"But this love of food hasn’t translated into a love of cooking."
June 15, 2015 6:56 PM   Subscribe

 
Sometimes I wonder how much of modern foodie culture is based on shaming people who just want a simple meal of store bought kit meals.

I love cooking but holy shit it is time consuming; it's not something I would wish on someone who doesn't enjoy the actual act of preparing meals. If these can work for people to help them eat better and gain some skills it's not a bad thing.
posted by Ferreous at 7:03 PM on June 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


I know a 30s guy who can't cook and whose wife does all the cooking (sadly still common). But she also has to take long business trips. So while she's gone he pays random strangers from the internet for dinners, delivered to his house a few times a week. Apparently this is semi-common if you know which forums to look on. I think this is the next frontier: Uber for leftovers.
posted by miyabo at 7:13 PM on June 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Taranto says that his target demographic is what he describes as the "evolved eater," which is, according to Plated's proprietary research, a 31 million strong segment of the American population that cares deeply about the quality of their food and has enough disposable income to invest in eating well.

This really triggers my weltschmerz.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:14 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Not a foodie or a particularly good cook but just no into packaged food, but just yesterday I happened to walk down the aisle and was just flummoxed at the incredible selection of frozen dinners. Not cheap either, but if your only alternative is restaurants the nukeable meals are probably a good option.
posted by sammyo at 7:14 PM on June 15, 2015


I know a 30s guy who can't cook and whose wife does all the cooking (sadly still common). But she also has to take long business trips.

ugggggggh how what why

I totally get and empathize with the constellation of circumstances leading households to not cook for various reasons, but how can you let your partner do a basic household task all of the time and not want to, like, learn how in order to alleviate the work burden?! I get that people have different interests; I'm not mortally offended by "I haaaaate carving scrimshaw, so she always takes care of that, and she has just never liked brushing off the capybaras, so you can go ahead and call me Mr. Capybara lol", but if your skill set and division of labor look exactly like 1946 maybe reconsider some things??
posted by threeants at 7:21 PM on June 15, 2015 [58 favorites]


After reading this AskMe question two weeks ago, I signed up with a meal-planning site. I've been pretty happy with it, now that I'm nearing the end of the second free week.

I learned to cook growing up, but that was for a family of five. I've been on my own for ages, but I still have habits formed back then, leading to a ton of waste and just plain boredom. I figure something like Mealime -- which is slightly different than the services featured in the OP, since I do my shopping myself -- would cost about as much as a decent home ec class. It's not for forever, but it's a decent set of (re)training wheels.
posted by rewil at 7:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


They were raised in SE Asia with very conservative values, otherwise I'd be more judgmental.
posted by miyabo at 7:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love cooking and like grocery shopping OK, but I would probably try something like this once in awhile just to try new recipes with items I don't usually get.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:26 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a really good cook of stuff I want to eat for myself but throw some other jerkoff into the equation and it all goes to hell.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:28 PM on June 15, 2015 [28 favorites]


>if your skill set and division of labor look exactly like 1946 maybe reconsider some things??

My household has a "1946" division of labor--my wife does all the cooking, for instance.

But she doesn't work outside the home, and I work 14 hour days (more or less 7 days a week), and she has complete control of our finances (in fact, everything is in her name--we live in her home country).

I'm not completely comfortable with this arrangement (because 1946, gender stuff, etc.), but it's the best we can do given our circumstances and (A) we check in with each other on a daily basis to make sure all's still okay, (B) she knows she never has to cook--I'm always happy to go out or order in--and she makes sure I know that I could back off the work schedule if I felt I couldn't take it anymore, (C) this is our only known chance to get seriously ahead financially (seriously--"make hay while the sun shines?" Well, it's seriously shining on me, and I feel like have to take advantage while I can since neither of us has family money to speak of), and (D) I'm super grateful for what she does and we both constantly thank each other and express our love and appreciation.

Sorry if that offends you, threeants. But no, I'm not sorry.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:29 PM on June 15, 2015 [51 favorites]


My wife and I keep having great good intentions of cooking healthy meals at home and we usually manage to do that for a few weeks at a time and then we get busy and end up eating takeout or TJ's frozen meals for weeks at a time. I can't remember the last time either of us actually cooked a meal right now, sometime in May, maybe?
posted by octothorpe at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2015


I'm guessing someone who "has to take long business trips" (as in the description of the initial person) has a whole other job in addition to homemaker. Anyway, I think I massively derailed here and didn't mean to so I apologize for that.
posted by threeants at 7:31 PM on June 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well I just ate one of these meals while reading this. We still cook at home plenty, we just get a box with three meals for the grownups every other week. It's taught me plenty of cooking techniques, and as any home cooker would attest, you get tired of eating the same damn thing every week, and this helps fix that. Plus - crazy idea - I have gone to the supermarket and cooked the recipes on my own later on! Like most things, it's good in moderation.
posted by fungible at 7:33 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just started using Blue Apron. I do hate the wasteful packaging and feel a bit weird getting fish delivered in a box, but otherwise it's been great. I'm cooking way more interesting food than my usual, last minute TJ's frozen food + vegetable dinners and I'm cutting down on the ghastly amount I spend on restaurants every week.

I may not stick with it long term, but so far it's been helpful and even kinda fun.
posted by lakemarie at 7:34 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always say, if you think cooking takes too much time, it's because you're forgetting, or you never saw, how very basic most home cooking really is.

For example, the ingredients to scrambled eggs are eggs. That's it. That's all you need. But, you ask, where's the cream, the butter, the chives, the cheese? Oh, those are all great. But that's adding time and energy. This is why you're grabbing a bagel in the morning from Starbucks (and btw, coffee is coffee, Maxwell House instant, not espresso, steamed milk -- steamed, not foamed, motherfucker -- and chocolate syrup).

How about a salad? OK, that's iceberg lettuce and a bottle of ranch. A sandwich for lunch? White bread, ham and mayo.

This is how your great-grandparents ate. Going out for a burger was a treat, not a staple.

So, if cooking is a burden, it's because you've internalized a very high quality bar, relative to the span of history, and even recent history.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:39 PM on June 15, 2015 [55 favorites]


Cooking a balanced meal actually does take time, especially operating within the parameters of whats on sale.
posted by Ferreous at 7:41 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but can they deliver someone to clean my kitchen?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:43 PM on June 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


I attempted to try Blue Apron a few months ago, but would up getting upset and cancelling before even trying it. They sent me a marketing email with a 10 or so attractive looking dishes and called it this week's menu. Several looked good so I thought I'd give it a try. I thought it was a reasonable way to learn some cooking skills and build up a couple recipes. Not so happy about the subscription aspect (I live alone, so I'd have to really commit to make it work), but figure I can try a week and then figure out how to make it come every few weeks instead. Then I discovered that half the items on the "menu" weren't even available to me for some reason and the other half were only available in limited combinations: if I wanted meal A, I wasn't allowed to pick meals B or C. It didn't seem like these items were grouped to encourage the reuse of ingredients across multiple meals either. And then I learned that next week, I wouldn't get to pick my menu at all; they'd just decide what I wanted and send it to me. This, of course, was after I already put my credit card number in, and it turned out I had to email support to cancel because they refuse to put the link on their website. It was quite frustrating and disappointing for a service that claims to make life easier.

I'd totally be up for an Amazon-style alternative to Plated and Blue Apron where I can pick a bunch of meals, put them in my cart and have the ingredients and recipes sent to me, with no nonsense around subscriptions or restrictions. Or I can just go to the grocery store like a competent adult (or pay someone an independent contractor to do it for me like we're all doing nowadays).

I do use Munchery periodically, which seems to fill the same general concept as Plated (individual entrees are around $10, which is steep to be sure, but certainly not more than what I'd wind up paying for most non-cooking non-frozen options realistically), but without the actual cooking. They are fresh and good and deliver quickly and reliably though, so it's a pretty good option.
posted by zachlipton at 7:45 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, I don't think it's possible to have a reasonable discussion about food in North America without also having a discussion about class, race, employment rates, labor market expectations and gender roles.

I know a lot of people who cook and cook well, but all of the people I know who describe themselves as foodies seem to have an above-average amount of money and free time in which to indulge that self-description.
posted by mhoye at 7:52 PM on June 15, 2015 [54 favorites]


The Dash household has been getting Blue Apron for a month or two now.

