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what is it about eating out?

I love to cook. When I cook I get that feeling that I'm in charge of the world that must have lured so many dictators, except that my kingdom is one of peace. But for some reason I find myself craving meals "out". Even if it's just Burger King. Is it being served? Do I just enjoy spending money? (FYI, other than bills and the necessary, I pretty much don't spend money on anything). Does anyone else suffer from this as well? What gives?

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  1. For me, there is just something immensely satisfying about sitting at a table and ordering something that strikes me as good at that very moment that I do not have to prep, cook, and clean up after. We don't go out often, but sometimes it's such a pleasure to get up at the end of the meal and go home to a clean kitchen.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Andiereid

      I totally agree. I love cooking but sometimes allowing others to do it all is a pleasure. i have pretty much been cooking non-stop since returning from vacation in October and am ready to have someone else make my dinner.

    2. It's all the clean up after the meals that we dread!

      1. I would much rather eat out than at home. I love the whole experience of eating out whether it's a fast food joint or a top of the line special occasion place.

        For me, eating at home is nearly always a "have to" not a "want to".

        1. I think it's the cleanup. I'm pretty much the same - I LOVE cooking and making amazing concoctions....but damn if I don't hate the clean-up.

          Sometimes I crave fast food garbage and it makes me want to kick my own ass.....

          1. Every time we finish dinner, I do always think "Where IS that maid!??"

            Sadly, she's standing right there. So I put on the rubber gloves and start loading the damned dishwasher.

            1. It's the clean up for sure- and getting out of the prep work. I think I may be the messiest cook around. Started that rep at about 14 when I started cooking for my fam... our rule was that if you cooked, you didn't have to clean up (which may have encouraged my messiness). When the husband and I first started living together, that rule went out the window after about 6 months , or maybe after the first time he had to clean up my mess from home-made meatballs and sauce. He's taught me a lot about "clean as you go", but I am still a mess. Though I love to cook, thank god for the decent take out we have around here (especially w/ 2 kids under 4).

              1. Yeah, it's definitely the clean-up for me. It's a neverending cycle- I don't want to clean up before or after I cook, so the mess is still there the next day, and I don't want to clean up again so I eat out again! Also, a lot of times after I put a lot of effort into a meal, I don't feel like eating said meal. I guess it's just from looking at it and smelling it for so long, because I'm not really a big taste as I go person either.

                1. It's also the taste. While you are cooking, you are smelling the food constantly. Then when you eat it, it does not taste as fresh because you have been saturated by the smell. Kind of like when you get so used to a perfume, smoke or any other smell.

                  When you go to a restaurant the smells, and tastes, are mostly fresh as the kitchen is usually separated from the dining area, and/or your face is not right over the dish while it is cooking.

                  (Plus you don't have to clean up!)

                  1 Reply
                  1. I think for me the creation of the food is where the joy is, but the eating is separate and inconsequential. I'd be happy making a meal, and then leaving it to go get a burger. Maybe i just need a family to cook for.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: amkirkland

                      Okay, I totally forgot about this aspect- I have lots of excuses for myself, don't I?! My husband and I were talking about this a couple of nights ago- when we both lived with our parents, we would either have dinner at his parent's house or my parent's house a lot of nights and sometimes we would have both sets of parents over. We would cook for both of them and experiment a lot, so it was like entertaining even though it was just our parents. Now, we're in a different city and don't really have any friends, esp. friends who enjoy food as much as us, so there's no one to entertain for except ourselves! I think part of it for me is impressing someone and receiving compliments and feedback, as self-absorbing as that sounds!

                      1. re: amkirkland

                        amkirkland, I love to cook, but it is very rare that I feel like eating what I have just made. I spend hours baking a case full of desserts, but I prefer a simple cannoli with coffee, than a slice of a multi-layered torte.

                        I have the clean-up down to a art form, and I can have my kitchen spotless in less than 15 minutes.

                        A well made burger or falafel is artwork IMVHO.

                      2. I am the same. I adore cooking. I hate cleaning up, though.

                        And when I am tired there's nothing better than spicy vegetarian thick noodles at the local Viet place down the street!

                        1 Reply
                        1. depends on the mood and the day. sometime the day demands no more work and sometimes the day demands so release. standing in front of the stove or the bbq, in complete charge knowing at the end i can sit with DW and just enjoy a relaxing meal ALONE is great. other times, i look at the stove and the bbq as the enemy.

                          Then there is the clean-up. I am a master of less dishes is a better meal. there is a rare meal during the week where there are more than 2 pots/pans to wash. but even 2/3 pots/pans are somewhat painful.

                          1. I generally prefer to eat at home, where the food is delicious, healthy and available when I want it. This often means a pizza, pasta or my sauté of chicken, peppers, onions, etc at 7 or 8 AM, shortly after finishing my morning bicycle ride. Hard to find these options in restaurants.

