Originally created 12/25/96

Cooking no longer holiday norm



Lack of time, laziness or poor cooking skills - whatever the reason, an increasing number of Augustans will devour Christmas dinner today in restaurants.

This year, the historic Partridge Inn on Walton Way expects a full house with more than 300 reservations for its Christmas Day buffet. The Steak and Ale Restaurant on Washington Road had picked up nearly 150 Christmas Day reservations as of Monday afternoon.

"People nowadays don't know how to cook - that's the God honest truth," is how Steak and Ale manager Anthony Thomas explained the exodus from the family dinner table. "We'll be busy-busy come Wednesday."

Herman Duncan, assistant food and beverage manager at Partridge Inn - while pleased with the crowds his restaurant draws during the holiday season - also lamented about this apparent loss of custom and national character.

"I think it's got to do with the generation change," he mused. "Our fathers and mothers, they really took pride in the Christmas cooking aspect. Now with the baby boom and the '60s, it's a different story."

Restaurants are responding to this new outgoing lifestyle, but not necessarily with turkey and dressing.

Shogun, a Japanese steak house and sushi bar on Washington Road, was busy last Christmas and expects the same business year, said Aeree Seo, an assistant manager.

"We see different kinds of people," she said. "Some people don't like cooking at home, some don't want to cook after they go to church, some work and don't have time. They're just regular people."

Augustino's, an Italian restaurant housed at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta, also captures its share of guests willing to abandon ham and yams and pumpkin pie for pasta and garlic bread on Christmas Day.

"We just offer our regular menu," said Augustino's hostess Fay Forth.

For some people, eating out is about spending quality time with family and friends - and not necessarily laziness or lack of tradition, acknowledged Mr. Duncan.

"When you're trying to entertain, the last thing you want to do is spend half your time in the kitchen," he offered. "We have a lot of families like that."