The packaging is a huge bummer. It feels like buying fucking water in a single-serving bottle, or making Koffee.

I have to confess I like the ingredient meting. That I will not throw out yet another drawer of unused vegetables, the rest of the cilantro, next week. Last week I bought stuff to recreate a recipe, and even from that I have a half pint of ricotta that I will probably toss in a few weeks unless I can find pea shoots somewhere.

The '1946' around here is that Mr. Dash says 'i don't know how to cook, maybe this will help teach me'. Which is a common trope of men, because women are just born knowing how to turn out a balanced meal in 20 mins, and men have trouble boiling water, right? To his credit, he really does pull his weight, including trying to cook. But I'm kind of tired of that trope, and the associated 'can you teach me how to make Annie's (for the 90th time) because I just don't know how!?' so if Blue Apron will bypass that ....So be it.

I do not understand how, with all of the prep, packaging, and delivery, that it is $60 for three meals for two. I expect that the industry is still, as the article says, 'investor-driven' and that this is just another .com-bubble flash in the pan.
posted by Dashy at 7:56 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I looked at Blue Apron and there were cooking + prep times of like 90 minutes and for reals, what the fuck? Why would I not just GO TO THE STORE AFTER LOOKING UP A RECIPEEEE or of course just throw something from FD into the microwave because i don't care. Although really I can't imagine a more terrible waste of my time than preparing a meal for myself when there's peanut butter right there in the jar and I have like 12 spoons, some of which are really big.

I guess I just REALLY do not understand the target demo for Blue Apron? People who are too busy to measure their own ingredients, including an actual pinch of salt, but still have ~90 min to faff about in the kitchen? People who really like wasting cardboard/plastic packaging?
posted by poffin boffin at 7:57 PM on June 15, 2015 [28 favorites]


i hate the future
posted by poffin boffin at 7:57 PM on June 15, 2015 [30 favorites]


Blue Apron is advertised on a lot of podcasts I listen to, and I was a little intrigued but decided $9.99 per portion for a meal I have to cook myself (and do the dishes) is way too expensive for my area. For $10 I can get served, have someone refill my iced tea, and leave the dishes on the table.

We currently eat a mix of homemade stuff, packaged food from Trader Joe's, and restaurant food. I usually pick 3-4 recipes for a week, all of which are quick to make and have a short ingredient list and will be at least 4 portions, then my husband does the grocery shopping, and I make dinner a few times per week. We eat the leftovers for lunch, or dinner the next night.

I don't really enjoy cooking - it's about the same enjoyment level as doing the dishes to me, but I do like to have food I chose and made, so it's a pickle. Nothing I make is really amazing, but it's all edible and fast. Tonight we had penne pasta with creamy spinach and tomato sauce (that used up some leftover ricotta, Dashy.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:58 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


...all of the people I know who describe themselves as foodies seem to have an above-average amount of money and free time in which to indulge that self-description.

Totally. What I would love is a lower-cost option that sends ingredients for meals like in Good and Cheap and offers tips for reusing ingredients and how to store leftovers long-term (e.g. what will freeze well and what won't). Such a service--provided it really is affordable--could even be a decent fix for families living in food deserts. Foodie appeal could be added with suggestions for fancy plating and optional add-ons (pricey spices, etc).
posted by witchen at 8:00 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I guess I just REALLY do not understand the target demo for Blue Apron? People who are too busy to measure their own ingredients, including an actual pinch of salt, but still have ~90 min to faff about in the kitchen?

I don't think it's just an issue of busyness itself, but more like the combination of a full schedule + a fear of failure. That certainly causes a lot of kitchen anxiety for me as I am trying to learn how to cook meals that are healthy, appetizing, and diverse. If I make something new (ie, anything other than spaghetti with canned sauce), and it doesn't turn out, now it's 9pm and I've wasted a bunch of ingredients and I have nothing to eat tonight nor any of the planned leftovers.

Not having a lot of cooking experience, I can definitly see the draw in having pre-selected and preportioned ingredients, along with a step-by-step preparation guide. Like buying flat-pack Ikea furniture vs. making furniture from scratch.

Of course, part of learning to cook as an anxious person is minimizing catastrophic thinking and learning ways of overcoming mistakes, but it's a learned skill and an incredibly frustrating one.
posted by muddgirl at 8:05 PM on June 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


yeah, learning to cook is going to have a massively depressing failure rate at the beginning. Getting people over that hump, by hook or by crook, is good work.
posted by Ferreous at 8:07 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am pretty sure the local Korean supermarket does something similar. They have a container of broth along with some meat and vegetables that I assume you just take home and cook. The upmarket end of this may be special boxes mailed to you each week but I could easily see more grocery stores getting on board with something like this and assembling these kits next to all of their in-store prepared foods.

But I would guess a lot of the appeal is not having any ingredients left over. Whether that is the spinach that is now wilting in my fridge or a big bag of dried lemongrass in my pantry. Buying groceries regularly means I'll end up with more than I need and will a) have to store it somewhere and b) actually consume it before it goes bad. Last year I threw away a bottle of molasses that was older than me. It must have been through 5 or 6 moves, all of which were past its best before date.

I like cooking and grocery shopping but during the week I have no time for it because of work, and during the weekend I would much rather spend the time doing something else with my family. I can see the appeal of something like this as it would give me back that 90 minutes of my weekend spent grocery shopping. I guess the other alternative is to get groceries delivered.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:08 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Witchen, I've seen occasional mention of a service where you (pay to) show up at a commercial kitchen, they provide ingredients, and you cook a week's worth of food, parcel it out, take it home and freeze it. But the audience seemed to be yuppie soccer mom pretending to star in a food show, not necessarily for affordability reasons.

I guess what BA does for me is to take away the mental overhead - the planning, making sure we have all the necessary ingredients, times five unique meals a week. $10/person/meal seems cheap, and it's faster and cheaper than what going out ends up being in reality.
posted by Dashy at 8:09 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


BA recipes are mostly 30-45 minutes, in our experience.
posted by Dashy at 8:12 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I would guess a lot of the appeal is not having any ingredients left over.

OH yeah, that does have a definite appeal. Anything other than some godawful smug "lifehack" website telling you to save your asparagus trimmings for a risotto. who the fuck has time to make a fucking risotto, get the fuck out of my kitchen before i kill everyone with this asparagus spear.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:14 PM on June 15, 2015 [29 favorites]


I feel like these services are on the opposite end of the spectrum from CSA farm shares. Because my experience with CSA's is that they're all about minimal packaging or instruction, and they're constantly making their customers risk food spoilage as they get overwhelmed with their regular delivery of shares. BUT they still force you to learn how to cook, how to adapt, and how to deal with variety. I learned how to pickle to deal with the overwhelming volume of cucumbers that I got in my first farm share. I started to eat radishes because it was that or figure out how to barter for some bacon from my neighbor's meat share -- a trade which always seemed impossible.

and I recognize that there is a lot of class and privilege built into that particular sort of lifestyle; but I also feel like there's a certain irony there because, not very long ago, the rich and mercantile bourgeoisie were the ones with access to professionals who could cook for them or dole out meals that meant that none of them would have to learn how to cook, and the peasantry were the ones who had to deal with cooking whatever the seasons could support and whatever you could forage.
posted by bl1nk at 8:17 PM on June 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


I would imagine ingredient access is another plus. I know I've gotten mighty pissed off when I end up having to go to three different grocery stores because I can't find some ingredient for a recipe I've planned to make.
posted by Bugbread at 8:19 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I looked at Blue Apron and there were cooking + prep times of like 90 minutes and for reals, what the fuck

Not true. Never gotten a meal that took longer than 30 minutes theoretically. Although wine may have extended that.

I can also recycle most of the packaging, including the ice packs. Unfortunately this is because of where I live. Not everywhere recycles plastic.

And no it's not priced for poor people or people who have no time. But it's not aimed at them. This isn't an attempt to solve the worlds food problems, this is a service for people who want it and can afford it. If you don't want to learn anything or your time is too occupied or if you think it's exorbitant, don't get it.
posted by fungible at 8:19 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Anything other than some godawful smug "lifehack" website telling you to save your asparagus trimmings for a risotto.

life hack, in stead of throwing out ur old egg plant stems did u know egg plant stems can be saved to line the bottom of a trash bag
posted by threeants at 8:22 PM on June 15, 2015 [53 favorites]


god someone HERE was like "oh if you save your pineapple tops they will grow into NEW PINEAPPLES in like 2 years" and iirc i flipped the fuck out
posted by poffin boffin at 8:29 PM on June 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


Witchen, I've seen occasional mention of a service where you (pay to) show up at a commercial kitchen, they provide ingredients, and you cook a week's worth of food, parcel it out, take it home and freeze it.

