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The case against eating out

The case against eating out

I’ve always loved eating out. I mean, who doesn’t, right? You have a variety of choices, and it’s quick and hassle-free, unlike cooking which can be a painstaking affair. Also, the mushrooming of restaurants in Kathmandu and Lalitpur means you don’t have to go far from home or your workplace to find a nice place. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Thai, the options are endless. Restaurants have also gotten good at promotions on social media. You see a lot of food content that it’s impossible not to want to check them out for yourself. That is how I recently found myself at the rooftop of a newly opened beer bar in town and for lunch at another café nearby in the same week.

When I first started working, I used to spend a good chunk of my salary eating out, even if I regretted it later and vouched to do better—meaning eat the meals my mom made at home more than I dined at restaurants. But the lure of pizza, momos, and burgers were often too great to ignore. Looking back, I think I ate out almost every other day. There was always one excuse or another—a friend to meet, a new place to try out, or a craving that just had to be satiated right then and there.

My mother, a medical doctor, often asked me to refrain from eating fried foods at restaurants as she didn’t like the fact that most eateries reused oil while cooking. I recall she used to tell her patients that many of their health issues were because of the bad food they were consuming. She still says that. As most teenagers or young adults, I agreed to stick to momos or non-fried items just to get her off my case. Eating out always meant indulging in fried food and various sugary concoctions. The need to eat out was made worse by the fact that, in Kathmandu, going out with friends generally meant chilling at restaurants. Things are slowly changing but I feel there still isn’t all that much to do. But then, restaurants are everywhere.

Fast forward almost two decades later, I still get attracted by discount offers and promises of a refreshing new cocktail. There was a time when my husband and I had sort of made a pact to eat at a new restaurant every week. We had decided not to go to the ones we usually went to but to try out new places. However, my husband and I have now drastically cut down on eating out. We’ve done so for multiple reasons but primarily because of quality inconsistencies at restaurants.

Many times, we have gone to restaurants to have a particular dish and found that the taste changed every time. It’s so disappointing. We attribute this to changing cooks as people migrate abroad for better opportunities or the restaurant’s lack of quality checks. This one time I ordered pancakes at a café I loved near my home in Lalitpur, and it was quite literally just flour and water. It tasted like rubber. When I complained, they said it was how it has always been. But the pancakes there used to be fluffy, thick, and sweet. I have since then stopped going there and started making pancakes at home. It’s cheaper. I have control over the ingredients and I love that. And it tastes way better, if I may say so myself.

Another time, a friend and I had pizza at a popular pizza place and we could barely lift the slice without half of it dropping onto our plates as the cheese was heavy and melting. The crust to cheese ratio was totally off and we had ordered a pizza we usually shared. That wasn’t how it was supposed to be. The staff, however, were apologetic and asked us if we would like another. But our appetites and moods were ruined.

Eating out has become an ordeal, and not the exciting adventure it used to be. It has also become a whole lot more expensive than before. Most restaurants have hiked the prices with no reason or explanation whatsoever. In many places, the prices have gone up and the portion size has been reduced. The food also feels stale sometimes. A few friends own restaurants and cafes and we know they batch make and freeze curries and pies to be used for a few days.  

During the Covid-19 lockdowns my husband and I found ourselves replicating the food we had at restaurants at home and discovered that we could make most of the things at less than a quarter of the price. There are plenty of resources like BuzzFeed Tasty and YouTube that can teach you to whip up gourmet dishes in no time at all. By choosing to eat out less often, we have cut down on our food expenses as well as ensured that the food we eat is nourishing and fresh.