Last week my family, including two teenage kids, had a home cooked dinner five times. The other two meals consisted of take-home from Wegman's and dinner at a local restaurant. According to The American Journal of Epidemiology, the average American eats dinner away from home 19.6% of the time. We also spend 29% of our salary on food purchased in restaurants (that includes breakfast/lunch & dinner). The study was interested in correlating the upswing in obesity with the increase in food consumed outside the home. It is not surprising then that we were all so thin in the 1960's when a family dinner at a restaurant was likely to occur only for special events.
As a child, I don't think I ever had dinner in a restaurant except for the yearly meal we'd have during our summer vacation in Wildwood. Even while on vacation my mother would cook or prepare a cold plate at dinner. She'd bring along supplies to prepare a "pot of gravy" which yielded one pasta dinner, another dinner of meatball sandwiches and what was left might get mixed with peppers and sausage for a third meal. As our vacation winded down my parents would plan an "out to dinner" night. I found this extremely exciting and looked forward to the bustling Wildwood restaurants, the big plastic covered menus, the smart waitresses in their crisp. colorful uniforms. I knew nothing of dining and it was all "fine dining" to me. We'd sit on the porch afterward, my parents complaining about the over-priced, under-cooked meal and wondering why anyone would rather eat in a restaurant than at home. I'd bask in self-importance, imagining myself a jet-setting connoisseur while looking at restaurant postcards that I collected throughout the week.
Last night I had two dinners at a restaurant, both at The Seaview Marriott in Absecon. The first I consumed in the grill with my daughter, the second in the Main Dining Room where I entertained clients while my daughter wrote college essays in the lobby. The restaurants have improved but the thrill has worn exceedingly thin. Tonight I made a pot of gravy.