My town had like 4-5 of them about a decade ago. It must have been some hot trend in franchised businesses. All of them were completely gone by 2010.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:31 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I see the biggest appeal of these delivery services as the ready-made proportioning of ingredients, particularly the smaller things like garlic, herbs, and the components for sauces. When I was learning how to cook, I quickly learned the smaller the ingredient the more important it was in transforming a meal from decent to amazing. It's not the piece of fish or hunk of broccoli that makes a flavor profile, but those tiny ingredients that meld and/or contrast with one another. As a beginning cook I really struggled to understand the balance of sweet/sour/bitter and just how much cumin am I supposed to sprinkle in here? I cringe to think of how much garlic I used to use. It was a lot.

These delivery services show you those proportions, like, "oh, this much basil goes with this much pasta" and which flavors pair nicely together, which is anything but intuitive. It's a skill easily transferred to cooking on your own.

These services remind me of quilt kits, boxed up with fabric pre-cut and just the right amount of batting. It's cooking as a hobby, as beginning DIY. Cooking as a hobby isn't designed to be affordable or time-saving. It's definitely a luxury product. That said, if this makes cooking from scratch more approachable for subscribers to launch off on their own, then that's fabulous. Learning is good, and I won't put down anything that teaches new skills.
posted by missmary6 at 8:35 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Witchen, I've seen occasional mention of a service where you (pay to) show up at a commercial kitchen, they provide ingredients, and you cook a week's worth of food, parcel it out, take it home and freeze it.

Aw man, I would totallytotallytotally do that. Being too broke to do Blue Apron (etc.) and actually wanting leftovers, that would be ideal. Too bad it seems to have been discontinued.
posted by witchen at 8:57 PM on June 15, 2015


My sense of Blue Apron based on only a single week is that there was no way you could get an equivalent quality level of ingredients at the store for less , especially if you factor in wastage for the obscure stuff. I get it because I'm a fine cook but it's impossible for me to keep that level of ingredient around without wasting a bunch of food.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:59 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


'can you teach me how to make Annie's (for the 90th time) because I just don't know how!?'

Wait, are we talking about the boxed macaroni and cheese? The stuff that comes with a six-step, 55-word set of instructions printed on the box, with included illustrations? I mean, not to rag too hard on Mr. Dash, but if you can't get that right on the second try (maybe the first time you misjudge how big a "medium" saucepan is, I dunno), how the hell can you operate a car, or your shoes, or an elevator, or anything really?

How on earth could Blue Apron possibly be easier than Annie's?
posted by hades at 9:00 PM on June 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


The DIY food places are still around; there's a chain of 'em in DC.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:05 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tried Blue Apron, thanks to a Mefite sending me a link for a free week, and it was... fine. I'm going to stick with it for a few weeks and then probably cancel it, just like I canceled Fresh 20 and before that stopped going to Dinner's Ready and...

I'm bored with cooking. I'm a perfectly good cook, but I'm just plain bored. If I could get a meal pill like the sci fi movies of my childhood promised me, I'd be delighted. Until that day, I'll take whatever novelty I can.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:07 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


leftover ingredients are for soup and/or fried rice
posted by Jacqueline at 9:07 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I cringe to think of how much garlic I used to use. It was a lot.

NEVER BE ASHAMED OF WHO YOU ARE!
posted by No-sword at 9:23 PM on June 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: I always say, if you think cooking takes too much time, it's because you're forgetting, or you never saw, how very basic most home cooking really is.

You know, people have different talents and proficiencies. I have no doubt I could theoretically learn to cook, if I had to. But, I'm pretty sure it would be slow and miserable and I'd hate it every step of the way. I'm not sure why society thinks I should be forced to, any more than some random person who hates computers should be forced to code their own web browser to be allowed on the internet. Society is built on the idea of specialization.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


Home cooking works best if you do it every single day. If you try to cook two or three times a week, you're going to waste a lot of food and effort.
posted by ryanrs at 9:24 PM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know a 30s guy who can't cook and whose wife does all the cooking (sadly still common). But she also has to take long business trips.

My SO has no sense of smell and a cognitive disability that makes it hard for him to multitask or remember numbers (both important to cooking). He can still cook well enough to keep himself fed if I'm not there.
posted by jb at 9:33 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Home cooking works best if you do it every single day. If you try to cook two or three times a week, you're going to waste a lot of food and effort.

Unless you're cooking 2-3 times a week but making enough for meals for the rest of the days. Which is a super efficient approach.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:34 PM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


even more efficient: cook once a week, and just eat chilli every single day. (I actually have done this. Fortunately, I really like chilli. It's basically jb-chow).
posted by jb at 9:35 PM on June 15, 2015 [18 favorites]



I'm bored with cooking. I'm a perfectly good cook, but I'm just plain bored. If I could get a meal pill like the sci fi movies of my childhood promised me, I'd be delighted. Until that day, I'll take whatever novelty I can.


Yes, cooking is boring. But after a while, eating out is even more boring. I could see using a service that eliminates the shopping part of the process and provides some surprises without undue effort.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:40 PM on June 15, 2015


Someone posted Roger Ebert's essay on rice cooker cooking recently.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


even more efficient: cook once a week, and just eat chilli every single day.

I tried this plan, but it turns out that multiple sequential days of chili powder makes my digestive system unhappy. So sad!

I do try to use this sort of plan though. I like to make braised-meat stews in the winter; they take a long time to cook, but not a lot of active cooking time, and they freeze pretty well. Lately I've been eating a lot of salads out of raw veggies + can of tuna + dressing.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:48 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Home cooking works best if you do it every single day. If you try to cook two or three times a week, you're going to waste a lot of food and effort.

Maybe for you, but I don't think that's a universal truth. A homemade meal every night in my house would led to more wasted food because the leftovers wouldn't all get eaten, and would be more effort for me than cooking 3x a week.

I would consider Blue Apron if I could get this dan dan noodle dish and some of the other noodle or Indian dishes in a week. I don't need help making meatball sandwiches or pasta dishes, but I am intrigued by cuisines I don't usually try.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:02 PM on June 15, 2015


My current food expenditure is approx. $40/week (in Tokyo), which gives me 3 meals of quite tasty home cooked (partly in bulk on the weekend), food every day.
So that's $2 per meal. I wonder what amazing culinary heights I could reach if I allowed the average meal to cost $9(!)?
Still, while a subscription service would has no utility for me, I could definitely see the appeal of occasionally ordering a kit for cooking some more advanced meal with hard to find ingredients.
posted by AxelT at 10:03 PM on June 15, 2015


Yeah, seems kinda pricey to endure, like those make your own food for a week kitchens mentioned above. Folks need to have their meal costs well under $10 per for this to reach anybody but those chasing novelty with disposable cash.
posted by notyou at 10:22 PM on June 15, 2015


I guess I just REALLY do not understand the target demo for Blue Apron? People who are too busy to measure their own ingredients, including an actual pinch of salt, but still have ~90 min to faff about in the kitchen?

It's like the hotdog and bun problem. You buy 10 hot dogs, but buns come in an 8 pack. So, yeah, I could buy the ingredients to make stroganoff, or I could get hamburger helper and not have a 1/4 container of sour cream going bad in the fridge for 3 weeks. It is difficult to deal with that sort of issue without some careful planning - and that also takes time.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:34 PM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


how can you let your partner do a basic household task all of the time and not want to, like, learn how in order to alleviate the work burden?

It's pretty easy if you marry someone who loves to cook and does it for fun, and doesn't want to put up with you learning to cook lousy, uninspired, slow, minimalist, error-prone meals all the time.

