I’m trying to work a good and righteous rant about the newest thing that I didn’t think of first and that must be the end of the world as we know it.
But I can’t. It’s exhausting, and who has the time? Which is really the root of the issue anyway.
The end of regularly cooking and sitting down to a decent family meal is a well-known problem. We eat less well. We spend more than we should. We have fewer “how-was-your-day” conversations.
Wolfing down a pizza in front of the television isn’t the same, and, besides, everyone in the family is lost in their own screens, from phones to the giant thing hanging on the wall. It’s hard to have a conversation, and you don’t dare interrupt the young in the middle of whatever Instagram has produced in the last nine seconds.
But we yearn for the satisfaction of the kitchen. We yearn to eat well. Thus the meal in a box. No, this isn’t Hamburger Helper. It’s a good deal more high end. It’s all the stuff for a three-star meal right down to the pre-measured rice vinegar and tarragon, plus the recipe card to keep you on track.
Companies will deliver this right to your door, with the promise that you can bang out a proper dinner in 30 minutes or so. For instance, one of these companies has “cod and pattypan squash en papillote with garlic butter and fresh herb salad.” Sounds pretty good, and the appeal is obvious.
But is this cooking? If you don’t wrestle with slicing, dicing and measuring, if you don’t have to rummage through your brain for handy substitutes for missing ingredients, if nothing occasionally bursts into flame, it is really cooking?
Of course it is, and it’s far better than a microwave pizza. But, yes, it is less adventurous. It seems like one more step toward a culture that’s afraid to cross the street without a chaperone.
But we didn’t always have grocery stores. Grocery stores didn’t always have delis. We also didn’t always have a McDonald’s on every corner – we cooked – but now we do, and is anyone willing to argue that’s somehow made the world better?
Things change. If a drone is willing to drop the stuff for “Filipino style beef picadillo with chayote squash and jasmine rice” at my kitchen window, well, I’ll try about anything once.
I note with approval that this coming Saturday is National Eggs Benedict Day. (Doesn’t everything have a day these days?) I imagine that at some ambitious moment I have made that, but I can’t remember when, and I would probably need a little hand holding today. I sure hope someone in my immediate circle can whip out a good hollandaise sauce and correctly poach an egg.
I can provide the fork-split English muffin. My skills have eroded. The dinner in a box is sounding better.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Jeff_Fox