Monday, October 05, 2009

Cooking at Home...or Home Cooking?

Down the street from our house is a little shopping center.  Along with the handful of eateries and shops is a storefront business I'd never heard of before, called Let's Dish.  The window had a menu posted and a glance inside revealed a few stainless steel kitchen prep areas.  Curious, I went inside to inquire about the place.

I was told it is a "revolutionary concept" in home cooking.  A "great idea" for enjoying some gab-time while putting together "healthy and delicious meals" for my family.  The best new way for busy families to cook, I was told by the enthusiastic assistant.  Well...interesting.  I'm all for families cooking together, eating together, communing together.  But, uh, how does it work? I asked, looking around at the steel stations but not seeing any stoves or ovens.

Apparently, you reserve a time slot, go to the store, and choose which of the monthly offerings you want to "cook".  Maybe "prepare" would be a better word here.  The October menu boasts the likes of Greek Isle Chicken, Wine Country Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Southwestern Pinto Burgers, and Crispy Herb Tilapia, for example.  If you want those four entrees, you grab a container and go to the assigned prep areas where ingredients are all chopped, grated, sliced, and waiting.  You follow the posted recipe to assemble the ingredients into the container, based on the number of servings you want.  Then you take it all home and freeze it, bringing it out to pop in the oven when desired.

Or, she bubbled, for really busy folks they offer a pre-done assembly, where you order your meals and they assemble them for you.  You just dash in and pick them up.  Freezers lined one wall where you also have the option to walk in and buy frozen pre-assembled ready-to-take entrees.

"This is so great!" she chirped.  "I never go to the grocery store anymore, except for milk and bread," she boasted.  Best of all, she proclaimed, echoing the company's website, "Back at home, you've got fresh and delicious, home-cooked meals whenever your family needs 'em."

The "home-cooked" part is what got me.  Is something home-cooked just because it is baked in your oven?  Is it really so hard to buy a few ingredients, chop and grate, and saute or bake them yourself?  This routine is certainly more costly than cooking at home.  The price per session is $25 per dish (serves 6), with a four dish minimum.  That's $100 to assemble four meals.  As far as I could tell, those are the main dishes you're assembling, not accompanying vegetable side dishes.

I walked out a little befuddled and shaking my head.  Obviously, the concept is lost on me.  I like to cook.  I enjoy getting into the kitchen at a certain time, chopping an onion, peeling some potatoes, or dicing tomatoes in readiness for the soup or sauce I will be making.  I find it rhythmic and relaxing (most days, at least!).  As you know, all my family gatherings always seem to involve cooking together in some form.  Food is an important factor in the fabric of my family.  So the idea of merely assembling and baking just doesn't appeal to me; it seems too much like the "dump and stir" method of cooking that has become popular of late, but more expensive.

I understand that not everyone enjoys cooking; others really don't have much time.  This might be a better alternative to traditional take-out or fast food, certainly.  But I dunno, I'm still confused by the whole concept.  Is it really home cooking?


janie said...

We've had these in our area for a few years now and just like you I wandered in to see what was going on in there. I was totally confused and unimpressed. Why would anyone choose this? A friend went and signed up and she said that most of the recipes were casseroles and not very good ones at that!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

It's not home cooking and it's more expensive than home cooking.

What a weird concept. I wonder how the business is doing?

J.Doe said...

Cooking was never a problem for me. The problem is cleaning. UGH. Hate that!!
If someone from that store doesn't come home with you to clean up after their meal then I don't think it's worth it.

Geek girl said...

Even a non-cook like me doesn't consider that home cooking. A quick and easy recipe made with fresh ingredients at home is a whole lot better.

Michelina said...

I get my husband to chop anything that needs to be chopped, and he does it pretty willingly, as he loves my cooking! So, we not only save money, but we get to spend time together in the kitchen, and eventually he will learn to cook Italian style too^_^

South of Rome said...

I think if this was done more cooking class style I could go in for it. In Naples there was a lady that did it that way and all you did was help a bit. It was a good social time and you went home with gobs of food and knowledge on how to cook Neapolitan-style. If they did Thai or Indian and you could ask questions and figure out how to reproduce it at home, well, yeah I would go. BUT I'm also cheap!! So the price would have to be just right!!!--- As for having freezer food, I would prefer to get my famly together and do a giant weekend of cooking and freezng in MY house or my moms ;)

Miss Footloose said...

Of course that is not home cooking. And you're not even getting a lesson. Neither do you save money or time as far as I can see. People who know how to cook and have any idea what real food is, would never fall for this. Says judgmental me.

I am always amazed when "they" come up with new ways to trick you into thinking you are doing something you are not, or to save money when you are not ("The more you spend, the more you save!".

In the US there's a commercial telling you how much money you can save on your coffee: Buy a coffee maker and brew it yourself AT HOME!! Imagine that! I was shocked there was such a simple solution!

Miss Footloose, who lived in countries where the only choice for eating was cooking yourself what you could find fresh and raw in the markets.
Tales of the Globetrotting Life

Valerie said...

Janie - I'd never heard of that before (and sort of wish I hadn't now!)

Ragazza - It's way expensive! Very weird.

J.- I'm with you! That's why our agreement is the one who cooks doesn't have to do dishes!

Geek girl - I'm saying! Obviously these recipes aren't complicated if they're just tossing them together, so why not do it all at home?

Michelina - Lucky you! That's a great way to cook together. Note to self: hone hubby's chopping skills!

Karen - That's what I thought; if it were a hands-on class it would be one thing. That's partly why I was so confused by the whole thing.

Ms. Footloose - See? The whole concept leaves everyone a bit confused!

Irene of American in Padua said...

Americans are suckers for convenience and believe what most companies tell them. If they say it's "homecooking", a lot of people really believe it. Your description sounds more like convenience than anything else, but at least it's not frozen dinners....or is it (partially)?!