(It does provoke a lot of gender-equity guilt, but after enough preemptions and grimaces that become "let's just do takeout" compromises, the futility overwhelms it.)
posted by ead at 10:41 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


(And don't get me started on homebrewing. Or what, you buy your booze?)
posted by ead at 10:44 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue Apron was nice, the food was good, and it wasn't more expensive than ordering in all the time. But I had to cancel after letting several weeks worth of boxes pile up and rot in my kitchen and they are a pain in the ass to throw away because of the ice packs. It's nice to have all the ingredients and to actually be told what to do with them in detail. But a lot of times the meals don't send enough protein and I couldn't will up the energy to do the thing knowing it was going to be like some baked watermelon with basil and sesame seeds.
posted by bleep at 10:44 PM on June 15, 2015


...they always turn into blueberries.
posted by benzenedream at 10:47 PM on June 15, 2015


The New Zealand equivalent is My Food Bag. We've been using it for maybe a year now, but using it every fortnight. In general, I like cooking and pretty much do all of it and the shopping for the family. Working from home makes this feasible.

It's been an interesting experience using this sort of service. The food has been great quality, well proportioned, and with a good range of styles. And cost-wise, we'd probably spend similar otherwise and get take-aways more often. I'd certainly been in a rut, cooking-wise, in terms of the dishes I did, so this has been good for trying new things. Also, it's REALLY EASY to have everything just there for you. And just have to follow the directions.

That said... it definitely hasn't spurred an increasing interest in cooking in the off-weeks. Not once have I gone back to the recipes and bought the ingredients and cooked that myself. It feels more like I've been lulled into a state of getting the ingredients, following the recipe, and not having to think beyond that.

The article touches on some of that ambivalence and for me it's been a real thing. I'm suspicious of stated aims that this is going to boost people's ability to cook for themselves - where cooking means planning menus, buying food and then cooking it.

I do wonder about the ethics of buying food in from a central source too. For all that they appear to try and source ethically and well, where I'm using the service, I'm not supporting the local butcher or green-grocer.

Food huh! I need another glass of wine while I wait for dinner (roast beef FROM the local butcher!) to cook :)
posted by maupuia at 10:52 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really like Quinciple. It's a bit of a hybrid between this sort of thing and a CSA. They send us some local, usually relatively novel ingredients to work with and some neat recipes every week. No spices or anythingm you need a pretty passable kitchen
posted by quadbonus at 11:03 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems like something I would try once or twice just out of curiosity and never do again, but I'm an experienced cook and I like whipping up a big batch of something early in the week that will feed my husband and me for three or four days.

Cooking gets less time-consuming (and potentially cheaper) once you know what to do: the steps become intuitive so you don't have to pore over recipes, you know what it's okay to cut corners on using frozen/canned/microwavable stuff, you know that the extra dollar you invest in the pre-peeled "baby" carrots buys you quite a bit of time you can spend on other necessary tasks that aren't peeling or chopping, and once you build up an arsenal of dried herbs and spices that's less time you have to spend looking for those things in the store. Once your knife skills get better, the less time you spend slicing and dicing vegetables. You know what you can leave out of a recipe so you don't have to make an extra trip for one item; you know what you can sub in from your pantry and whether that produce that's a bit brown is salvageable, so, again, you don't have to make an extra trip to buy a fresh version. You learn about coaxing tenderness out of cheaper cuts of meat so you can still have something with a beefy flavor even if it's not steak. You learn how to coax flavor out of tofu, which is even cheaper than the cheapest cuts of meat.

I am a woman and a feminist and a left-leaning person who's very aware of the crazy amount of uncompensated labor humans have to do just to survive. I freelance right now, but I'm well aware of how daunting food prep can be if you've worked an eight-hour shift and commuted two ways. I also don't think people who do all this grueling stuff are unfamiliar with the concept of an upfront investment, which is what learning how to cook is. It might not be so easy to make that time initially -- I get that -- but after you clear those first hurdles and you learn how to do things from memory and intuition, you do end up saving a lot of time compared to what you spend when you're just starting out.
posted by mirepoix at 11:10 PM on June 15, 2015 [29 favorites]


That said, the Fast Company piece was pretty well-done -- very level-headed and willing to do the work to approach the issue from many different sides. Good journalism.
posted by mirepoix at 11:31 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree with mirepoix. Cooking is like a habit that you can eventually do by second nature while thinking about something else. Woke up this morning and grabbed a large potato. Started slicing it without knowing where I was headed. Threw it into a pan with a little butter, then found some bacon slices in the fridge. Tossed them in, then found some eggs and broke them in. Turned the heat down and before you know it breakfast was served. My wife said "worthy of a greasy spoon". A high compliment indeed.
posted by telstar at 11:45 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, and not to threadsit, but a lot of the ingredients you see in Food Network or Martha Stewart type recipes are aspirational bourgie stuff that your dish doesn't really need (like garnishes that look good on TV but serve little purpose otherwise), and learning how to cook means learning that it's perfectly okay to focus on the ingredients that actually bring something meaningful to the dish. Less time shopping, less time prepping, less money spent.
posted by mirepoix at 11:51 PM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


even more efficient: cook once a week, and just eat chilli every single day.

Nearly every time I've tried this, I usually get tired of whatever I eat by mid-week and end up eating out. It did work once, where I mostly ate frozen potstickers for nearly two months. But it was only because I was trying to do NaNoWriMo and then study for an exam the month after. The only "fun" part was pretending I was the main character from OldBoy and shadow boxing while I ate my potstickers.
posted by FJT at 12:00 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it's easy for those who can cook to underestimate the skill set they possess. I know how to cook, and prepare most dishes from scratch, but I'm lousy at the planning part and waste more ingredients and leftovers than I like.

The only way to get around that is weekly planning. But it's also quite demanding to fit a number of units of ingredients into six or seven dinners, and not be stuck with a hodgepodge of mismatched ingredients at the end of the week. Or repeat ad nauseum the one magic weekly menu you managed to compose that has zero waste.
posted by Harald74 at 12:17 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, there's never zero waste. It's like triage: you make sure the most valuable or workable things get saved and cut your losses on the rest. And some weeks are just going to suck with regard to the ability to use up all your food. But for the other weeks, you do what you can. I remember what a cooking teacher told me, that a stock is not a garbage pail: not everything is worth upcycling as future food. Let it go.
posted by mirepoix at 12:23 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


How about a salad? OK, that's iceberg lettuce and a bottle of ranch. A sandwich for lunch? White bread, ham and mayo.

Gah... That's basically fat, protein, carbs and some fiber. I mean, simple doesn't have to be so limited nutritionally or for taste. I couldn't eat most of that and enjoy it. YMMV. More power to you.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:34 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have been using Blue Apron for 2 months. I was sick and tired of cooking the same stuff, same flavors and wasting an incredible amount of food because I stock for how I cook. I was in a rut.

I am a good cook. I work full time midnights. But I had zero motivation. I would buy interesting things, for what I thought would be interesting dishes. But the thought of pulling it all together, finding all the stuff I thought I had, and running out for things I didn't, going out seemed easier.
It is just the two of us and yet we were dropping $ 20 plus every time we ate out.

The biggest advantage for me is the reset of portion control and the amount of ingredients actually needed. One 8 oz pork chop for 2 people? OMG, no way. Well yes, if you plate it the way they instruct. Three billiard ball size potatoes for mashed potatoes for two? Are you kidding? Well actually no, it was the perfect amount. We generally aren't stuffed at the end of the meal, but we are satisfied.

I enjoy the varied flavors and different ways of preparing ingredients. But sauteed radishes were great at first, but now are getting a bit old. My husband isn't enthralled with the more exotic cuisines but admits they are OK and is happier with the more meat and starch meals.

We finally eat fish once a week. I was leary of fish from a box. But the fish has been the best part of the whole experience. It is much better than what I can get locally.

I have been planning and cooking more on my own. This hasn't saved me money directly. But I am developing better habits. Many of the recipes are definite remakes, and I will be sourcing those myself.

The packing waste is the worst thing about it. We recycle but I still feel guilty about the conspicuous consumption.
posted by moonlily at 12:54 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Having a capacious freezer helps a lot. We're OK with eating from the 8-10 major dishes I cook per week (I go for a mix-and-match approach, make large quantities in batches which I then reheat to assemble meals later, and cook a hell of a lot of curries), and I end up chucking a serving or two of each into the freezer for lunches at some later date. I have the time, and the cooking skills I've accumulated over the 30 years I've been cooking routinely, to make it possible for me to avoid waste, by making stuff up on the fly, when I notice something is about to go off. I'm really a very good cook, and I enjoy it, but oh my god, the work. It's so much work, even as experienced at it as I am. It's so much work that if I couldn't make feeding myself, my husband, and my widowed elderly father-in-law basically my job, I wouldn't be able to do it at the same level and to anything like the crazy high standards I've set for myself.

