The King Of Not Cooking

It's not that Bob Fisher doesn't like to cook. It's just that, for one reason or another, he has eaten his dinner out every night for 21 years.

January 01, 2003|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN STAFF

Bob thinks he will have ... hmmm ... let's see ... how about the salmon? He's never tried the salmon here. Yes, the salmon, please, with the mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. And another Chivas on the rocks.

He expects, he says as he sips, that his meal will arrive in a pile. All restaurants do that now, stacking the entree on the potatoes and the vegetables on top of that, building a virtual victual mountain.

It's another silly food fad - like waiters who insist on telling you their first names, like food served in martini glasses. Name the restaurant craze and, if it happened in the past two decades, Bob, perhaps better than anybody, knows it.

For when dinner is served this night - Bob's fish riding atop a cresting wave of garlic mashed potatoes; a shrimp appetizer confined in an overflowing martini glass; all delivered by a waitress who has introduced herself as Raquel - a remarkable streak continues.

Whether it is salmon at Henninger's Tavern in Fells Point, a burger at Porter's Pub in Federal Hill, or osso buco at Boccaccio in Little Italy, there is one certainty when it comes to Bob Fisher's dinner: It didn't come out of his oven.

He hasn't turned that on for 21 years.

Every night of the week since then, rain or shine, Fisher has eaten out - so far, according to his count, at more than 170 different Baltimore restaurants.

He is not a restaurant critic, not phobic about fire, not even a person who hates to cook - just a single, workaholic realtor who, short on time, repulsed by leftovers and tired of wasting food, decided in 1981 that he would go out to eat.

Every night.

Forever.

Doesn't have the time

Dressed sharply in a blue suit, a cloth napkin across his lap, Fisher, 70, pauses after three bites to explain why he stopped cooking evening meals - the day he realized he was wasting time and more.

"I was throwing away a lot of stuff. It was mainly the waste, the congealed leftovers, that's what got me out of preparing food.

"I love to cook," he adds. "I would like to be a chef. I'd love to have the time to shop for the food, prepare it and eat it, but there's no time for any of that."

He appreciates a fine meal better than most, but - even when he's inspired by the cooking shows he watches from time to time on the Food Network - he doesn't end up in the kitchen. "It gives me the urge to cook," he says, "but I still don't have the time."

"Bob's a mover and a shaker," says fellow agent Darren McShane. "He quite literally works seven days a week."

Fisher is a svelte 5-foot-7 and 128 pounds. He attributes his weight not to any exercise program but to all the running around involved in his job at Long & Foster in Federal Hill. "Some days I climb 60 flights of stairs," he says.

And he practices moderation, except when it comes to desserts. He rarely orders one, but when he does it is usually chocolate and "obscene."

"People who go out to dinner once a month, they tend to pig out. I don't do that, probably because I go out all the time. Some nights I might just have an appetizer, or two appetizers."

Even after 21 years of eating dinner out - that's more than 7,500 - Fisher, by his count, has hit just slightly more than 10 percent of Baltimore's restaurants.

"There are 1,500 places to eat listed in our local phone book," he says as his food arrives. "I've eaten at 172 of them."

At an average of $20 a dinner - over 21 years that's $153,000 - Fisher admits it "costs a fortune." Then again, he says, cooking at home for one gets expensive, too, especially if one tries to avoid prepared, preserved and packaged foods.

Fisher takes a taste of his mashed potatoes, followed by an unhurried forkful of flaky salmon. He seems satisfied with his selection. "How's yours?" he asks.

A never-used oven

Fisher hasn't cooked dinner in the last two homes he has lived in - not the one in Otterbein, where he lived for 15 years, and not in Federal Hill, where he has lived for the past six.

When the Otterbein house was put on the market, a home inspector turned on Fisher's never-used oven to test it. There was so much dust built up around the pilot light, it caught fire, said Fisher.

Fisher started out in real estate, selling his first house in 1948, but left to work for an insurance company for 15 years, a credit company for 15 years and a heating and air-conditioning company for 10. Ten years ago, he returned to real estate.

At home, Fisher keeps a few frozen dinners and cans of soup and vegetables, but only for emergency purposes. He keeps his refrigerator well-stocked with fat-free milk and orange juice, a wide selection of fruit and a lot of ice cream and frozen yogurt. But his oven remains unsullied. No cut of meat, no casserole, not so much as a Lean Cuisine has entered it.

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