Why sometimes all you need is really great takeout

Why does food taste better when someone else makes it? Writer Flannery Dean extols her love of takeout. A love she shares with Girls star Lena Dunham.

Chinese takeout and chopsticks, Feb 13, p93

Photo by Jonathan Kitchen/Getty Images

When I’m feeling flush with cash I spring for takeout. When I’m feeling broke and down on my luck, I spring for takeout (though I put it on my already overextended credit card.) On Friday nights I get takeout. Saturdays are a favourite takeout night too.

Is a pattern emerging?

Though derided by celebrity chefs and lifestyle gurus, takeout endures. That may be because takeout saves many a starving working gal from eating another bowl of Cheerios for dinner after a long day of work or a long week. It also may be the reason many women are able to work outside the home says Alison Wolf, author of the new book The XX Factor, which is excerpted in The Atlantic.

Says Wolf: “Spending on eating outside the home doubled between 1992 and 2004, at which point it overtook total spending on food eaten at home — and much of what people eat at home is prepared outside.”

From those stats, Wolf draws the conclusion that, “Women have opted for less time in the house and more money to spend on takeout.”

If you think this is a bad thing then you’re either a great home cook or haven’t had very good takeout.

Call those who collect takeout menus like rubber bands lazy and extravagant (we probably deserve it), but understand this: we can’t hear you over the sounds of grease-soaked paper bags being torn open and plastic cutlery hitting the counter.

But takeout fans are starting to defend themselves and as such may one day rescue the necessary indulgence from its unflattering association as the lazy woman’s dirty little secret.

Girls creator and star Lena Dunham recently wrote a paean to takeout in The New Yorker. In the essay entitled “Deliverance” she casts her love of takeout food in a rosy, romantic light.

Wrote Dunham: “Deep inside, I know that my pathological resistance to homemade cuisine comes from something more than a desire to drain my parents of their financial resources and waste endless quantities of cardboard and Styrofoam. There is something so comforting, so magical, about the meal simply arriving, already smelling like itself, laid out like a road map to satisfaction. I want dinner to be perfect every single day.”

I wish I could say that I was an idealist like Dunham. For me, the real appeal of takeout is that it means there are no dirty dishes and no pots and pans to wash. As someone who grew up without a dishwasher this holds great sway.

My great-grandmother may have baked a pie every day of her married life, but I will bake far fewer. Feel free to lament this alteration — sometimes I do. But rather than wonder why I don’t have the time, energy or endurance of my ancestors, I console myself with thinking of all the many wonderful slices of pie I will eat, especially from my favourite restaurant, which mercifully, blessedly, offers takeout.

Do ever have to order takeout to get dinner on the table? Do you love it or feel bad about it? Tell us in the comment section below.