I'm laughing at a snarky blog. It's called Trainpigs, and it's essentially snapshots of people eating on trains. The characters in these photos are shoveling Chinese food from Styrofoam trays into their mouths, clutching fast-food sandwiches by a handful of paper wrappings. Sitting, standing, even walking. Nothing strange about this - I rode the four train last night beside a woman digging into a plastic carton of salad. What's surprising is that the blog is calling out something that has become so commonplace, so generally accepted, as unacceptable: eating take-out food on the go.
I'm not one to call anyone a pig, but marvel at the cultural phenomenon that is trainpigs. Making mealtimes out of no time, at the desk or on the train, has become the working world's solution to the all-too lackluster task of filling up on food. From their looks, none of the unsuspecting muses in these photos seem to be savoring their food terribly much, disengaged from the crowd around them. Maybe a more fitting blog for today's workaholic lifestyle might be called foodsloths, and poke fun at those who actually take time out of their day to enjoy a meal. Or, who spend the time to prepare their food, rather than depend on the convenience of restaurants.
What this blog then wouldn't understand and what we as a culture are learning to forget, is that by placing a small amount of time and effort on our daily bread, we are actually earning much more in return. It may be just monetary (compare the price of a bagel from a store to one that you could purchase ahead and toast at home), and it may be just health-related (now, see how much butter the counter person slathers on it compared to what would be plenty for you doing so yourself). Then, you might also find that you're saving yourself from trips to take out the trash, because the disposable take-out containers you're not using while cooking more food won't be clogging the bin. You might also begin to wonder why the apples in your grocery aisle came from Washington State, when you live in a place populated with orchards in the Northeast. You will most surely get better and better at cooking, too, and constantly discover new ways to satisfy.
In total, by preparing your own food, you'll become more mindful of it. And for one of the few physical necessities of every day -- eating -- a better connection with that food is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, it can just be fun. Getting back into the kitchen on a daily basis can be as enjoyable a hobby as it is practical. Over the two years I spent not eating out from any restaurant, I would find many more reasons for why this extreme sort of affliction I had for home cooking was beneficial to myself, the environment, and the community. I began writing about some of them on my blog, Not Eating Out in New York, interspersed throughout recipes that calculated the cost, health factor and green factor of the ingredients. And I described more of them in my memoir, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, which hits shelves this week. Perhaps one of the hands-down, can't-argue, best benefits of eating in is that I can afford to support small farms' local, seasonal, humanely raised or organic foods all the time because I was buying their ingredients raw, and that's a heck of a lot cheaper than filling up on these superior foods in restos all the time.
Of course, I can't wait to see what other folks might find from eating in, too. Now you can along with thousands of others in a fun challenge called The Week of Eating In, a project by HuffPost Green and HuffPost Eyes&Ears. It's simple to sign up, and throughout the week (February 22-28) and this one just before, we'll be adding tips and updates, guest blogs from famous foodies as well as cook-a-phobes alike, some slideshows of the worst kitchens and the best apps for eating in. And we encourage the throwing of potlucks, possibly the best crutch for when the going might be rough. So I invite you to join us in this week-long experiment, and share how it goes.
Follow Cathy Erway on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cathyerway