Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Strangers feeding strangers
August 14, 2013 1:38 AM   Subscribe

Mealku is a service designed to help people obtain home-cooked meals, by connecting strangers online. It's sort of like AirBNB for leftovers as takeout meals, though right now it's only in New York City. An article from The Atlantic Cities describes Ted D’Cruz-Young's vision for the network and addresses concerns. “There’s always food left over. It’s nice to know it could be someone’s dinner", said one fan.
posted by knile (63 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps I should've included this aspect in the post text, from the Atlantic Cities article:
"No money directly changes hands between cooks and eaters. Mealku's credit system intentionally defies easy conversion into dollars. One ku is worth something a little less than a buck in the new cash-back system. To D’Cruz-Young's thinking, Mealku is a closed, membership-based food club."
posted by knile at 2:01 AM on August 14, 2013


Wow.

Mealku addresses this by, first, sending "welcome cooks" to evaluate the kitchens – and the motives – of every person who wants to cook in the network. They poke through fridges, into cupboards, and under sinks, homing in on expiration dates. Listening to several people describe this process, I was repeatedly struck by the fact that my own kitchen probably wouldn’t pass this test, for its wealth of dubious condiments. Mealku also has a slightly less objective standard: "No lazy, crazy or selfish people are allowed."

Sorry, this doesn't address food safety concerns at all. People die from salmonella, botulism.

Christ, there is a reason why restaurants etc are so strictly regulated. Deregulation is just as bullshit when it's coming from hipster libertarians as right wing libertarians. I appreciate the impulse but these communal things don't necessarily scale.
posted by smoke at 2:15 AM on August 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


If is truly helping folks, it is a wonderful idea. We waste far too much perfectly good food. There are many that will not place pride above survival.

On preview, smoke does have a valid point. However, the hungry will eat if at all possible, and this an order of magnitude superior to dumpster diving.
posted by scottymac at 2:21 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


What the platform is proposing is a very old idea – let’s go back to the way we used to eat and share food – but the mechanism for doing that is entirely modern.

I find this at bit bemusing. The Romans, for one, ate and shared food in restaurants. And had takeaway from restaurants. Like we do. Not in a network of home kitchens. What old ways are they talking about? Do they imagine some idyllic time in the urban past when there weren't cafes/food establishments of some sort and everyone served and sold food from private kitchens?

(But I do crave that lavish kitchen in one of the photos. Man, that would be sweet to have.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:35 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


But I should add, less snarkily, that I am all for less food wastage, even if this does not seem like a terribly efficient way to achieve that.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:36 AM on August 14, 2013


I've been wondering what to do with all these muffin bottoms.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 2:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I appreciate the impulse but these communal things don't necessarily scale.

It isn't exactly a scaling problem. It's a "people logged into a website != someone I know" problem.

I'd be more than happy to accept leftovers from someone I know, even if I've never inspected their kitchen. Or maybe I wouldn't, but the point is that it would be based on the fact that I've gotten evidence over years that they'd be a good/bad person to trust to make food safely and not try to poison me for kicks.

What the platform is proposing is a very old idea – let’s go back to the way we used to eat and share food – but the mechanism for doing that is entirely modern.

No, the mechanism, knowing the person, needs to be the same. The communication channel might be different, though. Instead of setting up a site specifically for this and trying to force a faux community into it, go to some existing communities and suggest the idea. For instance, I'm sure there are many MeFites who live close enough to each other and who know each other well enough that they'd eat each other's leftovers.

The reason restaurant regulations work is that we trust them to be enforced strictly (more than 95%, say). Which now that I think about it is going to be another casualty of the general loss of faith in government that's happening in all sectors.
posted by DU at 2:47 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Deregulation is just as bullshit when it's coming from hipster libertarians as right wing libertarians.

This assumes all regulations are aimed at "food safety" when they also provide for-profit restaurants a convenient way to bar competition from non-profits.

I'd be more than happy to accept leftovers from someone I know, even if I've never inspected their kitchen.