                            I do enjoy good restaurants while traveling, and keep a lookout for dishes to learn how to make at home. But even traveling I like to be able to prepare meals. If I'm staying with friends, its fun to cook together. Many hotel rooms provide fridges, enabling my standard breakfast of bran cereal with berries, walnuts and milk, with orange juice. Residence Inn provides a full kitchen, which I've occasionally used to throw little dinner parties for friends. In great food cities like New York and Las Vegas, I usually have such a long list of restaurants to visit that its hard to squeeze in any home cooking.

                            1. Just because I have a great stereo system at home doesn't mean that I don't like to go out to concerts. Going out to restaurants is the same. It's paying tribute to the men and women who work in the food industry, whose job it is to prepare food and serve it well. I think it's a noble profession, and I go out to eat to support that nobility.

                              1. I thoroughly love the act of creating and usually of sitting down to enjoy the meal I've created, however the older I get, the more intrusion I feel from the acts of making the shopping list, shopping, hauling ingredients home, putting them away, then dragging them out again along with the needed kitchen gadgets, gizmos, bowls, casseroles, pots, pans, and assorted other cooking implements, setting up the table, coordinating all the times, temperatures and other logistics, and then finally facing the clean up. Those aren't creative activities for me even though the combining of ingredients is.

                                By the time my daughter was leaving for college, I'd reached the point where no matter what I planned for that evening's dinner, I no longer had the appetite for it by the time I had to start preparing it. Stuck with ingredients that would spoil if I didn't use them, I was stuck making that meal for the family and I'd usually end up just having salad by the time we all sat down. Preparing the meal and smelling it cook sated any small interest I had in that food by that time.

                                Once daughter was gone, it just became quicker, easier -- and more interesting to me -- to be totally impulsive and eat out most of the time or at least decide on a dinner to cook on the spur of the moment as I drove by a grocery where I could pick up the ingredients I needed.

                                Now, after several years, I eat out most of the time or get the food to-go. I love quality groceries with excellent freshly prepared foods that I can buy in the quantity and variety of my own wishes.

                                For example, there's one wonderful grocery near me with a superb salad bar where I load up once or twice a week and bring it home (or sometimes take it to a park to dine al fresco in nice weather). There must be 50 goodies to chose from in creating my salad. Sometimes I go there and buy a container of rustic garlic mashed potatoes or twice-baked potato, another container of perfectly steamed veggies, and then either a slice of meatloaf or a tasty salmon filet or warm sliced turkey or whatever. Sometimes it's more like portabello stuffed raviolis or great stir-fry or moussaka or lasagna with a small salad I create.

                                I am fortunate to live in the Midtown district of a major city. Within five blocks of my house I have the option of Mexican, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, pizza, Italian, Indian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, Cajun, Cuban, French, Irish, brewpub, barbecue, deli, comfort food, bento box, sushi, a superb loveable joint bar and grill with amazingly good fresh food, fusion, ultra-contemporary, bistros, sandwich shops, wraps, coffeehouse cuisine, upscale, downscale, casual, buffets, grubby, whatever. ALL INDEPENDENTLY OWNED -- one-of-a-kind delights!

                                If I am seriously in need of chain food (rarely!), within a six block radius, I can find McD's, Wendy's, KFC, Burger King, Taco Hell, Sonic, Boston Market, Applebee's, Panera, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and a few others, none of which really attract me but they're there just in case.

                                Why should I cook every day considering my distress at hauling out so much and having to clean up? It's far more fun and quicker to let someone else do all the work and me enjoy the benefits.

                                1. So far no one has mentioned the social aspect, the entertainment value and sometimes the sheer adventure.

                                  It is why even the grand slam breakfast at Denny's can be satisfying ... sharing a meal with friends or co-workers. Even if you are alone there's the interaction with the staff and in some sense the other diners ... the people watching.

                                  Sometimes that server that gets to know you and your likes can up the experience. It is not just about the food. Sometimes after a rough day in a strange restaurant the server that smiles and calls you 'honey' can be a lift.

                                  Eating out is like going to the movies. You are sharing a common experience with people you might not otherwise share. It might sometimes be unpleasant but usually it is interesting. You usually know what to expect at home. You never know what to expect in a restaurant.

                                  Of course the better the food, but better the experience. Going to a play is a different experience than a movie. So going to a top restaurant is a different experience than Denny's, but both have the sense of community.

                                  Take-out still has its social aspects but it is more like renting a movie rather than attending.

                                  I'd even argue that fast food is a social activity. For me, I remember when the first McDonald's opened in town and as a kid it was so special when your parents gave you a special treat and took you ... or ordered a bucket of KFC ... or the pizza ... it was a special event and I think that lingers in the unconsious. Yeah, usually it is convenience, but still.

                                  The Friday night pizza meant the week was over and there was a few days to kick back and enjoy yourself and your family.

                                  As to entertainment and adventure, sometimes they go hand in hand. Sometimes you want to go to that mediocre restaurant because it has a water-view, or they have live volcanos or the bacon is hung from a trapeze with a 'safety-net' of foam. It just gets you to think in a different way about food.

                                  The divy places are fun because you never know what is behind that door ... what amazing new dishes you might discover and could not think up even with your wildest imagination

                                  I've met people from other cultures, usually the staff, that I might not otherwise ever meet because we are separated by language and social barriers.

