Eat In or Go Out? It Depends on the Food!

I thought I’d change things up a bit today and talk about one of my favorite things in life – food. Proper nutrition is a fundamental human need, but food is so much more than that.

Food is an intensely personal affair, involving individual tastes and preferences. But it’s also a social affair, where it can be a point of discussion (e.g. fine dining) or a reason for congregating (e.g. family dinners).

The quality and complexity of food varies immensely with the types of ingredients, the skills of the chef, the method of cooking, the presentation, and the service (yes, even home-cooked meals have presentation and service components).

All of these factors affect our experience of each meal. But I digress – today’s post is about deciding when to spend money and when to save it.

What I would like to share with you are my personal tastes in food, and my reasoning when I answer the question posed by today’s title – “Stay in or eat out?”

Foods I Can Cook At Home

  • Chicken Dishes – Personally, chicken is a meat I can cook very well with relative ease. It’s versatile enough to be prepared in almost any style and cooking method known to man.
  • Pasta/Italian Dishes – No offense to Italian cuisine, and when done very well – it’s hard to reproduce. But I can achieve a pretty faithful attempt at home with a little bit of practice and the right ingredients.
  • Low-Fat and Vegetarian Foods – Let’s face it – eating out is not the best idea if you’re on a diet. And if you’re a vegetarian, the choices at most restaurants are very limited or completely unavailable (I did it for three months, and it was pretty difficult to find good restaurant food). On the other hand, cooking interesting vegetarian dishes at home is simple, as is being careful to use low-fat ingredients and cooking methods.

Foods I Need to Eat Out

  • Sushi – I know how to make sushi – and by that, I mean I’ve read the instructions. That does not mean I’ll ever attempt to do it at home. There’s something about the art, complexity, and difficulty of making sushi that’s incredibly terrifying to me. I’d rather leave it to the pros.
  • Steaks – A well-aged, perfectly cooked steak can easily be what I describe as a “party in your mouth.” I can come close at home, but haven’t yet duplicated the end result.
  • Upscale Seafood – I can fry a fish, and I can bake a fish. My explorations into seafood preparation end there. To get a little variety in my seafood diet, I definitely eat out.
  • Sampling World Cuisine – My wife has a saying that you should always try something once. I also believe that you should see an expert prepare their art before you try it yourself. That’s why I love to eat out when I sample various world cuisines, particularly those that I’ve never tried before.
  • Ribs – My final item is ribs. Well-done, fall-off-the-bone ribs are a hard feat to master. Like steak, although I’ve come close, nothing quite compares to the authentic method.

Foods I’m On the Fence About

  • Pizza – Have you ever seen a pizza toss? It looks pretty intimidating. It also looks like it took a lot of practice to become proficient. Although there’s something to say for homemade pizzas and a taste I can only describe as “earthy,” there’s nothing quite like an authentic, thin-crust New York style pizza (if you’re from Chicago, sorry – but I grew up in Queens and have my preferences).
  • Brunch – Breakfast at home consists of the same things over and over again, done in slightly varied ways. Although breakfast is a meal I’m least picky about, it’s nice to get out for Sunday brunch once in a while and experience a broad array of delectable breakfast treats.

In Short

When it comes to money, being frugal, and especially going out to eat, I’m pretty conservative, especially in the recent economic conditions. But there are several things that I’m still willing to pay for:

  • Complexity of preparation, where the time required is so extensive that it’s simply not worth consuming my entire evening, unless I am certain that I can exceed the quality of the food I would get eating out.
  • Skill or experience, particularly with items like sushi, which require a great deal of culinary knowledge, tangible skills (e.g. knife work) and a certain amount of trust that I wouldn’t have in myself (bad fish, anyone?).

How about you?

Are there foods you will always eat at home, or some you can’t be bothered to?