This is the essence of what's going on here and why should government regulation force itself into this sort of private, voluntary social relationship?
posted by three blind mice at 2:54 AM on August 14, 2013


I already operate a similar program. It's called Tomorrow's Lunch. Currently the userbase fluctuates between 1 and 2 -- myself and my daughter, my wife hates leftovers -- and I'm not sure I'm ready to scale up anytime soon, but it's been a huge success internally. Maybe I should seek a round of VC funding?
posted by Rock Steady at 2:54 AM on August 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


scottymac: However, the hungry will eat if at all possible, and this an order of magnitude superior to dumpster diving.
Er, this doesn't seem to help The Hungry, though. It seems geared to the white-collar types who either live alone or have family lives that make preparing their own food time-consuming in a way that they see a workaround for.
posted by knile at 2:57 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sounds similar to India's Dabbawala system.
posted by empath at 2:59 AM on August 14, 2013


empath: Sounds similar to India's Dabbawala system.
Yes! That's what I was thinking. Here's a video that I love about them.
posted by knile at 3:04 AM on August 14, 2013


Er, this doesn't seem to help The Hungry, though. It seems geared to the white-collar types who either live alone or have family lives that make preparing their own food time-consuming in a way that they see a workaround for.

Yeah, I don't think this is going to be a huge help to the people usually called "The Hungry." You need to produce to participate, and I bet that people who can't afford food won't have kitchens that meet the requirements. Where this might help is for Professional workers with schedules that only let them cook sometimes. Which, you know is nice, but if this will mostly save you from having to Eat Out again, it's not going to Fred the truly hungry....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah. This is an amazing vector for disease, and death.
If a person was of a mind to.

But I find AirBNB creepy.
posted by Mezentian at 3:36 AM on August 14, 2013


I get it, but I also...don't.

When did feeding yourself become so complicated? I'm single, I work long hours, and I manage very well. The options are not 'eat the same thing every night' or 'spend a fortune at Whole Foods' (note: doesn't exist where I am, anyway, *sniffle*), or 'survive on ramen and/or greasy takeaway'. Freezers, people!

Example: on Sunday, I cooked up Thai basil & cashew chicken (chicken, cashews, fresh Thai basil, fish sauce, cilantro, lemon grass, lime, ginger, garlic, red chili, palm sugar) and a large rice-cooker full of quinoa. Froze that in 6 portions. Took me about one hour, total. Already stockpiled in freezer: Beef bourgignon, vegetable dhal with jasmine rice, fresh salmon portions, zucchini and feta fritters. During the week, I'll get home from work + the gym at 8pm or later, haul out one of these, and serve it with either some roughly chopped and wok-seared veggies (for the Thai chicken), yoghurt and toasted almonds (for the dhal), or fresh steamed green beans (for the bourgignon).

Otherwise, I'll scramble some free-range eggs and whack them on some rye sourdough toast with fresh parsley and chives. Or toast some of that bread and top it with avocado, feta, fresh tomato, basil, cracked pepper and a ton of aragula. Either way, I'll be eating within 10-15 minutes of walking in the door.

No matter how busy you are, feeding one person healthily and cheaply is not that hard. It doesn't require a complicated online system, or a fleet of bike couriers, or eating food that's been cooked in some stranger's non-commercial kitchen.

(Please spare me the snark along the lines of 'Well, good for you!!'. :) I'm honestly not trying to big-note myself; quite the opposite, in fact I really don't think it's hard. I am genuinely a bit confused by the premise of this.)
posted by Salamander at 4:03 AM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


But I find AirBNB creepy.

Have you used it? It's pretty great.
posted by empath at 4:03 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Eating each other's leftovers.
posted by symbioid at 4:33 AM on August 14, 2013


It isn't exactly a scaling problem. It's a "people logged into a website != someone I know" problem. I'd be more than happy to accept leftovers from someone I know, even if I've never inspected their kitchen.

Indeed, and this is something that the early sociology of crime tapped into. Once upon a time, the prevailing theory was that the country had far less crime than the city, per capita. We know now this isn't exactly true - or at least it's more complex than that - and it's more that the country has different types of crime. However, there's a kernel in there that relates to your argument.

One conception of this difference was the idea of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, which for the purposes here could be viewed as society and relationships in the country vs society and relationships in the city.

One of the reasons sociologists thought crime was lower in the country was because of gemeinschaft, that is, norms in the country were more likely to be enforced personally, informally, via assigned status with the ultimate penalty being social exile and stigma - which you couldn't come back from.

