A few years ago, Cathy Erway was just another Julie Powell, slaving away at a 9-5 job she wasn’t particularly enthralled by.
Today, she’s a well-known figure in the local foodie culture – once a participant of amateur cook-offs, now a judge of them.
It all started three years ago when she decided to forgo dining out in New York – a pretty blasphemous proclamation in the foodie capital of the world – make every meal at home, and blog about it. What started primarily as a way to save money soon became a calling. Two years after starting the experiment, chronicled at the oxymoronically named site www.noteatingoutinny.com, she was approached by a literary agent. This month, “The Art of Eating In” (Gotham), that title a clever nod to the M.F.K. Fisher novel, comes out.
Expanding from her daily writing, which detailed her adventures in home cooking, from baking bread to participating in local food competitions, the book goes deeper into her personal life. There’s her life growing up in New Jersey both eating in and taking out, as well as her encounters with alternative food culture, such as foraging for food in New York City dumpsters.
“I knew I wanted to make a memoir – give it a narrative arc and draw out these great stories within the blog that I maybe touched on, like foraging and checking out waste streams,” says Erway, who also shares some of her original recipes with readers. “I wanted to expand on these larger stories.”
After two years, Erway ended her fast, though still blogs about the local food scene, as well as freelances for publications like Savour and Edible Brooklyn. She also shares cooking and dating advice weekly on “Let’s Eat In,” a radio show on Heritage Radio Network. And, of course, she continues to cook at home in her Crown Heights kitchen, shopping all over Brooklyn for produce at places like the Borough Hall Greenmarket, Green Grape Provisions in Fort Greene, the monthly Greenpoint Food Market, and Brooklyn Flea in the summer, as well as Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope and Urban Rustic in Williamsburg for other groceries.
“I like to keep eating out for special occasions, just to explore something different and fun,” says Erway. “I like to keep it a special occasion rather than the other way around. I think most people see cooking as a special production.”
On her blog, Erway has also been expanding more on another topic that arises frequently in today’s food movement – sustainability – by further taking food production into her own hands and getting involved in the food process.
“The best parts (of the blog) have been the greater food awareness that I have gained from doing this. When you go to a restaurant you don’t typically know where your food came from and how it was made. It really got me into sustainable food, local food and the whole movement,” says Erway, who last summer spent time volunteering on farms like Added Value in Red Hook and Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint and looks to do some gardening this summer as well. “I have a lot of exciting plans in store. It’s cooking everything now; I want to go even further and grow almost everything I eat.”
“The Art of Eating In” comes out February 18. Celebrate with Cathy Erway at a launch party extravaganza and Crostini Cook-Off that same day at the Bell House (149 7th St.) in Gowanus from 7-11 pm.
Tickets are $10, and includes tastes from crostini cook-off entries, appetizers from Hapa Kitchen and A Razor A Shiny Knife, beer specials and music from zombie jazz quintet Father Figures and DJ sets by Finger on the Pulse, as well as a reading from Erway and a cast of characters form her memoir. Two dollars from each ticket also goes to benefit Just Food and Oxfam relief efforts in Haiti.
Erway will also be at Word (126 Franklin St.) in Greenpoint February 25 for another reading at 7:30 pm. Love the Stove Treats will be served.
For more information on the book and the author, go to http://noteatingoutinny.com.