I like eating at home because it’s comfortable. I like being alone with my girlfriend. I like it when a few friends are around. There’s no discomfiting check business at the end of the meal. If I were a different writer, I might—right here—also start waxing on about the spiritual bounty, sense of togetherness, and holy spirit of communion that comes from eating with friends and loved ones at home. I won’t, though.
The perception of home cooking is that it’s maybe a bit boring, which I don’t buy. Obviously it can be. But mastering a few fundamental principles (generally speaking, low heat for eggs, high heat for most other things; it’s done before you think it is; it’s never as hard as you think it’s going to be; when you’re sautéing, don’t play with the food—it’ll let you know when it’s time to flip it, etc. etc.) keeps it from being dull. I have a lot of cookbooks, and I use them. I’ve got some fundamentals down and my timing isn’t as bad as it used to be. I have Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc At Home and I’ve made things successfully from all three. And I’m not a genius.
Still, that tasting menu at Per Se is 12 dishes long. I couldn’t ever do it at home. No space, no access to those ingredients, not enough time. But, also, I can’t make dumplings at home that are going to taste like they do from that place in Chinatown. I know I’ll be eating those dumplings again long before I could ever think of going to Per Se. Even if I could bring myself to go. The conflicts are never resolved.