In the city, you needed laws/policemen because people didn't know each other, and facing stigma could start anew or build up social capital/status from scratch, etc etc - the wiki has more detail - but the point is that they felt people behaved better in the country because their behaviour was widely known to important peers, status was hard to come by and once lost impossible to recover; in short, the opinion of peers is far more important, not only psychologically but also materially, than the opinion of strangers, or people you only interact with on one plane.

Your statement really captures this. Of course you would trust someone you know if you hadn't inspected their kitchen - the rich fabric of your social interaction with them provides a strong incentive not to poison you - and if you are poisoned a strong incentive to provide appropriate restitution (likewise, it provides an incentive for you to respond charitably if poisoned; it's a two way street).

Thus, you both logically have more to lose from a bad outcome - you could both be ostracised from your social circle, family, church group etc. So you're 100% right it's not like community (gemeinschaft). A one star review on a website from a stranger where you may not even use your real name is not comparable, for better and for worse.

Of course, many websites (including this one) try to address this and foster that sense of gemeinschaft with greater and lesser degrees of success, but god damn I don't know that I would bet my life - or even my weekend - on it.
posted by smoke at 4:39 AM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


... this sort of private, voluntary social relationship?

What's social about it? You don't even know this person.

If you need a website registration service to know they exist, it is pretty much by definition not social.
posted by DU at 4:45 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, what happens in the first mass case of salmonella? Or listeria? Not because people are bad at cleanliness but because nature is rough and fresh produce especially can be a vector.

haha but no seriously I would rather eat a frozen, semi-cooked burrito alone than eat a stranger's (or a friend's, basically a human's) leftovers, you have no idea if they swap out a tasting spoon or just stick the same one back in the pot or god the agony of discovering half a hair...nope nope nope.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:52 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: you need a website registration service to know they exist
posted by dubold at 4:53 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Salamander, lots of people get home much later than eight every day, and have other obligations on Sundays. People can lead really exhausting lives. Even those with the advantage of adequate access to everything it takes to cook food they like can, say, live in small apartments with limited cookware and freezer space, and have to cook most days of the week. Lots of people live with SOs or roommates, or have friends over. Many people don't know how to plan, cook and store meals efficiently or consistently well and end up feeling helpless to avoid wasting and ruining food. More people than you might think have health issues that make it hard to cook - someone who's in too much pain to cook one Sunday in five isn't going to buy in to a Sunday system. And some people just don't enjoy any of it enough to expend the energy if they don't have to.

Like, I love to cook and to eat my food and see it eaten. But even I've found myself dealing with things in my life that made buying and preparing food seem like a crushing, ceaseless chore. There's always the potential for feeding yourself to become complicated.

However, I would never, ever sign up for this programme. Too much evil in the world. And I wouldn't want to be responsible for anybody else's botulism either. Hope it works out, though, because the idea of getting to eat food you normally could never eat is really fantastic.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:00 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


How is this like the dabbawalla system? The dabbawalla deliver food to you that your own household cooked for you, not some stranger's food.

why should government regulation force itself into this sort of private, voluntary social relationship

This is the libertarian answer to literally everything.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:04 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eh, I'm not that concerned about tasting spoons or salmonella or whatever. The person has apparently been cooking for a while for themselves and hasn't died yet, so that's probably fine.

The real problem is the non-linear one. Not that people might be an epsilon dirtier than me but that some rogue evildoer is going to poison everyone. There's literally no mechanism in here for either preventing that or dealing with it once it does happen. Even in a restaurant, there's some level of social interaction among the restaurant workers that should weed out the worst of the worst. Here it's just Jeffrey Dahmer putting up that he has some leftover "roast" to share or some Old Lace adding a pinch of arsenic to every dish.
posted by DU at 5:09 AM on August 14, 2013


Do they imagine some idyllic time in the urban past when there weren't cafes/food establishments of some sort and everyone served and sold food from private kitchens?

This is actually happening in the Urban Present. Sudhir Venkatesh writes about (let's be honest, it's usually*) women who sell food from their homes, and many other illegal or semi-legal income sources in his book Off the Books. Worth a read to see how the urban poor are getting along without jobs.

Spoiler alert: he also interviews prostitutes.

When did feeding yourself become so complicated? I'm single, I work long hours, and I manage very well. The options are not 'eat the same thing every night' or 'spend a fortune at Whole Foods' (note: doesn't exist where I am, anyway, *sniffle*), or 'survive on ramen and/or greasy takeaway'. Freezers, people!

