Sunday, April 24, 2005

My Dilemma

After ordering take-out last night at Lassi, a terrific Indian place near our apartment, I got to thinking about the last time I actually prepared a home cooked meal. It took some working out, but I figured it was almost two weeks ago - flounder lightly floured and sauteed with some butter and lemon juice and string beans on the side.

I'd love to cook more at home on weekdays, but by the time I finish work and spend an hour at the gym, I'm too exhausted to go buy groceries to cook anything. I’m sure everyone feels the same way, no matter where they live. But it got me thinking, how often does the average New Yorker cook at home?

The problem with New York is that most apartments are quite small. The apartments you see in Friends do exist, but the rent is astronomical. The first apartment we lived in was tiny – over $2,000 a month for a space that could barely fit a two seater sofa and a coffee table. The kitchen (or galley which is probably a more accurate description) consisted of a small bar fridge, a sink and a cooker. The chopping board doubled as bench space when rested over the sink because there was no room anywhere else.

As a result we spent most of our time eating out, like most New Yorkers. It is more convenient to walk a block and pick up dinner than to wrestle with a frying pan in a space the size of a public restroom cubicle. There are so many restaurants, take-out places, bars and delis to choose from - if you ate out at a different restaurant every night for 5 years, you won’t visit the same place twice. Why? Because restaurants open and close down like there’s no tomorrow. I read somewhere that for every one successful restaurant in Manhattan, ten will close down within a year.

Now I don’t have a problem with eating out, I LOVE eating out. The problem I have is that eating out so often can’t be good for you. You can’t control the amount of fat or quality of ingredients that goes into your meal compared to preparing it yourself at home. I’ve asked friends about this and most say it is just more convenient to buy take-out than to cook at home. If pressed, they would eat at home once or twice a week – which means popping in the microwave a supermarket bought pre-packaged meal.

You would think a diet like that, mixed with drinking out three to four times a week would result in chubby New Yorkers, but the opposite is true. Americans are known for being larger than everyone else (in size and ego) - head outside of New York and parts of California and you’ll see what obese really means. But how do New Yorkers stay so slim? Is it really the hectic lifestyle, the competitiveness of working 60 hours a week and the stress that keeps people trim? Or is it because most people walk everywhere because they can’t afford a car, let alone the $800 a month to keep it in a car park in Manhattan?

So even though I love to eat out and will continue to do so, I’m going to at least try to balance things out…somehow…


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