Hello, duckling! Long time, no see. Of course, I’d love to have dinner with you and catch up, but to be honest, I’m not feeling inspired to go out to eat tonight. Why don’t you come over to my place instead? It might be a little out of your way, but I think I can make it worth your while, as well as mine. Need some convincing?
1. It’s cheaper
Does this part even need to be said? I’ll get it out of the way. Even if you buy a bottle of wine on your way over (you shouldn’t have! but let’s get this puppy opened up), you are obviously coming out way ahead here. But, generally, so am I. Making dinner for two (or three, or four), is still less expensive than a comparable dinner for one in a restaurant. That spinach and feta frittata that goes for $12 a slice at the local bruncherie? It’ll feed all of us for under $10, and that is with the expensive cage-free eggs. Some economists might argue that the time I put into shopping, cooking and cleaning up afterward represents opportunity cost, and that if I value my time at $20 per hour, then an hour of cooking equals $20 spent in a restaurant. To which I would respond that I am not making money every single moment of the day, nor would I want to.
2. Knowing your food
New York restaurants now earn letter grades from the Department of Health, but what does that “B” in the window really mean? I can guarantee a strict adherence to the five-second rule in my kitchen. (Note: I am not serving you food that was dropped on my floor for even a millisecond, I promise. Just a little piece of cauliflower fell on the floor, but I threw it away because I knew you were coming over.) I can also guarantee that the soup does not count chicken broth among its ingredients, and that everything that should be fresh, is. I can also guarantee that the person stirring the soup was not feeling a little flu-ey, but came in anyway to avoid getting her pay docked.
When you come over, we won’t be forced to listen to any loud, boring conversations at adjacent tables, nor will they be drowned out by blaring techno. We will admire each other’s familiar faces by the glow of candlelight in brass candlesticks that I inherited from my grandparents, listening to music that I picked out with you in mind. We won’t suffer cold drafts whenever the door opens.
4. Miss Boris Karloff
My cat is more social than most, and doesn’t love being left alone all night. I don’t love leaving her alone all night, either. And she misses you! Remember the last time you came over and she sniffed your hand, then sort of walked against you so it was like you were petting her with your leg? That means she likes you.
5. My cooking
Cooking may be a daily chore, but it is the best chore there is. What other necessary daily task stimulates all five senses, fires creativity, builds problem-solving skills and ends in something delicious? I’m not up for tackling every dish in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but my mac and cheese is better than you’ll get in 90 percent of restaurants, and if I drizzle truffle oil on top, that number approaches 99 percent. I glaze over when the waiter goes into the specials, but I love telling you about what’s on your plate. Like the chili? The secret ingredient is… a secret. I’ll tell you the next time you’re over. But if you like the cornbread on the side, you might be interested to know that I mixed shredded Gruyère into the batter.
6. Check anxiety
I recently realized that my life can be very neatly divided into two parts. First came the part where you and I would go out to dinner with all our friends, throw in for the check, and invariably run short. Then we would all begrudgingly pony up a few dollars more, except for that one person convinced that because the menu listed the salad as $7, $7 was exactly his or her share of the check. One night, when we were counting up the money for the check, we realized: We were set. Everyone had accounted for tax and a decent tip, and no one was expecting change. And life became less complicated. However, I still have residual check anxiety. Am I going to pay? Are you going to pay? Are we going to split the check down the middle? Are we going to pay according to what we ate? Did somebody treat last time? Let’s just take cash out of the equation altogether.
Yes, they will wrap up the food for us at a restaurant, but what if we haven’t really been planning on it from the beginning? Is it really worth it to take home a couple of forkfuls? Sometimes that giant plate of food really would have lasted through lunch tomorrow, but something happens to the leftovers on the way home, or I forget to put them in the fridge for the next day. I want leftovers when I want them, in the amounts I want them, with little to no effort on the part of my tired brain. You are also more than welcome to take home as much as you want! Unfortunately, you will not be relieved of the schlepping and forgetfulness that plagues plans to take home a doggie bag from anywhere, even my apartment.
8. Time flexibility—front end
You and I don’t often make plans at restaurants that require reservations, but we do aim to get to the restaurant at roughly the same time. But what if one of us gets stuck at work? The other one is left hanging around, trying to not get too drunk at the bar, or finagling a slot on “the list” despite the fact that our entire party is not ready to be seated. When you come over, all time concerns basically melt away. If I’m running behind, you can drag a chair into the kitchen and chat with me as I cook. If you text me to say you’ll be on the late side, I can turn everything down to a simmer and stream sitcoms while I wait.
9. Time flexibility—back end
I don’t need to turn over this table, and you brought this wine (thanks again, by the way), so we might as well finish it and get silly while we watch baby elephant videos on YouTube. We can even digest dinner for a bit before we start thinking about dessert.
10. I like nourishing people
You’re my friend—it makes me happy to make you happy. A relaxed evening, tasty food, perhaps even some feline company—what could be more nourishing than that, for body and soul? It’s well worth doing a few dishes afterwards.
Elise Nussbaum lives in Jersey City with a husband and a cat.