Ya, about this. Some families live in hotels because they can't front the money for first, last, deposit. Or because the rental network where they live is sick of their (issues). Or because the hotel is cleaner than all the rental options open to them. Some single mothers with (number of kids) work two or three jobs with inconsistent hours and have to pick up kids from daycare and be constantly figuring out who is watching the oldest after school. Some people never learned how to cook. Some people are homebound and barely mobile. Some people cannot get access to affordable fresh ingredients. Some people live in homes where they cannot store dry goods without fear of infestation.

So, let's be honest about how great your options are, and that they are not universal options. You have the (financial and social) capital to find ingredients. Your "long hours" do leave you with energy. You do not have a debilitating condition that prevents you from standing. You do not have an abusive partner who says terrible things about the food you cook, making you question why you even bother. There are a lot of things you have, but the things you don't have are more striking. And for the record, pretty much any time a statement follows the form of "Noun, people!" it will be heard as dismissive. As though poor people just haven't considered getting a freezer. Poor people are poor. They aren't all relegated to the bottom of the intelligence bell curve. (which I just mistyped as curse....)


*The rib guys on the side of the road aren't usually legal either. There's a fabulous sociological discussion of the kinds of cooking that happen in the home and the cooking that happens in the backyard/beach/etc. Heavily gendered. Yes, of course this is a generalization, that's sort of the definition of sociology. No, we will not have a derail here about whether it's true that it will be mostly women engaging in this "feeding each other" trend from the article.
posted by bilabial at 5:48 AM on August 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Here it's just Jeffrey Dahmer putting up that he has some leftover "roast" to share or some Old Lace adding a pinch of arsenic to every dish.

I think we've just discovered the plot for season 2 of Hannibal...
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:51 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found the “No lazy, crazy or selfish people are allowed,” line pretty hilarious, because the only reason I can think of to give away my leftovers, especially if I'm cooking with fancy expensive ingredients (which seem to be required here) is to give them to a friend who is broke and hungry. And I strongly suspect that my broke, working class, ill and messed up friends - the ones who actually might need a goddamn meal - would read as "lazy, crazy or selfish" to the type of person who runs this service.

See, this is why I am really, really skeptical of techno-utopianism. All that happens is that people who already have social capital get their lives made more quirky! and adventurous! and customized! while everyone else can go jump.
posted by Frowner at 6:11 AM on August 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is the essence of what's going on here and why should government regulation force itself into this sort of private, voluntary social relationship?

Leftover jerked-knee anyone?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:15 AM on August 14, 2013


There's a guy around here who a while back started making barbecue in his backyard, and it came to be known that you could email him on certain days with an order and he would deliver it, all refrigerated and packed in takeout containers. He had a popup at a local bar for a while, but then that stopped, and I've heard he's looking to open his own restaurant nearby (soon, please!). It was all very word-of-mouth, and I know he didn't have permits or anything. Like the Tamale Lady, whose tamales drunken bar-goers in the Mission have been eating for years and years and years. There was also the previously unpermitted creme caramel cart (now a fully permitted business in a shop of its own), which people also happily tracked down via twitter.
posted by rtha at 6:21 AM on August 14, 2013


This is the essence of what's going on here and why should government regulation force itself into this sort of private, voluntary social relationship?

What? Does the name Typhoid Mary ring a bell?

And yes, she did unjustly suffer from those "government regulations" but that's beside the point of this discussion.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:27 AM on August 14, 2013


I just give my leftovers to my bartender cause it's nearly impossible to cook pasta for only two people.
posted by The Whelk at 6:31 AM on August 14, 2013


(Please spare me the snark along the lines of 'Well, good for you!!'. :) I'm honestly not trying to big-note myself; quite the opposite, in fact I really don't think it's hard. I am genuinely a bit confused by the premise of this.)

I'm honestly confused how you can make this sound so easy. Like, I can't even explain why it doesn't work for me. Partly because my freezer is too small for storing a week's worth of food for a whole family, and my pots and pans are, too. Mostly, though, I'm just a not very creative cook. Everything you say makes sense to me in theory but in practice...I'm just glad I manage to get food on the table any old how.

Anyway, sorry for the tangent.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:35 AM on August 14, 2013


Some families live in hotels...