If we were in a different financial position, and I had to work a full-time job outside of my home, there is no way in hell I would do this. There's also no way I would do this without both of the people I regularly cook for understanding it is a lot of work, and doing other things to support me in doing it. As mirepoix wrote above, you learn the shortcuts and when to take them, and which things matter, and which really don't, but learning that takes time and plenty of work. I cannot fathom trying to tell somebody how to do this, nor having the arrogance to suggest they should allocate the time and expense to it. (And knowing how to shop to do this is another skill all in itself, and as time-consuming as the actual cooking and cleaning up.)

A service like this would not work for me, even though probably I might seem like a good fit for it, since while I do have the skills, I sure wouldn't mind gaining the time back. I wouldn't consider it, though, because I couldn't bear the packaging waste, I want to look over and select my own ingredients, and I don't want my cooking micromanaged in general. (And I don't really have a problem with deciding what to cook, most of the time. I can just sort of see what's available when I'm shopping, and then go from there.) But it was a long, arduous road strewn with failures to get to the place where I do what I do, and for people who don't have the time or interest to develop the skills, but do have the money to pay for this kind of service, I can see how it might appeal.
posted by skybluepink at 1:14 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't understand the benefit besides avoiding grocery shopping. Forty minutes is a normal amount of time to make a semi- complicated meal, and you can get directions to make anything on the Internet. Sounds like a racket for the intimidated new cook. Or paying for a good step into the shallow end of cooking.
posted by branravenraven at 1:37 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, are we talking about the boxed macaroni and cheese? The stuff that comes with a six-step, 55-word set of instructions printed on the box, with included illustrations? I mean, not to rag too hard on Mr. Dash, but if you can't get that right on the second try (maybe the first time you misjudge how big a "medium" saucepan is, I dunno), how the hell can you operate a car, or your shoes, or an elevator, or anything really?

How on earth could Blue Apron possibly be easier than Annie's?


Right -- that sounds like learned helplessness or passive-aggressive self-effacement to get "the wife" to do some basic cooking. Blue Apron might not be a direct solution, if communication of the fundamental problem is not clear between parties ("do you really have trouble with this, because I'm not flattered that you assume I'm the default cook, do you think I'm flattered, are you just trying to sucker me, I know you're not a jerk but I don't like that...").

What I would do is encourage him to follow directions to the letter, it's that simple, that's how it's going to be with Blue Apron.

I have been cooking off and on for 20+ years. I do work too much and my wife stays home with the kids, not on the order of 14 hours X 7 days, but weird enough hours that I typically walk in at or after "dinner time," and my wife does the overwhelming majority of the cooking. I try to find ways to put myself in the mix by making breakfasts and/or lunches on the weekend, bringing takeout, texting my wife around "meal prep" time if I suspect she would rather not cook that night, finding "kids eat free" days at restaurants when she wants to go out but needs that gentle push that it won't break the bank, finding healthy or not-so-healthy option that she might feel guilty keeping around the house, but let's just all have individual red baron frozen pizzas tonight because they're eight for ten bucks or whatever.

I still check the instructions on Mac 'n Cheese because sometimes there's enough variation in the thickness of the pasta and such, and the things I've memorized over the years are things like how to sear steak at high heat properly, make a good omelette, bake off a decent pizza, throw together homemade biscuits and gravy, etc.

The secret for an adult to learn to cook is the same as it is for kids: start with basic, easy things you like that can be made from basic staples, such as scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches on a 14" or so frying pan. Things that are cooked on medium-to-medium-high heat. Perhaps even low, but newb cooks have a lot of trouble handling the patience that low heat requires (like for a ridiculously gently scrambled egg Ramsey-Style).

Newbs often screw up things like putting a pan on high heat just to get it hot when the recipe doesn't call for it, or getting it way to hot way too early when the recipe DOES call for it without their ingredients ready, with no oil or butter in the pan to heat up, then they set off a smoke alarm and get discouraged. Or they mis-use a toaster-oven and say "I burn toast! Woe is me!" because those things are awesome but when it comes to the "toast" and "broil" settings you need to be checking in on that sucker constantly, and they inevitably end up working best with "two super low toasting cycles but interrupted partially through the second one" for whatever fucking reason.

Newbs boil water over and get discouraged. Toss a little oil in there to cut that down but most likely you've got the wrong-sized pot or too much water, or just need to take the heat down. Why not take the pot off the burner for a bit until it settles down? Cooking requires lots of observation and babysitting and newbs tend to think that it's like a laboratory where everything just kind of goes "ding!" and is perfectly, which isn't how laboratories work either.

Newbs have to learn how to use at least one timer effectively, typically more than one, often sub-dividing chunks of time to interrupt themselves properly during a cooking session. It's a bitch to get used to, at first, and you have to screw up a few times and ruin an entree or what have you along the way. Newbs cook chicken and fish too much, except the time they cooked it too little. Take your time before venturing into chicken, but start with oven-roasted chicken or chop that sucker up with rice and cream of mushroom soup, water, sage, foil on top...find a simple "baked chicken and rice" recipe that is impossible to ruin without ignoring the damn recipe. Minimal skill needed, but follow the directions perfectly and you'll be happy and more confident in your ability to make chicken.

The use of high heat follows training and/or a rite of passage. The only time a burner goes on high heat for a newb is when there's a pot water to boil on top, MEASURED per instruction rather than just filled with water, for the right big-ass pot even though it might have 2-3 inches of water, because newbs boil over and go "woe is me!"

Those things, setting off smoke alarms, burning toast, and boiling over, have always seemed to freak people out. They must persist and learn from the mistakes.

Within this treatise there are all sorts of nuggets of wisdom to learn like mise-en-place (have your ingredients chopped up and ready to go), never heating an empty pan especially copper-bottom or non-stick coated (as an extension of mise-en-place, get butter/oil [often both] in that pan immediately and have the rest of your ingredients ready when it starts to reach the smoke point). What's a smoke point? Learn that, Mr. Dashy! If Mr. Dashy likes to teach himself things, watch a ton of "Good Eats" episodes and just start researching like mad. Before you make an expensive steak au poivre dinner with choice New York strip and expensive brandy and heavy cream, find a basic "braised round steak" recipe involving mashed potatoes on the side, simmered onions and mushrooms with the cheap-ass delicious steak, and learn to thicken that sauce up properly.

After grilled cheese, learn to make delicious french toast. Most people use WAY too much egg. Alton can help there. Half and half. Old bread. Buttery-ass-medium-to-medium-high pan at smoke point.

Pancakes are a great lesson for a newb cook because they involve some hairy things:

1) They are a form of "baking" with flour and leaveners. You must follow the proportions EXACTLY unless you know how to make up your own proportions that work.

2) But on the other hand, they often end up super-thick battery following the recipe in my opinion (!) and you need to cut that batter with milk and figure out how much you can water it down so that you can actually tell when the pancakes are ready to be flipped.

3) Once you've gotten batter thickness down, you have simple rules like "heat the pan with oil/butter at medium close to smoke point, put THIS much batter down using a ladle, wait til it's mostly covered with bubbles that pop through, then flip that sucker, wait until the hard cooked surface becomes soft to the touch and pull it off the stove..." But if you like super-thick batter, it'll be overcooked by the time bubbles are popping all the way through, so you've got experimenting to do, and the best pancakes do tend to use thick batter, unless you go all the way into crepe country.
posted by aydeejones at 1:41 AM on June 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


So in other words, my pancakes aren't awesome because I use the bubbles as a crutch and water them a down a bit too much with milk to see the bubbles form at the right time, and I only recently learned that the secret to good biscuits is to crowd them in the pan (side by side, no spacing) -- duh, of course they will be soft and flaky, but I've made hundreds of biscuits and an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" knocked a screw loose that was causing me to overlook the obvious.

I want Mr. Dashy to read all that and be like "I want to cook some stuff" because you can geek out and go all over the place with cookery. Not that Mr. Dashy is necessarily a geek-out kind of dude, but I play the odds!
posted by aydeejones at 1:47 AM on June 16, 2015


My least favorite thing about "Blue Apron" are their "sponsored content" reviews that are surprisingly kind of hard to find via Google, probably because they're intended to just look like legit reviews that you stumble on.