                                  It opens up the world. IMHO, world peace could be achieved if people of different cultures just ate together. It leads to understanding and seeing how alike we all are.

                                  On Chowhound reading how different cutures eat and the special meals at holidays drove home that people are just people.

                                  Forums like Chowhound increase the social/entertainment/learning experience. As much as it is about food it is also about being a part of a community.

                                  You can drop a review on Citysearch but there's really not the same sense of discussing a find with others whether they agree or not.

                                  If you went out to dinner and the hostess told you you could only sit by yourself in an empty room away from other diners and to just write your order down and they would ring a bell for you to pick it up ... well, I don't think anyone would want to eat out like that no matter how good and interesting the food was.

                                  I know if I went to restaurants and the staff was often angry and I felt marginalized I wouldn't want to eat out anymore.

                                  1. It will probably get me kicked out of the Chowhound club, but the only meal I really care about eating out is breakfast.

                                    The occasional fancy dinner out is great - it's festive, I try new things. But generally eating out to me is a lot of money spent on inferior ingredients to what I have at home, without the pleasure of leftovers for lunch. My boyfriend is the same way; he's always trying to figure out what we could have made at home for the price of a meal out. Take that $60 you would spend on dinner, drinks and dessert for two at a pretty cheap restaurant, and spend it on ingredients and a good bottle of wine - bliss awaits. If you're not very well-off and you like to cook, there's just no comparison.

                                    However, I very much enjoy having a cup of coffee and a scone out at a cafe for the pleasure of being out amongst people. The servers at my favorite spot know me by name, and that's awfully nice. And I love, love, love big breakfast out because 1) the coffee just keeps coming, 2) everything is hot at the same time (not easy at home with eggs and toast and all that) and 3) I don't start the day with a pile of dishes, which is very depressing. Also, bacon with a house that smells of grease. All good.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: curiousbaker

                                      I agree so much. Breakfast is the time when it's hardest to throw a meal together at home. Sure it's easy to make scones, but not when you're trying to get up and out of the house as quick as possible. If you have the luxury of getting work done outside of the office, a coffee shop is a great way to be productive and out of the house, yet not in the office.

                                      Plus, contrary to what many say, I think breakfast foods are some that benefit most from being made out. I like making bagels, but unless I make an individual bagel every morning, even the most stellar batch is mediocre after a day.

                                      A possible exception is the breakfast with friends. I love getting everyone in the kitchen in the morning and sorta waking up together. Except, as you noted, it's hard to have everything hot at once, expecially pancakes/waffles. But that's the joy of it, some can be eating and some cooking while all are interacting.

                                    2. That's funny. My least favorite meal out is breakfast. I can do any of the normal breakfast items better and much cheaper at home. A bill from IHOP generally runs $30 for 2 adults and 1 child, and when you think about the ingredients - flour, coffee, eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, it's just a huge markup.

                                      I guess my family is different. Yes, for asians dining out is a big social affair, but if we dine at a truly bad place I'll hear about it for months, especially if it's expensive AND bad.

                                      I dine out for the adventure in challenging my taste buds, and to learn so I can replicate the dish/technique/flavor ingredients at home. So for that reason I will not opt to go to Burger King even if I don't have to cook or wash dishes. Nothing makes me more disgruntled than to have to pay for a bad meal.

                                      1. I cook healthy..for the most part. I have been known to hit Carls Jr. for a fat burger from time to time. I just gotta have it.

                                        I love being able to go to my favorite restaurant and try something new each time..and not have to do all the prep, cooking, and cleaning. I feel like a princess when I dine out.

                                        1. there are so many things that make eating out so much more enjoyable. i have recently discovered that i need to save money, so eating at home is the only option left unless i want to eat fast food twice a day...so i am seeing more reasons everyday why i like eating out.

                                          it's such a pain to shop for food. i don't ever find a grocery store that has everything i want. they either have good prices on packaged goods and terrible produce, or a limited variety, or it's just too damn expensive everywhere you turn.

                                          and then you get home and all the crap you bought might as well not even be in the fridge, because you see a commercial on tv for something you really want, but you didn't buy the right stuff to make anything similar. before you know it, you do want to cook something, but half the ingredients in the fridge have gone bad... and here's the new dilemma: do i go out and get more portobellas and tomatoes, or should i just spend the same amount of time eating out and not having to hassle with prep, cooking, and cleaning?

                                          but it's so great to go out and eat... you can choose what you want to eat... much of which is too labor intensive to do at home. you can drink stuff you wouldn't normally have at the house. but the best thing about eating out, is that when the tataki is not rare enough, for example, you don't have to feel like you messed up dinner, because it wasn't you, but rather the chef who goofed. so you send it back and get something else that more fits your liking.

                                          if you're a sweets person then there's nothing more thrilling than scanning the selection for the dessert that perfectly fits your mood. then, probably the best part for me is seeing the bill and leaving a big fat tip for an unsuspecting server (i'm a bartender and often people think i'm out of place in "nice" restaurants.) but then again... maybe i should keep the dough in the pocket and i won't be on such a tight budget.