Yeah, and this "service" really seems like it isn't for them, or really any of the categories of people you cite. At all.

And yes, she did unjustly suffer from those "government regulations"

She quite clearly was a danger and flagrantly did not give a fuck (or simply refused to believe, which has the same result). I don't think she suffered unjustly at all.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:44 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The other day I somehow came across a similar site, Leftover Swap (dot com).

I dunno, I'm just not keen on the idea of eating food when I don't know where it's been.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:10 AM on August 14, 2013


Berlin puts the kibosh on Airbnb.
posted by bukvich at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2013


The posts about salmonella and crazy poisoners have been interesting to read and confirm my belief that a lot of US people spend an unfortunate amount of time experiencing fear and worry.

I live in Mexico (OMG scary! according to the US), in a tropical area (OMG germs!), and I regularly eat in informal restaurants. Some of them are based in people's houses, and none of them are inspected for hygiene by the government (OMG it must be filthy!). I regularly get home delivery of food cooked by these places.

The result of all this horrible risk: I have about 2 more gastro episodes per year than I had in the US. Sometimes it's clearly from something I ate locally, and other times it's not clear where I got it, because I travel internationally. And it has never occurred to me to worry that a crazed poisoner would attempt to kill me.

Here's how quality control works here: If you eat somewhere and it makes you queasy or worse, you tell your friends and maybe post it on Foursquare or Facebook. No one wants to be known as the source of food poisoning, and everyone knows that if a place makes someone sick once, they never go back. If you get home delivery and the food arrives less than piping hot, you heat it again for a couple of minutes to kill whatever might be lurking, and then...you eat it!

The Mealku idea seems seriously inefficient and insular--the "honey miso glazed salmon" and "vegan probiotic yogurt" makes clear who this is for. But it's nothing to be afraid of.
posted by ceiba at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I find this at bit bemusing. The Romans, for one, ate and shared food in restaurants. And had takeaway from restaurants. Like we do. Not in a network of home kitchens. What old ways are they talking about? Do they imagine some idyllic time in the urban past when there weren't cafes/food establishments of some sort and everyone served and sold food from private kitchens?

I think the whole tech-enabled nostalgia for the mud thing is kind of fascinating in its own right. They're not imagining any time in the urban past, they're imagining some version of the rural past (or present), where everyone, say, puts up vegetables and keeps chickens and whatnot. It's really weird; you see the same thing (I think, anyway!) driving the fashion for old-school work clothes (or things that look that way).
posted by kenko at 8:07 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the essence of what's going on here and why should government regulation force itself into this sort of private, voluntary social relationship?

Because in this case it's not a private, voluntary social relationship, but rather a business relationship? One is reminded of Tom Slee on Tim Wu:
We all know the informal economy. I used to hitchhike to university, my neighbours have yard sales, friends help each other move house. None of this activity is regulated because it's at most minimally commercial. But there is a line, of course: if I started having a yard sale every weekend then my neighbours might think I'm stretching a point and complain to the by-law people. If I rented my house to strangers week in and week out – for money -- they might ask if I'm running a rooming house. And that's assuming that the people renting my house aren't running a brothel. So there is a trade-off here: informal activity for little or no money is OK. Commercial activity plays by different rules; a level of accountability is needed.
posted by kenko at 8:11 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in Mexico (OMG scary! according to the US), in a tropical area (OMG germs!),

This sort of ugh AMERICANS AMIRITE is really tedious. You don't know how everyone thinks or acts. I don't necessarily agree that the salmonella concerns are warranted, but I don't think every discussion about everything that happens in America needs to go to this WE OVER HERE WE DO IT BETTER kinda thing.
posted by sweetkid at 8:54 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


tell your friends and maybe post it on Foursquare or Facebook. No one wants to be known as the source of food poisoning, and everyone knows that if a place makes someone sick once, they never go back

This doesn't at all sound like it could still easily fail to prevent an extremely significant number of serious or fatal poisonings!
posted by ominous_paws at 9:02 AM on August 14, 2013


When people around me praise AirBnB, I often hear something like "I've used it dozens of times and it's what I'll use on every trip!" "Did you ever have a bad experience?" I ask. "Well, only one...", invariably, which turns into a mildly diverting story. With this food idea, though, that one bad story won't be mildly diverting, it will be food poisoning, a hospital trip, who knows. "I've eaten at X restaurant 500 times and only nearly died once! Can you believe it?"
posted by naju at 9:02 AM on August 14, 2013


Salamander, lots of people get home much later than eight every day, and have other obligations on Sundays.

