Lake Oswego Jottings group contributor Jacquelyn Gatewood used to love to cook, but now prefers to leave the cooking to others. She shares her insights into the benefits of dining out for recreation as well as nourishment.

At a recent meeting, my friend Jo Ann stated that she was looking at new places to live. She said she rejected the floor plan with the huge kitchen.

"What do I need a big kitchen for? I'd rather have a foyer," she exclaimed.

I can relate to this sentiment as I putter in my Ikea kitchen, where every counter is two steps away. As children, my sister and I helped our mother make fruitcakes for Christmas, and we canned jams, jellies and dill pickles during lazy summer afternoons.

I remember the days when, after watching my favorite HGTV makeover show, I salivated over thoughts of double ovens, industrial gas cooktops and massive granite-topping islands. There were days in the past when I brought out my fine china and silver to serve 12 for Thanksgiving dinners. Now I pop a Lean Cuisine meal in the microwave, and I am satisfied.

No, I don't want to cook — I especially have no need for two ovens. I won't be putting a turkey in one and a pie in the other! No wonder my mother looked at me askance when, at my father's suggestion, I gave her a new edition of "The Joy of Cooking" for her birthday 40 years ago.

Now, I would rather go out to eat. As a matter of fact, dining out is one of my greatest pleasures as I grow older. My younger friends pull out their smartphones to capture a picture of their entrees to post on Facebook and send to friends who evaluate the dish and play the guessing game, "What restaurant is this?" I am happy to sit back and wait to be served, happy to dispense with the cleanup and dishwashing. I smile when I sometimes leave with a doggy bag of leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

I know there was a time in the ancient past when I emulated Julia Child, attempting to produce the perfect pate a choux or amazing hollandaise sauce. My buttercream frosting was noteworthy. I still enjoy those crazy contestants on "Chopped" who cleverly combine squab (domestic pigeon), chard and lemon curd to produce an appetizer to please picky judges.

However, I am now an aficionado of food from afar. I even revisit my favorite hits of the past: the venison and cheese fondue I enjoyed in Heidelberg, Germany; the turtle soup and baked Alaska from the Eiffel Tower restaurant in France; and that fabulous green gage plum and apple pie with warm custard sauce I had in Stratford-upon-Avon. Ah, sweet memories of satisfying repasts. I am happy now to tuck away my cookbooks and dash out for happy hour with friends.

Jacquelyn Gatewood is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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