They show up in those sketchy click-bait tiles that show up when you're going down the rabbit-hole of click-bait a la ZergNet. Some of them are just people saying "here's my experience with Blue Apron!" with subtle "sponsored content" disclaimers and lots of angry commenters "cracking the case."

Then there are articles like "You Won't Believe How Millennials are Eating Food Now!" that do the same sort of thing.

Sponsored content and click-bait rabbit-holes are especially creepy as the night hours progress. Why is it that I kind of want to blame the Oatmeal for pioneering the whole "look at these other items to read below, most of which are legit, some of which are bullshit ads" tile-thing? Did Inman innovate, man?
posted by aydeejones at 1:52 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


branravenraven: "I guess I don't understand the benefit besides avoiding grocery shopping."

Well, that's okay, we're not in a rush here. You've got plenty of time to reread the posted article and the comments in this thread.
posted by Bugbread at 1:56 AM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


and I recognize that there is a lot of class and privilege built into that particular sort of lifestyle; but I also feel like there's a certain irony there because, not very long ago, the rich and mercantile bourgeoisie were the ones with access to professionals who could cook for them or dole out meals that meant that none of them would have to learn how to cook, and the peasantry were the ones who had to deal with cooking whatever the seasons could support and whatever you could forage.

You'd be surprised at the number of self-described middle-class people out there who would scoff at $9.95 per person and see no irony, preferring $10 per family of four for most meals. There's a whole show called "$10 Dinners" on Food Network, f'rinstance.

I would posit that, more or less the mercantile bourgeoisie match up with the "true real" middle-class / upper-middle class (defined to me as "people who can take vacations and save some money on the side") and much of what we call the middle-class is occupied by "temporarily embarrassed" families scrounging on a single sub-$60K income in a major city, etc.
posted by aydeejones at 1:57 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, let me expand, Bugbread. I think I would rather order out, because at least then, you don't have to spend time making the food, and there are so many good options these days, for take out. Cooking is intimidating. I grew up eating Mac and Cheese out of a box with cherry soda. It wasn't until I worked in a restaurant and constantly asked the line cooks how to do what they were doing, that I learned how to cook. Reading this article was frustrating because a person can easily put the same amount of effort, planning, and less money into a home cooked meal as one of these meals in a box. Like other commetntators earlier have said, it isn't that hard to cook, you just need to get your bearings, and that seems like what the whole meal in a box thing is selling overall. A good how to cook everything type book is the price of one meal in a box and can teach how to cook, and of course internet is free. Why should we be intimidated by cooking! It is a beautiful thing, to nourish our own bodies, and to hell with modern society if it tells us we aren't all capable of cooking.
posted by branravenraven at 1:59 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


aydeejones, Alton Brown was so influential to me in getting me to think about food and heat sources as a bunch of functional components that worked within a system. Not just taking an ingredient's place in a recipe at face value, but causing me to ask what it's doing there, what flavor or quality it's imparting (depth, acidity, Maillard reaction, etc.), and why (or if) that's important. It's not voodoo, and once you explode it and think about it critically, you can find yourself getting angry that people make it look more complicated than it is.
posted by mirepoix at 2:03 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The main selling point for this, to me, would be that if the meals turn out satisfying, and you can get the ingredients yourself later, it gives you confidence and training, and don't waste a lot of ingredients by making mistakes (either by screwing up a BA recipe, or having a ton of leftover cilantro or whatever that you ignore to death when you set out to do it on your own).

Somehow I see there being someway to leverage Amazon Prime and Zappos logistics for returns and sales to help people share badass ingredients that are hard to get in one region or another. I'm super fortunate where I am, just in the Denver area, with access to tons of ethnic stores of every stripe, price clubs with killer deals on seafood and frozen convenience food from "unhealthy crap" to "hmm, I'll keep that frozen item in stock forever", local organic food store chains, etc.
posted by aydeejones at 2:05 AM on June 16, 2015


posted by mirepoix at 3:03 AM on June 16 [+] [!]

eponysterical

I learned the word "mirepoix" from my sister, but learned the magic of mirepoix and oh, aromatics through Alton Brown. Why do I like so many things packed full of onion and celery flavor at some primeval level despite strongly disliking fresh onions and celery? It makes sense on an obvious level, but let's talk about how finely diced it is and what proportions and what you cook it in...

I also remember this poetic mind-expanding "you are now learning beyond your training" breakdown of different types of roux, from white to "brick" or whatever, and the variations of mirepoix and spin-offs like "Holy Trinity." The discussion of how proteins coagulate or denature...

As a kid, I loved Yan Can Cook! and Graham Kerr and Cucina Amore, but didn't learn anything. Alton Brown was a breakthrough cooking figure for me specifically with respect to things like mother sauces, searing and braising, and ultimately the intimidation of making a "USian" Thanksgiving dinner. I had the luck to have a month or so of paternity leave before and after Thanksgiving 2007 and watched Food Network non-stop learning every possible way to make a turkey, stuffing, etc, and absorbed a wealth of knowledge along the way. Warning: Food Network is not the same in 2015, but "Good Eats" is excellent, and somehow I truly do learn things about diner / comfort food techniques like steaming buns, melting cheese on a burger different ways, throwing together green chile verde, making roux in advance...from "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" while ironically mocking Guy Fieri the whole time.

Back to Alton: I LOVE the book series "I'm Just Here for the Food." I think everything else Alton does will eventually bury him in the eyes of new potential fans, he's just "Dickish Judgemental Judge Guy" now, last time I checked.
posted by aydeejones at 2:14 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do not understand how, with all of the prep, packaging, and delivery, that it is $60 for three meals for two.

Yeah, seriously. That's like 480 packets of ramen for 2 people to eat in one day.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:36 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why do I like so many things packed full of onion and celery flavor at some primeval level despite strongly disliking fresh onions and celery?

Wow. See I dislike carrots, but cannot have a european mirepoix without it.

But, let me shout to you the wonders of the onions, ginger and garlic. I hate ginger, but can't have a proper indian mirepoix without it.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:41 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If these companies offered a low FODMAP option I might consider trying it out as keeping up with all the FODMAP lists is a PITA. However they don't seem to offer vegan or gluten free, so I wont hold my breath for low FODMAP options.

If it cuts down on food waste, that's good. However it seems that it creates a lot of other waste, which is probably worse.

I think one of the issues is having a proper freezer. Freezing leftovers for instant meals is a no brainer. One of the other things I try to get in the habit of doing is chopping almost the whole bunch of fresh herbs and freezing it. Even basil can be chopped without bruising if you put it in the food mixer with a bit of water. Then I have fresh herbs which can be used for anything other than visual impact. Fresh herbs can turn a tin of chopped tomato into a pasta sauce in the few seconds it takes for them defrost.

poffin boffin, I know you like hyperbole, but risotto is pretty much the simplest thing to prepare. It takes about 20 minutes and it has (optional) alcohol in it, what's not to like? I know there are people who would rather eat half a pound of cheese and a packet of doritos than press the buttons on the front of the microwave, if you are happy doing that then more power to you. Most people seem to enjoy food as more than fuel. Even the people I know that don't see themselves as being interested in cooking appreciate it when someone else makes the effort.
posted by asok at 3:54 AM on June 16, 2015


My theory is that the level of anxiety around home cooking increased exponentially when cooking became a glamorous activity promoted by TV shows, celebrity chefs and glossy photo-illustrated cookbooks. I learned out of the Joy of Cooking, older edition. This doesn't mean I cook Mad Men-era. recipes. The JOC was full of basic procedures and tips.
posted by bad grammar at 4:09 AM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I started working from home recently. The one real loss has been the cafeteria at my old job, where healthy food like salad bar was subsidized per company policy. The grilled chicken was, in fact, GRILLED, unlike the cubes of poached-chicken paste I had at Whole Foods yesterday. And I paid twice as much for that garbage at Whole Foods as I would have at that caf.

I cook for one, which has its pluses and minuses. I typically manage about one big cooked meal per week, and eat leftovers a few times that week. Lunch is typically eggs, yogurt, Whole Foods lunch bar, or pizza. Dinner is often an Amy's or Saffron Road frozen entree over some kale or collard greens.