*sigh*. Yes, I know. I often get home much later than eight, and I also have other obligations on Sundays. (Law school + 2 jobs for the past 4 years.)

The point wasn't to get into a debate about who's the busiest.

You have the (financial and social) capital to find ingredients.

Seriously, what? The people mentioned in the article who are signing up for this system are eating something. Cooked by somebody. They're not homeless people with zero resources. Why is everything on Metafilter reduced to variants of the whole, 'Oh, you're so privileged!!' thing? It's hyperbolic and downright boring. The article was talking about professionals who live in Park Slope, not single mothers of multiple children living in hotels.

Fact: a ton of people in western societies with at least as much 'financial and social capital' (by which I assume you mean 'money and education' so why not say so?) as I have, just do not seem to know the basics of healthily feeding one person.

And for the record, pretty much any time a statement follows the form of "Noun, people!" it will be heard as dismissive. As though poor people just haven't considered getting a freezer. Poor people are poor. They aren't all relegated to the bottom of the intelligence bell curve.

For the record, pretty much any time you start making tautological statements like 'poor people are poor', and lecturing me about what you assume I think about other people's intelligence, it's heard as dismissive. And makes it clear that you're only here to play the I'm-more-empathetic-than-you, you're-so-privileged-and-socially-unaware game.

Seriuosly, bilabial - the only one derailing anything here is you.
posted by Salamander at 9:06 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, AirBNB seems great as a concept. On the other hand, the one time I used it, it took all of ten minutes for the hosts at the place I was staying to start enthusiastically talking about, and bringing out parts of, the guns they were manufacturing.

I am guessing this piece of anecdata doesn't reflect on AirBNB as a whole; nevertheless, I probably won't use it again except when I'm in a mood for potential deep weirdness.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sort of ugh AMERICANS AMIRITE is really tedious. You don't know how everyone thinks or acts.

1. I'm American.
2. I'm responding to postings on this thread.
posted by ceiba at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, sometimes Americans abroad can be the most tedious about how we're all doing it wrong. You're also responding to people's concerns about salmonella as a strictly American issue, and jokily generalizing that all Americans are scared of Mexico.
posted by sweetkid at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


And 3. My former friends in the US are afraid to visit me. They say outright that they are afraid. A quick glance at the comments section of any major news site's article about travel to Mexico confirms that many more Americans are also afraid.
posted by ceiba at 9:38 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sort of ugh AMERICANS AMIRITE is really tedious.

I really didn't get that from the comment (and I'm usually sensitive to that sort of thing 'round here), more that it's a funny reason to immediately dismiss the idea.

I've had an idea similar to this (and one along the same lines about sharing tools/ helping neighbors fix their houses) but the verification thing is, to me, a show stopper. I can't think of a good way to scale ideas like this (regardless of their worth) because as a coder I don't believe you can create a technical solution to a social "problem". If you try to scale this past word-of-mouth/ friend-of-a-friend, you will immediately run into problems: free riders, cheats, complainers and even poisoners (if you scale it to 10 million people or so). That doesn't mean the idea is a bad one:

What's social about it? You don't even know this person.

If I'm feeding a person the next town over (or getting food from them), you're right. But if it's a person down the block or the next street over, while I don't know them, I probably should. We've got this whole Bowling Alone thing going for us where we all come home to our fortresses of solitude and then drive away to socialize with people from work or somewhere else where they are like us. Because of it, KFC has the frigging balls to advertise their giant take-out platter as a home-cooked meal so you and the kids can sit around the dinner table and have a Good Old Fashioned Family Meal. The truth is without one person staying home full-time, it can be a pain in the balls to have a proper dinner five nights a week. I'd love to get some sort of neighborhood collective working where maybe I cook a couple of nights a week, make sides a couple of others and just eat on the fifth night.

