The Best Thing I Make Is Reservations
Let me talk to you about my lifestyle. And no, not the way that term is hurled by anti-gay haters.
Yes, I’m talking about an L-word, but it’s not lesbian. It’s more likely lunch. And dinner. It’s about my lifestyle of dining out. I do it a lot and always have.
But last week, Bonnie and I realized we’d eaten wonderful meals, at home, for six nights out of the past seven. Okay, friends, I see you gasping and clutching your pearls.
The last time I had dinner in my residence that many nights a week I was eight years old.
Seriously, I didn’t grow up at the dining room table. I can count on two hands and a foot how many times I sat with my sister and parents having a meal in our own home.
My childhood was great. Dinner at home, not so much. My wonderful mother was a horrible cook, with neither interest nor talent. My beloved Jewish grandmother tried to pass along chopped liver and blintz recipes but nothing took.
In my house, incinerated flounder squares meant fish, vegetables arrived gray from eternity on the stove, and chicken came from a pre-cooked rotisserie spit at the grocery.
Through junior high I lived in the suburbs, and my Madison Avenue mad man dad wouldn’t get home from Manhattan until 7 p.m. The kids gobbled spaghetti or burgers at 5:30 and the parents had the second seating—often going out and leaving us with a sitter.
On weekends, we all dined out. At a seafood house on Long Island Sound I tasted what fish was supposed to be. I learned of French bistro food, sampled German spaetzle and Italian eggplant Parmesan, and pretty much aced my home-schooled food appreciation course.
I loved Ozzie and Harriet dinners at my friends’ houses, but I loved my wacky family dining dynamics too.
By high school, we’d moved to Manhattan. My father’s career dictated frequent business dinners and socializing. And when there were no obligations, my parents had the whole exciting Big Apple restaurant scene to conquer. Lots of times they took us along, to Chinatown, Little Italy, or hole-in-the-wall eateries.
When my sister and I were left on our own, there was a house account at the Stage Deli, two blocks from the apartment. Maybe three nights a week we’d go for baked chicken, corned beef brisket, or matzo ball soup. The huge menu gave us diverse choices and we’d just sign for it. I also got to sit next to celebrities, like Walter Cronkite, the Smother’s Brothers, and Carol Burnett. Good times.
Through high school and then college vacations, while my parents played, my friends and I ate Nathan’s hot dogs, New York slices of pizza, or the fare at a zillion neighborhood diners.
During my pre-Rehoboth career years, my newspaper job as theater and restaurant critic didn’t help, but it sure was fun. In 1982 Bonnie joined up and we were out many weeknights reviewing or grabbing a quick bite before evening rehearsals for my theatre jobs.
Dining out is in my DNA. It feeds my soul as well as my stomach. It’s nature and nurture. I am what I am. Baby I was born this way. Even as I’ve tried over the years, for both dietary and financial reasons, to change the dynamic and dine home more, I’ve had poor to middling results.
Enter retirement. Ish. Clearly, I’m still working a little, but a mostly-fixed income dictates life style choices. So, after decades of eating out, we’ve vowed to get to know our own kitchen a little more.
And it’s working out really well. First, Bonnie is a great cook and a killer griller. I shop, she cooks, I do dishes. We try to eat healthy, but keep Nathan’s hot dogs and grandma’s matzo balls in the mix. Home on the range, we allow no gray mushy veggies or cremated fish.
Having friends join us around the table is wonderful too, adding that little social buzz and social pulse I crave.
We joined Costco, but in keeping the freezer full, we learned not to over-buy. Just say “no” to a matched set of humongous jelly jars lasting two people well into the next millennium. We roll through the store muttering “nothing we don’t really need.” An occasional bag of Snickers sneaks through.
And we try to keep Windsor from freaking out when the crispy chicken wing tips occasionally set off the smoke detector.
Will I disappear from local restaurants and bar stools? No way. My inherited restaurant hopping spirit rages on. I’m just adding a little balance.
I’ll be having my cake and eating it too. At home more. ▼
Fay Jacobs is an author of five published memoirs. Her newest is Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked. As a humorist, she’s touring with her show Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay. Visit her online.