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Sign of the Culinary Times: Rush Is On to Eat Out at Home

November 13, 1987|RUTH REICHL | Times Restaurant Editor

"What would you like to eat tonight?" the wife asks her husband.

"What can we have delivered?" he replies.

Sound familiar? It should. Conversations like this are rapidly replacing the familiar "What's for dinner, honey?" of the Ozzie-and-Harriet era.

For the last couple of years, people in the restaurant industry have been talking about the takeout revolution. They point to a Gallup poll which revealed that in 1977 a third of all American adults bought food to take out at least once a month; by 1986, that number had increased to one-half. And experts predict that within the decade, one out of every four meals eaten at home will be cooked somewhere else.

But when I heard the particular couple quoted above, I understood how profound that revolution really was. For it took place between one of the hottest young chefs in the country, Robert Del Grande of Houston, and his wife, Mimi. "I could spend four hours making some wonderful meal," says Robert, "but then we sit down and Mimi says, 'This is great. But we could have had a pizza here in 12 minutes.' " He grins ruefully and adds, "When you're really tired, you begin to wonder if culinary diversity is really worth it. When we eat at home, most nights we eat pizza or fried chicken."

Adds Mimi, "I hope it won't always be that way. I've been trying to promote takeout in restaurants near our house."

So, it turns out, have the rest of us. I'll admit that the restaurant that feeds me most often isn't even very good. But I know I can call it from the office, run in on my way home and grab a carton of hot-and-sour soup. I may not be thrilled about it, but it's modern life.

And to celebrate it, this week we inaugurate Movable Feasts, a new biweekly column about takeout food by L. N. Halliburton. With an increasing number of shops and restaurants featuring food to go--shops like Mary's Lamb in Sherman Oaks, Netty's in Silver Lake, and Pasta, Pasta, Pasta in Los Angeles--it's clear that these days dining out may mean eating in.

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