But my neighbors all seem to be horrible people, as best I can tell when I peek through the curtains, so I'll never gin up the courage to talk to them, much less try it. Plus they probably all have horrible taste.
posted by yerfatma at 9:39 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


if it's a person down the block or the next street over, while I don't know them, I probably should

Yeah, try this reasoning in a city. With apartment buildings.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:44 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think meal swaps are a great idea. We had one going for a while with two other families and it may re-start again in the Fall. However, these are friends. We trust them and have been in their kitchens.
posted by Area Man at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2013


I for one am 29 years old and married to someone older than me and for whatever reason I have a hell of a time keeping myself fed. I've always just made guesses and been lazy. I don't know exactly why but somehow my parents didn't transmit all that knowledge about what can be made and what must be bought except for cereal, potatoes, pork chops, chicken breasts, pasta. Plus stuff that comes out of the freezer tastes bad, like it came out of the freezer.

Anyway point being that I would love it if someone could just bring me food all the time.
posted by bleep at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2013


Steely-eyed Missile Man: She quite clearly was a danger and flagrantly did not give a fuck (or simply refused to believe, which has the same result).

Yeah. Some people's depths of self-deception has to be experienced to be believed. I'd have been neutral about this sort of exchange, once, before I lived with my MIL. She cooks food that tastes gourmet-level. Gets compliments at potlucks. Her house has, for borderline hoarder reasons that I won't get into here, too much cat shit cleaned up less than promptly and too many flies. Nowhere near Hoarders-level filth (she watches Hoarders and says with relief, "We're not that bad!"), looks well within "normal" to people who go over there for Christmas dinner, but IMO having lived there for several months, beyond the range of "normal" kitchen hygiene. And I am not a clean freak.

Have I gotten food poisoning from her food? No. Have I gotten staph (MSSA not MRSA, but so what, it's still shitty and IME not that easy to get rid of) from her because she thought that breaking out in boils (occasionally for her, much more often for me) was normal and not something that needs to be checked out by a doctor? Yes. Have I warned the potluck people about "too much cat shit, too many flies, also staph"? Yes, I have warned the people who I am close enough to to have that sort of conversation with. For the people I'm on small-talk level with, it's not socially appropriate to go from "Hiya, how ya doin'? Good! Me too. [Chitchat about the weather.] Oh hey you may want to think twice about eating MIL's food because her house has too much cat shit and too many flies." And since we don't have that kind of relationship, likely they'd write me off as somebody with mental problems, a germ phobia, and possibly a vendetta against my heart-of-gold MIL. Especially considering that the people I HAVE told, still eat her potluck food with gusto.

I think it's because 1. MIL's food tastes great, 2. she is genuinely nice -- "heart of gold" is a direct quote from people in our circle -- which makes you disinclined to believe something problematic about her good-faith offerings, 3. seems ENTIRELY normal in public, 4. she's a microbiologist. You would think that might encourage more giving-a-shit about pathogenic microbes, but she's as much as said to me, "You're making a big deal out of nothing, you'll eventually develop antibodies and germs are good for your immune system" -- which I agreed with right up until, y'know, having problems getting rid of staph. And 4. as I say, nobody including me has gotten food poisoning from her food. (That I know of, of course.)

I eat as much of her food as I have to to be polite at holiday dinners and no more. It's true that at this point I probably am germ-phobic where she's concerned, but I think that's a rational reaction to her carefree attitude about flies, my experience of staph etc. (FWIW she did do a decolonization regimen after I distanced myself the fuck away from her, so I don't think she's a staph hazard any more. But I'll never trust her idea of "normal" again. Her superpower is denial.)

Probably Mealku's "welcome cook" inspections would keep her kitchen out of their network. But I'm scarred enough from working through MIL's "I'm normal, my house is normal, all my friends agree I'm normal, our holiday dinners are normal" force field that I will never have 100% confidence in homeowner kitchens that I haven't personally checked out.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don’t really get this, but it must not be aimed at me. So, you have leftovers. Instead of the horror of eating leftovers you look through a web site, find things, order things, wait for somebody to come to your house to bring things back and forth, etc. And then you get to eat someone else’s leftovers.

Even if these actions are taking place on different days it still seems like it would be a lot easier just to eat your own leftovers. Is it really so horrible to eat the same thing two days in a row?

Also, there’s no freakin way in Hell this is going to scale up and become mainstream, or even close. At which point they will shut the service down. Because this isn’t some sort of food co-op, much less a feed the hungry venture, and I have no idea where people commenting here got that idea.
posted by bongo_x at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Probably Mealku's "welcome cook" inspections would keep her kitchen out of their network.

