How Baltimore Eats

The results are in. Nearly 3,000 readers from across the state reveal the dishes they love, the vegetables they hate and how much time they actually spend in the kitchen.

First Taste survey

April 30, 2003|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff

Banish those brussels sprouts and bring on the broccoli. Chicken is on the table, a pie is in the oven, but would someone please do the dishes? The respondents to our first Taste survey have spoken -- nearly 3,000 of them.

We wanted to know what our readers like to cook and eat, how much time they spend in the kitchen, and how often they entertain in their homes. The overwhelming majority -- some 77 percent -- who answered our questionnaire earlier this year were women with strong opinions about food.

Most like a home-cooked meal, but nearly half go out to eat at least once a week. Not surprising, single people and couples without kids eat out more often than folks who have children at home.

Good ol' home cooking

In the kitchen, women still rule. Eight out of 10 women who filled out the survey said they are the main cooks in the home. The men were more likely to share cooking duties with their partners.

Chicken is the most popular dish prepared at home, followed by other basics such as pasta and beef. Two people, perhaps among our youngest readers, said their favorite dish to make is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. On the other end of the culinary spectrum are cooks who say they love to whip up ambitious dishes such as paella, venison and jambalaya.

"We have lots of broiled fish, salad -- simple things," said Rona Kalivretenos, 38, who lives in Columbia and has three kids under the age of 7. The challenge, she says, is cooking something everyone likes. "I get very excited when everyone will sit down and eat."

Roy Dragone, 81, of Baltimore cooks for his wife and himself and makes dishes ahead of time when he can. "I like to make casseroles in the morning and have them for dinner."

But time is a luxury that Lauren Magnuson, 44, of Dundalk can't afford. "Now that I work full time and have three teen-agers, I don't cook as much."

Her favorite dish to eat at home is her husband's grilled steaks marinated in wine, soy sauce, lemon, pepper and other seasonings.

Although Magnuson and her husband, Joe Pilkerton, work, they aren't throwing food on the table. Like more than a third of our readers, they spend between 45 minutes and an hour cooking dinner.

Those without children spend even more time in the kitchen. Nearly one in 10 spends an hour or more fixing a meal.

"I'll take an entire afternoon cooking," says Robert H. Welton, 58, of Baltimore. The youngest of four boys, he learned to cook in middle school when his mother went to work. "I got good at it," he said.

Pass the broccoli

Nutritionists will be pleased to know that our readers, especially the women, are drinking lots of water. Nearly 40 percent say water is the beverage they have most often with their meals, followed by beer, coffee, tea and soda.

Magnuson said for her, the decision to drink water was a matter of watching her weight. "I'd rather eat my calories," she said.

Men, however, were more inclined to have wine or beer with a meal (26 percent) than women (16 percent).

When it comes to vegetables, the sexes agree on one point -- they despise brussels sprouts.

"You cook them and they stink up the house," said Kalivretenos.

Next on the most-hated-vegetable list: lima beans, okra and peas.

Broccoli was named the favorite vegetable, with asparagus the runner-up.

As for the winning dessert, dozens of sweets were nominated, including tiramisu, cannoli, flan and bananas foster.

Glenn W. Given Jr., 59, of Chase, was one of the readers who voted for creme brulee. "It's light and very tasty," he said, adding that it can be jazzed up easily with brandy or other liquors.

Chocolate -- whether in a cake, pie, brownie or candy -- captures the taste buds of 21 percent of the readers. Pie placed a close second, followed by ice cream and cheesecake.

"I love a good chocolate cake," Kalivretenos said. Although she tries to watch her calories, she indulges her passion about once a month.

The cuisine scene

When it comes to eating out, more than a third of our readers prefer American cuisine. Other popular choices were Italian, Chinese and other Asian restaurants.

And some just couldn't make up their minds. "We like them all," wrote Katharine W. LeVeque, 70, of Charles Village.

She said she and her husband, Jim, 71, have enjoyed exploring new restaurants together since they were in college in the 1950s. "We'd often decide to pick a new restaurant instead of going to a movie," she said. The couple usually goes out to dinner at least once a week and among the pair's favorites are Gertrude's at the Baltimore Museum of Art and New No Da Ji sushi restaurant on Charles Street.

She often orders broiled fish when she goes out, in line with nearly half of the respondents who favor seafood entrees when eating out. And because this is Baltimore, after all, one quarter of those preferring seafood specifically listed crab as their favorite dish.

The next most popular entree was beef, followed by poultry and pasta.

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