without a 700 degree pizza oven or a deep fryer. Otherwise, I would rather eat roasted vegetables. Which I'll make tomorrow. Unless we go to the Spaghetti Factory.

Travels with Wiwaxia said...

Hello! Thank you for including me in your inspirations. It is a mutual admiration. So to answer questions:

I like dining out when it's creative. I hate doing it when we're exhausted or in a hurry; it's the same when cooking or anything, really. Thanksgiving was great, but I got completely exhausted when at the last minute, several rsvps came in. We did share meal items, but ramping it up quantity wise did stress it some.[Henry brought a salad composed completely from his garden; he is retired, but a fantastic gardener! It was truly the best salad I'd ever had--all was picked that afternoon]

I'm afraid my fantasy meals have been satisfied recently: dining with you guys at Lark and having a traditional Korean meal cooked for me by Dr. Suji Lee. It's not just the food; it's the society, but the great food is a sensualist's obligation. And I fondly remember hanging out with your family and Marni's with Robin at McDonald's. See? It's the joy of the society. It may be a sad note, but I once saw an interview with a single mom who brought her kid to McD to play but couldn't afford the food. She understood the importance of the social aspect.

I'm surprised about your eating more when you cook because for me, it's the opposite. I actually lost weight when I worked at the bakery. I rarely eat during the prep for a party and can hardly eat during.

I just read something in NYTimes Tues science section about empty nesting and how you have so much time. It's true. We had Pagliacci, as Marni says, frequently when Robin was here, but without all the teenagers around, I'm so grateful it's gone. (He confesses the glamor of pizza is gone for him, too, now that he's had his fill in college.) I guess we could afford now to eat out everyday, but when I lived at home with my dad, who was like the restaurant chef, we didn't eat like that, and I wouldn't want to. Even restaurant chefs don't eat like that every day (or we'd die from gall bladder disease). As my friend Moria in Santa Fe says, "when I am the Empress," we'd share cooking with each other.

You are so right about the clean up. That's exactly where the craziness comes in. So I eat a lot of rice and do the kind of cooking I did before I had Robin, or even when I lived alone, which is to make large amounts of stuff (mostly vegetarian rice) and reconfigure it all week long. The more labor involved, the more clean up, usually. Jim does the final clean up, but I also clean as I go (my father trained me to that, put the things in the sink to soak, wipe breadboards and knives). I don't know, how do you develop a sous chef? Not everyone understands the devotion involved in cutting up veggies and salad stuff or wants to.

For my cuisine issues, the most important part about eating elsewhere, whether dining out or someone's house is to get some other ideas going. I will just do the same boring regimen and after a while, it's just there. Part of the joy of seasonal cooking is the turning of choices.

So what I really intended in posting for you is a couple of menus from today. Have to do dinner later, perhaps.(we're still eating lunch now)

Breakfast: "Snow scones" [cause it's snowing today] with whole wheat, oatmeal, currants, dried cherries, pecans
turkey breakfast sausage
cole slaw from the day before yesterday: red cabbage, fennel, carrot, celery, onion, mayo, lemon juice, celery seed, salt

Lunch: lentil soup with carrot, parsnip, celery root, kale, [we've been eating this soup all week] and then some shiitake mushrooms, kale and bacon were added leftover from yesterday's breakfast.
baked yam -- Hey Jim, is that yam ready yet?

PS. We saw Robin last night--took him out for him to have salmon. We brought two sacks of groceries plus stuff from costco such as annie's mac and cheese, brown rice mixtures and organic pasta in bulk. Some treats, too. So much easier than cooking it and cleaning up for him!