You might be familiar with Ms. Erway’s book ‘ The Art of Eating’ or her website ‘Not Eating Out in NYC’. I was fortunate enough to meet her and try to discover why she would voluntarily choose not to eat out in one of the finest dining capitals of the world.
Head to Toe Wellness: How did the blog idea come about and what was your inspiration for writing the book?
Cathy Erway: It was 2006 and I was out of college and working in NYC. I’ve always been a ‘foodie’ and loved trying out the next new and exciting restaurant. I also enjoyed making dinner parties for friends and having potlucks. But, I suddenly realized that I was spending far too much money eating out each week approximately (3-4) meals and at least $100 on groceries per week.
Head to Toe Wellness: Had you cooked before or were you a complete novice?
Cathy Erway: Yes, I came from a home where both parents were active cooks. My mom is from Taiwan and my dad is American so I grew up eating a combination of Chinese-style dinners and then traditional American food. I learned to cook through following their recipes and styles. Although I had absolutely no formal training as a cook, I was comfortable in the kitchen. I also love reading cookery books from around the world and they give me ideas and inspiration.
Head to Toe Wellness: How did your friends and family react to your new way of life?
Cathy Erway: My family was amused and very supportive. And, I think my friends thought it was cool and maybe even inspired them a little to eat in more!
Head to Toe Wellness: So, how did you start and what would be a typical day’s menu?
Cathy Erway: My first big switch was going from the supermarket to the Greenmarket. That immediately reduced the cost of my expenses and I was able to cut my spending to ~$25/a week. I prefer eating according to the seasons and so I choose my produce accordingly.
For breakfast, I would typically start my day off with oatmeal. Quick, cheap and simple.
Lunches could range from zucchinis with potatoes, pasta and broccoli or some leftovers I had from the night before.
I would snack during the day on a variety of little experiments – flatbreads with different toppings, mini quiches etc.
And then for dinner, I would make a stir-fry or if I was feeling creative, try my hand at some inventive recipes using whatever was in my fridge.
Head to Toe Wellness: Did you notice any immediate changes in your health?
Cathy Erway: Yes, almost at once, I felt more energized, healthier and ‘less stuffed’. I also began to cut down on my salt intake by adding spices and herbs. I also lost 10 pounds along the way.
Head to Toe Wellness: Why do you think so many people, especially New Yorkers, don’t cook for themselves?
Cathy Erway: I think there are a number of reasons. They may have grown up in houses where dining out was a way of life or the food wasn’t good so they had no incentive to cook for themselves. Also, New Yorkers lead busy lives and it’s so easy to just pick up the phone and have a hot meal delivered to you in less than 30 minutes.
Cathy Erway: I would suggest trying the diet out for a week to begin – it will really open your eyes.
I can give you five basic ingredients from which you can make five meals to eat over the course of the week: 1 whole chicken, 1 broccoli, 1 carrot, some celery and an onion.
Meals – a chicken and broccoli stir-fry dish, braised chicken leg quarters served with a salad, use the carcass of the chicken and puree the carrot to make a hearty soup, a quick chicken and mayo salad and then a pasta dish with broccoli, garlic and olive oil.
Also, I would take the time to get to know the farmers at the local Greenmarkets. You will get to see what’s in season, where your food is coming from, how it is produced and you will become more connected to what you’re eating.
Head to Toe Wellness: Are there any grocery staples/cooking utensils you recommend?
Cathy Erway: Food – Pasta, rice, garlic, olive oil and sesame oil.
Utensils – One heavy-bottomed pan (preferably stainless steel), a really good knife and a clean cutting board!
Head to Toe Wellness: Did you have any cravings for particular foods?
Cathy Erway: Yes, for pizza and sushi. The way I got around this was to make pizza from scratch. You can go into any pizza shop and ask for some unbaked dough. Ultimately, I found that I could create my own delicious combinations using, for example, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, and it would taste just as good homemade.
Head to Toe Wellness: What are your future plans?
Cathy Erway: I am excited to be working on a Taiwanese cooking book, which will hopefully be published in 2015.
Additionally, I have recently launched a ‘ boutique personal food service’ – called Farmers Markets Fix (http://www.goodeggs.com/farmersmarketfix) - that uses ingredients directly sourced from the Greenmarket. The kit is delivered to your home and serves two people. Menus change each month and I will cater to gluten/vegan/vegetarian diets.
Head to Toe Wellness: Now that it looks like spring has finally sprung, would you mind sharing a few seasonal recipes?
Cathy Erway: Absolutely:
1). Coconut Green Sugersnap Peas - http://noteatingoutinny.com/2012/05/22/coconut-green-curry-sugarsnap-peas/
2). Squid and Asparagus with Ponzu-Chili-Lime Vinaigrette - http://noteatingoutinny.com/2011/04/23/squid-asparagus-with-ponzu-chili-lime-vinaigrette/
3). Asparagus, Portobello and Watercress Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette - http://noteatingoutinny.com/2008/05/25/asparagus-portobello-and-watercress-salad-with-sesame-vinaigrette/
For more information about Cathy Erway and her blog visit – http://noteatingoutinny.com/
Erway’s book, “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned To Stop Spending and Love the Stove,” is available at - http://theartofeatingin.com/buy/