Typical dilemma: I haven't yet had time to cook the food I bought this weekend, and my cooked meals tend to involve a lot of chopping. So I am spreading out the chopping today so I'm not doing a 1/2 hour of it tonight at 5 p.m. when I'm hungry.

It would be great to have a dedicated meal preparer, but as a single worker and homeowner who's easily overwhelmed, my life is all about negative economies of scale anyway. :-) I haven't yet got sick of cooking but one multiingredient meal per week is about all I can muster.

Blue Apron et al.? Not really interested at this time - to me that's what cookbooks are for.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:21 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Home cooking works best if you do it every single day. If you try to cook two or three times a week, you're going to waste a lot of food and effort.

For me, cooking about three times a week is the sweet spot. That lets you cook large enough amounts to be efficient (and then eat leftovers on the intervening days) without the hassle of daily cooking or the boredom of eating one thing all week.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:01 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nearly every time I've tried this, I usually get tired of whatever I eat by mid-week and end up eating out.

YES, precisely. Grimly choking down the same thing for the 5th day in a row is like, we don't even do this to people in prison, come on. At least if it's chili there's the silver lining that I'm probably already bleeding internally by now and will soon perish.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:54 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sometimes when my wife leaves for a week on a conference or such I'll make my sad man meal of a whole pork shoulder, slow roasted and pulled. Then use variations of pulled pork in every meal till I worry that the meat is about to turn or she comes home.

I love cooking, but cooking for one always feels a bit sad now.
posted by Ferreous at 6:22 AM on June 16, 2015


I've tried a few of these services, and didn't like them for all the reasons mentioned above.

What I ended up really finding useful, though, is a service called Lighter Culture. It's similar in that it provides recipes and ingredients, but in this case, it's not delicately prepackaged ingredients. Instead they use a third party grocery delivery service to get the groceries from a nearby grocery store. You get 5 or so recipes a week (they can do breakfast and lunch recipes too if requested) and each one makes about 2 meals. They include snacks too, outside of those five meals, so your grocery delivery will include fruit, crackers, etc. This is one of the key selling points for us, because it means we don't actually have to go to the grocery store. When we had a CSA, for instance, we still had to go the store for basic items and for fruit, which we eat a lot of in this house. Not ever going to the grocery store saves us money, because we are impulse shoppers and we always leave with a cart full of oreos, soda, little plastic doodads to keep your avocados fresh, etc.

As the name implies, it's specifically health food type stuff, though, so your mileage may vary.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:26 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the "random strangers cooking for you" is an interesting idea. Here in New Mexico, I've worked at several places where someone comes in to the place of business with coolers of breakfast burritos to sell (they have to have a vendor's license), and people will line up for those. You can even pre-order.
posted by jenh526 at 6:45 AM on June 16, 2015


early every time I've tried this, I usually get tired of whatever I eat by mid-week and end up eating out.

YES, precisely. Grimly choking down the same thing for the 5th day in a row is like, we don't even do this to people in prison, come on.
I like roasting a chicken for myself because after I'm tired of just nuking leftovers, I can also use the meat for salad or sandwiches. Ditto for pork loins or roasted top rounds of beef. Sometimes they also go into soup or pasta sauce (which can also turn into enchiladas) if I'm feeling like doing a bit of cooking again. Leftover cooked vegetables can be resurrected with a flash stir fry or some kind of breakfast hash (because, yay, breakfast for dinner)

Sometimes it's not about eating the same thing over and over but thinking about how the cooked thing in your fridge can be an ingredient for something else (ideally something like assembling a salad, that doesn't require another 30 minutes of labor)
posted by bl1nk at 7:04 AM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


god someone HERE was like "oh if you save your pineapple tops they will grow into NEW PINEAPPLES in like 2 years" and iirc i flipped the fuck out

I am intrigued by this premise. I mean, I can buy my own pineapples on an as-needed basis, but if I saved my pineapple tops and grew my own pineapple plant in my living room, how neat would that be? "Oh, that? That's my pineapple plant."

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of one of George Orwell's essays where he talks about what drudgery cooking is (and he did his own at least some of his life, as when he was a widower taking care of a small boy). His idea was that in the socialist future, you would sign up for a food delivery service and they would bring you all your meals - cooked by socialized labor in a central kitchen under good working conditions - and you'd just return the dishes for cleaning afterward. He proposed, in fact, that once socialism was well established, most houses need not have kitchens at all. Admittedly, this was in the UK in the forties so not exactly a time of maximum cooking fun for anyone, but still interesting.

I personally would like to do a stint in this type of Socialist Kitchen - I love to cook but get bored with the food I make, and I do enjoy cooking in large batches while working in with others. If I could do this regularly but in a well-paid and OSHA-compliant place where I was making real food and not college cafeteria slops, I would be a pretty self-actualized person. (I actually have worked in several college cafeterias, both as a student and as an independent adult, so I have some experience with the job. Although my happiest experiences have been cooking for large group events.)
posted by Frowner at 7:05 AM on June 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Poffin Boffin:who the fuck has time to make a fucking risotto

I feel your pain but risotto is as easy as you want it to be. Risotto can be cooked liked a casserole in the oven in about 20 minutes or so. It can be cooked in a pressure cooker in about 7 to 9 minutes (plus the time you are saute-ing your aromatics). Leftovers can be turned into arancini (rice balls) and there you have another meal.

If you are pressed for time seriously look at getting a pressure cooker and learn to use it. The new ones are really not that hard to use compared to the older ones which could explode if you looked at them funny.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:06 AM on June 16, 2015


Does anyone know if any of these places focus on low-carb meals? Like it doesn't have to be full keto or whatever, but I want to know if there's a place where there's a good selection of meals where the side isn't "a bunch of rice" or "several potatoes" or whatnot.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


poffin boffin, I know you like hyperbole, but risotto is pretty much the simplest thing to prepare. It takes about 20 minutes and it has (optional) alcohol in it, what's not to like? I know there are people who would rather eat half a pound of cheese and a packet of doritos than press the buttons on the front of the microwave, if you are happy doing that then more power to you. Most people seem to enjoy food as more than fuel. Even the people I know that don't see themselves as being interested in cooking appreciate it when someone else makes the effort.

I learned to cook early and often--play with ingredients and cuisines and techniques...all of that. I was fortunate to grow up in a well-off family who supported these practices. I've also been fortunate enough to be exposed to fine dining, CSAs, and basically every foodie trend out there. My family signs up for high-end cooking (sometimes destination cooking) vacations for fun.

I had to relearn entirely how to cook as an adult for a medical diet, and although I would never recommend anyone take up a For Serious Medical Diet like this* for the fun of it, because it can super fuck you up--part of me is always tempted to suggest trying that for a few days when the foodie threads roll out and explain what is easy and quick food prep and what is not.

It upends everything you "knew" about cooking and how it's really easy with these Few Neat Tricks, because most of your "intuitive" knowledge about ease and effort-saving tips has to be re-evaluated in light of a whole new set of goals. Sure, I still use a Few Neat Tricks (pre-freezing portions, re-arranging building blocks in the fridge) to make it more manageable and efficient, but it's this whole different way of examining food and cooking. Cooking becomes as overwhelming and as much work as it is to someone who has never learned to cook, or people who just are too frustrated or tired or bored or busy to spend energy on that instead of other aspects of life. And I'm fast at cooking this way now.

*for every kcal of protein+carbohydrate, the meal/snack must contain 2-2.25 kcals of fat, and everything counts, including "dashes" of spices or flavors (like lime or lemon juice or soy sauce/tamari) to taste. You learn about "hidden CHOs" on nutrition labels. You minimize utensil/cookware/bowl exchanges between measuring, cooking, and serving to avoid losing food, you have to hit as many nutritional goals as possible--including TYPES of fat, since I'm an adult and at higher risk of cardiovascular problems--while staying under a certain number of kcals for the day, lest you break the diet.
posted by Naamah at 7:07 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to get these ads all the time on my facebook-- maybe they thought I was the target demographic without knowing that I typically spend like $200 on groceries a month--and I scoffed and rolled my eyes. But recently I've been so damn bored with everything that I cook and too tired to experiment with new stuff that I would be tempted to do this every so often if it made more food. But I'm not spending ten dollars to cook a meal that I don't even get leftovers from for work the next day.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:08 AM on June 16, 2015


Sometimes when my wife leaves for a week on a conference or such I'll make my sad man meal of a whole pork shoulder, slow roasted and pulled. Then use variations of pulled pork in every meal till I worry that the meat is about to turn or she comes home.