Unless she got picked to be one of them!

Seriously, though, that's horrifying. What does your spouse have to say about it?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:05 AM on August 14, 2013


I'm going to start a business where I drive around picking up leftover food from homes and restaurants, then taking it to a giant recycling plant where it's broken down into various nutrient components and repackaged into hot dogs.
posted by nerdler at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find this at bit bemusing. The Romans, for one, ate and shared food in restaurants. And had takeaway from restaurants. Like we do. Not in a network of home kitchens. What old ways are they talking about? Do they imagine some idyllic time in the urban past when there weren't cafes/food establishments of some sort and everyone served and sold food from private kitchens?

They clearly mean the paleo diet age, when everybody ate bison burgers with bacon for breakfast.
posted by Nomyte at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, try this reasoning in a city. With apartment buildings.

Can't tell if snarky or obtuse. I live in a suburban neighborhood and was speaking of myself.
posted by yerfatma at 11:46 AM on August 14, 2013


What does your spouse have to say about it?

He's come around to accepting that the only time I spend around her is major holiday dinners, his birthday, and her birthday. He insists that I didn't get staph from her, but from her house. He dislikes being in her house and acknowledges the cat shit and flies problem. Simultaneously, he does not agree that her delicious food could harbor anything to be wary of and so, he resents my comments about that. He can't bear to think of his heart-of-gold Selfless Mother Nurturer as the source of something awful. Also IMO denial runs in the family.

The thing I wonder about the "welcome cook" inspections is, is it a one-time planned inspection? Somebody like my MIL could get around that. She cleans up for holiday dinner guests after all. Cleans the litter boxes, burns scented candles, sequesters the majority of the cats in a bedroom for the evening. As for the flies, well, one fly during a one-time inspection probably wouldn't raise a red flag. Everybody gets one or two flies in the house every so often and it's not a chronic hygiene question mark. It wasn't until I'd lived there for a while that I realized that there was always enough of a critical mass of flies that if I wanted to put a glass down on the table but keep sipping from it for, say, 20 minutes without a fly landing on the rim, I'd better keep a plate on top of it until I'd finished the drink.

Probably people like my MIL are outliers. I hope Mealku's process is enough to weed them out.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:00 PM on August 14, 2013


If you have no qualms about eating stranger's food, just take thirty minutes to peruse a few "should I eat this?" ask. metafilter questions. I know a woman with a college degree who handles food and utensils in her kitchen wearing the same latex gloves she wears when she scrubs the friggin' toilet.
posted by bukvich at 12:23 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]



I know a woman with a college degree who handles food and utensils in her kitchen wearing the same latex gloves she wears when she scrubs the friggin' toilet.


WHAT NO STOP EW

Once again, MeFi makes sweetkid feel like oh, she is actually not that gross.
posted by sweetkid at 12:27 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surprised there isn't regulation that needs to be adhered to.

Guess we'll find out soon.
posted by jpe at 5:02 PM on August 14, 2013


1. I'm American.

That doesn't really make it any less tedious.
posted by jpe at 5:03 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, skeeved out by this. Here's the thing: when I eat at a taco truck or in an informal house/backyard restuarant, it's entirely possibly that they're no more clean and regulated than the strangers swapping food in this system. But I still have two advantages: my own eyes/instincts, and a known location/provider. So if That Blue Taco Truck That's Always in the Jiffy Lube Parking lot serves me up a bad meal, it's much easier for me to fingerpoint/complain/publicize, whatever. Same thing when I've walked into an off-the-books home restaurant. Sometimes--most times!--I've had a fantastic meal. A few times, when even stepping on the floor so grossed me out, or seeing that the other dude hanging out by the kitchen seems pretty drunk, has convinced me to try my luck elsewhere. And in restaurants--on the books or otherwise--you have the option of sending back food that's too raw/burned for your tastes. Less so with this system as well.
posted by TwoStride at 7:43 PM on August 14, 2013


Can't tell if snarky or obtuse. I live in a suburban neighborhood and was speaking of myself.

Ah, sorry, I was reading that like advice to others (sometimes "I" really means "you") and not something specifically about yourself.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:57 PM on August 14, 2013


« Older Early this morning (midday in the Middle East), al...  |  The U.S. Secret Service has be... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments