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Oct 5, 2011 01:30 PM

Does learning how to cook something "ruin" you for ordering it in a restaurant?

I've always loved Chinese food, and about a year ago I decided to try to learn how to cook some basic dishes. Well, it turned out I enjoyed this and was able to duplicate many of my favorites. Now I tinker them to get them just how I like them, and bit healthier to boot, and I always have basic Chinese condiments at hand. So today, as I passed by what used to be my go-to Chinese restaurant, I realized I haven't gone there in a long, long time, and, weirder still, I have no desire to!

Same goes for many things I make myself (especially baked goods!) So, have you noticed this about yourself? What will you never order out because you know how to make it yourself?

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  1. Oh, yeah...Since I started making bagels, the ones available here in the upper Midwest are not good to us at all - even the ones made in-house at independent places.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      would you post your recipe, please?

      1. re: sunshine842

        You bet! I use Peter Renhart's recipe with a few very small changes:

        -I substitute a wee bit (1/4 cup) each of whole wheat and rye flours for flavor
        -I don't retard them overnight
        -I had to reduce the flour a bit because the flour in my area is very dry
        -I put toppings on both the top AND the bottom of the bagels - why should the bottoms be plain, I say?
        -Mine need to bake a bit longer than the recipe states - ??

        Have fun! We freeze them and have them available almost all of the time.

    2. Not really. I like to explore and try new things. And some things are just not practical for me, since I m a single person household.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        +1 on single person household (esp. since my son moved out for good). Sometimes I need to be waited on, or am too tired to cook and/or don't have the ingredients on hand. And let's face it, as good as I can make certain things, there's always someone else who can make it better. Usually.

        Edited to add: Travel is a factor too. Yes, I'll order something I can make at home, just cuz that's what I'm in the mood for at that particular restaurant. Tasted the most outrageous eggplant parm last summer and discovered a new way to make it. Will try it next time, whenever that is.

        1. re: alwayshungrygal

          Somethings just too much to do or to have. I love baked ham or roasted fresh ham, but to make one for just me, ah no. Fried foods like eggrolls, french fries also no.

        2. re: Quine

          +2 on the single-person household situation, but sometimes i see it as an excuse to throw a dinner party ;)

          1. re: Quine

            Oh, lordie, yes to the single person household thing. some much stuff I find myself going "It will be good, but do I really want to eat it for the next two or three days?"

            1. re: Quine

              I succumbed to empty nest syndrome AND divorce about the same time, and fell victim to, "I can't make THAT for just me..." And then I discovered, "The HELL I can't!" Not a bad way to fly, and now I have TV dinners that are much better than anything from a store. Why not?

              As for the OP's original question, I had the frortune/misfortune of landing a master chef as our personal chef for three years, who taught me how to cook. It pretty much took the edge off ALL restaurants for life. But curiously, I am not now, nor have I ever been, the least critical of food when I am a guest in someone's home. It just never occurs to me, and I'm always touched that people care enough to invite me into their home. But I also am aware that some find my cooking intimidating, and that makes me sad. I once had a first time guest at a Christmas season dinner help herself to a second portion of beef Wellington while loudly announcing that I would NEVER be a guest at her table, because she couldn't cook like me!" I just looked at her and said, "Entertaining shouldn't be reduced to a contest," but the point was lost on her. That facet of my cooking skills always makes me sad. There is no greater seasoning for any food than good company. It can even make not-so-great cooking taste wonderful!

              1. re: Caroline1

                "There is no greater seasoning for any food than good company. It can even make not-so-great cooking taste wonderful!"

                Beautifully stated.

            2. Never looked at it as "ruining" anything, but more of allowing me to further explore a menu and not "miss out" on a dish I have come to love and would order over and over if I could not recreate it.

              Outside of Indian cuisine and the occasional Chinese dish (e.g. pan fried noodles) where I do not have the tools nor proper stove/heat level to make things correctly, I quite often do the de-construct then re-create for most dishes I've come to love when eating out.

              Everything from spaetzle with chicken and marsalsa cream sauce to carribean fajitas with jerk chicken, jerk sauce, pineapple, sweet potatoes, sauted onions and chiuaua cheese, to pad thai to tempura fried sushi rolls with eel sauce and sweet chili sarachi mayo.

              Technique and correct ingredients are most of the battle.

              If I'm eating out and haven;t had a certain dish in a long time I often order it again if in the mood even though I can make it at home. Maybe I get great satisfaction out of the fact that if there is a blizzard outside or even during a zombie attack, I won;t be deprived of the dishes I love to eat the most.


              1 Reply
              1. There are things I make, that I won't order from a restaurant, because I like the way mine comes out. Some things are still worth eating out, though. No to French Onion Soup, yes to stromboli. No to caesar salad, yes to steak frites. Just depends......

                1. For me it's more about the $. It's hard to stomach paying $6 for a bowl of oatmeal at a breakfast spot, but it's okay with me when I'm there for the company of friends and want something filling and healthy. And my homemade oatmeal is still better (and only costs pennies).

                  If I'm at a restaurant for the food experience, I want something I don't have the time, extra arms, equipment, or ingredients for (do you keep venison stock on hand?).

                  Then again, sometimes it's a great way to learn how another chef/cook does a dish I like, and I can incorporate new flavors or cooking techniques into the same dish I love to make at home.

                  And I always get a giggle when people highly recommend a restaurant I've seen the Sysco truck pulled up to... then there was the time I was at a raved about hot dog joint, only to see two teenage employees pull up in a convertible VW Bug piled with hot dogs from Costco and carry them in the back (the closest Costco had to be at least a 30 min drive!). Yes, it was a super hot summer day. Most people never seem to realize they're paying top dollar for something out of a can or something from Costco they could heat up themself, lol.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mlou72

                    Well, Costco sells some quality dogs, and if you lack a supermarket that carries them or the time to drive the 30 miles, it might be a bargain. I think I can buy a hot dog a Costco's concession for about what it would cost me to get the same quality dog at a market and prep it myself, maybe less.

                    But I agree, people pay a premium at restaurants. It works for those who hate cooking and doing dishes.

                    1. re: mlou72

                      +1 mlou. Unless someone does an over-the-moon version of eggplant parm, I'm not going to pay big bucks for it. I find I'm like this about the foods I cook the most, a lot of Napolitano red-sauce dishes and some French Canadian ones. For example, there's a great market in my town (British and French Canadian specialties) that sells steak-n-kidney pies. Once in a while, I'll pop a few bucks for those. But not their cretons, because I do the mental math and it's not worth it to me. Anyway, I liked your post.

                      1. re: mlou72

                        (mlou72, O, hahahaha! the people who are okay with the dreaded Sysco Truck Restaurant Choice...O, yuuuuuck, the hot dog story - I seem to have radar for places with food-infection probs, don't remind me! ha ha!) Things I don't order up and or buy prepped?? Tons. In my town, restaurants are just social for me, not food-fun, they're so bland or bad or meat-centric; so I have std fall-back safe menu choices. (As for Whole Paycheck, bread franchises, I ain't that rich...)Anyway, here's my list:
                        Chinese; bagels; (easy!) cheese straws (see Mark Bittman!!) AND all salads, bread, sweet rolls; soup & oatmeal except one rest. that is gr8; any pie; brownies; rice- but it's ok to call ahead to p/u rice at the Chinese restaurant to save sanity; grains and baked-beans except @ our all-veg restaurant; properly chosen & cooked meat when serving meat-eaters even tho I don't eat it.
                        Boxed mixes are just VILE, therefore, any gratin or cake or noodly-goodness or so-called ethnic--even frozen pricey or vegan ones. Once ordered oatmeal @ a noisy,pricey,bally-hoo'd popular brkfst spot: waiter proudly walked out a bowl of near-glue with the spoon firmly vertical in the "oatmeal". Actually returned *oatmeal* and never went back or rec'mnded; their sweet rolls could kill a diabetic with one bite, too: nobody has that much insulin at-the-ready,natural or otherwise.
                        Learning Indian regionals, a little at a time-- gosh that's crazy good food.
                        It's just the two of us at home, usually, but we don't have a leftovers problem --and we're are skinny and definitely not rich.
                        You can too, people.
                        Lots of other recipes I do myself, just bec it's far less pricey that way: pizza, tempeh, soy milk, coffee, tea, all baked goods. I'm all set up to grow mushrooms and a kitchen garden. Our town is crammed with far too many mediocre to terrible restaurants, so I really ramped up the kitchen skills: once you learn it's fast and easy--you get the planning and timing dialed-in so you're not living in the kitchen. We do have very good Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, and ok Indian restaurants here, thank goodness, for special occaxns and visitors.
                        Alas, no easy source *at all* of good seafood, rest. or monger, so we mostly do without the good stuff, esp now that the Gulf is off-limits forever.But I can really cook up a seafood feast at home, when I get my hands on it.