I love cooking, but cooking for one always feels a bit sad now.
I used to live with a partner who traded off cooking duties with me, but she never ate red meat, so whenever she'd go away for work, I'd usually get a lamb leg or a beef roast and usually invite some friends over to eat half, and then carve out the rest for leftovers over the rest of the week.

After we broke up, one of my coping, grieving mechanisms was still to invite friends over for meals that I'd cook for them in exchange for them doing my dishes, and then I'd return the favor and do their dishes if they'd cook for me -- because I liked the exchange and motivation of feeling like I had someone to cook for. If anything, having to cater to another person's tastes, interests, and diet was a greater force for making me branch out in my cooking than any new book, show, or service.
posted by bl1nk at 7:10 AM on June 16, 2015


> So while she's gone he pays random strangers from the internet for dinners, delivered to his house a few times a week

Rather than random strangers from a restaurant?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:12 AM on June 16, 2015


I think a lot of the problems people have with cooking and planning is that we don't have classes like Home Ec in schools any more. (I also took auto shop and woodworking; and while I can fix a pre-computer car, I still can't make a straight bookshelf, but anyway...)

I've recently started teaching the kids of friends, who are just now getting ready to head off to university, how to do things like menu planning based on what's on sale in the local grocery fliers, how to prep stuff to freeze, how to reheat frozen food, how to use leftovers, just stuff that seems intrinsically easy to me because I've been doing it since I was tall enough to operate the stove, but are things that none of them know how to do, because it's not behavior they see modeled or have ever had explained.

Back when I was in school, before education was reformed to fit the profit goals of testing companies, we had classes on how to budget, how to meal plan, how to do all of those things that make services like this seem redundant. In the quest for better test scores, we seem to have removed all sorts of things from education that would actually be useful to the people learning them.

That said; one of the girls in my class once set the entire kitchen lab on fire trying to make scrambled eggs...so, classes may not help everyone.
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


What niche are these services trying to fill? I cannot imagine there are too many people out there hankering to pay ten bucks per meal to cook it themselves and clean up afterward. I see businesses like this and imagine a boardroom full of millennials thoroughly convinced that urban, childless professionals are surely a widespread and long-lasting market.

I liked the "family plan" being introduced though... $8.74 per person. $174.80 per week for a family, and that's just dinner. Jesus Christ.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:21 AM on June 16, 2015


Chalk me up as another "really unclear on the appeal" for blue apron and the like. I get that someone who doesn't know how to cook needs some additional instruction beyond what the recipe provides, but like the author of the piece apparently has a mother who knows how to cook and cares about what they're eating, and also presumably an internet connection to look up youtube tutorials, and what more could you need?

And I mean, for my personal taste if I'm going to spend 10 bucks on a single serving of food why would I spend it on something I have to cook myself when I could get a takeout meal that someone else does the work on. ten dollars is enough to feed four people if I'm going to cook. But I guess that that varies a lot based on individual priorities and probably income.
posted by bracems at 7:21 AM on June 16, 2015


If you are pressed for time seriously look at getting a pressure cooker and learn to use it.

It's not that I don't know HOW to cook, it's that I loathe doing it, it is ghastly tedium to me and I avoid it whenever possible. Also a pressure cooker would not help because I have nowhere in my shitty kitchen to put it, literally nowhere. My microwave is in the living room. I dry my dishes on a rack on top of the stove & burners. In order to get out pots and pans for cooking I have to get a fucking ladder and climb from that ladder onto the top of a cabinet and then carefully ease my way back down with a single pan, and then repeat. If I had a pressure cooker I would have to store it in the coat closet in the foyer, which is the nearest location that has space available.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:26 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think one of the appeals of this over takeout is that for roughly the same price (cheaper, around here, even) you can get what appears to be healthy food in sensible portions. I have a wide array of takeout available to me, but none of it is remotely healthy for what I consider "healthy" to be.
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not that I don't know HOW to cook, it's that I loathe doing it, it is ghastly tedium to me

*nods*

yes, but what if it wasn't

what if you enjoy the same things i do

have you considered changing to be that way
posted by Greg Nog at 7:56 AM on June 16, 2015 [55 favorites]


I think one of the appeals of this over takeout is that for roughly the same price (cheaper, around here, even) you can get what appears to be healthy food in sensible portions. I have a wide array of takeout available to me, but none of it is remotely healthy for what I consider "healthy" to be.

I'd think this would be a huge part of the appeal. On nights when I don't feel like cooking, it's hard to pick up food that's not terrible for you. Something that took away the shopping/decision making component and wasn't awful for me? I can see why a person would want that.

I tend to hate the tenor of food discussions on Metafilter which seem to devolve into haranguing some poor soul about how they need to start cooking more and if only they do it in this specific way (the advice here is usually highly specific and contradictory between posters), then it will be fun and easy and they'll feel better and be happy! The goal shouldn't be to force everyone to cook, even if they hate it. The goal should be making sure that everyone gets nutritious food without being miserable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:01 AM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


(the advice here is usually highly specific and contradictory between posters)

more cilantro
posted by Greg Nog at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Death to cilantro!
posted by dejah420 at 8:30 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd love to know more about the business side of this. I realize we're in an age where companies aren't expected to actually make money, but I can't help but wonder - does this make money?

Selling food direct to consumers results in really thin margins. Groceries and restaurants struggle to be profitable, as they are dealing with high facility, labor and waste costs. So my question, if I were an investor (I am not) would be: How do you solve that problem? How do you make selling food profitable enough to support this level of investment?

I saw the claim from Plated that their waste is less than 2%, but I'd really like to know how they achieved that. Is it really that low or are they externalizing that somehow (if they are externalizing the cost I'd like to know how. Again from an investor perspective, externalizing cost can be great if done right. If it's done wrong a company is really just kicking the can down the road and setting itself up for much higher operating costs in the future.)

If they are really hitting 2%, due to their 'advanced predictive analytics' then I'd like to invest in the company that sells that software to grocery stores.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> what more could you need

A will to live that extends through the dinner-preparation hour.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:32 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


ctrl-f "crock pot"

No matches

*shrug*
posted by eclectist at 8:36 AM on June 16, 2015


I can't help but wonder - does this make money?

I wonder this too. Overnight shipping for a 15-lb box is .... well above $60 alone*. There's the labor-intensive preparation of a specified amount of each ingredient in each of those little ingredient bags. There's the ingredients, which include meats. And the packaging itself.

*Ours is dropped off by a person in a minivan. But I doubt this scales, or is even that much cheaper.
posted by Dashy at 8:59 AM on June 16, 2015


Yeah, fuck cilantro. Hate that stuff.

ProTip, if you hate cilantro too, a good substitute in most recipes is fresh coriander leaves. Look for them in specialty groceries in the produce section.
posted by Naberius at 9:00 AM on June 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


a good substitute in most recipes is fresh coriander leaves

Um
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:04 AM on June 16, 2015 [37 favorites]


Re the learning curve on cooking: I'm actually a pretty good cook (hope it's not Dunning-Kruger speaking here, but I do have independent verification from people outside my actual family) and I still occasionally have massive kitchen fails. The last one last week: absent-mindedly turned down the heat too low while making fish and wound up with basically raw fish -- had to toss the whole thing because I wasn't cool with eating it raw and instead had Shredded Wheat for dinner.

That's fine when it's just my husband and me and we can kind of laugh it off, but I can see how that would be kinda uncool if you had kids and don't feel right serving them Shredded Wheat for dinner, or if money is a bit tight and you can't afford to waste ingredients. So I can definitely see these services appealing to people who want to learn to cook but are nervous about the margin of error.
posted by holborne at 9:05 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread makes it crystal clear to me how lucky I got. Well into my 20s, I ate out all the time. I didn't know how to cook, I was too busy, I didn't want to. I was embarrassed by how badly it went when I did try. I spent maybe $150/week on food.

I met a girl. Over a decade or so, she trained me. Not just the skillset. My palate changed radically, but not rapidly; I prefer homecooked food now, unless we're talking a really special restaurant meal. We cook six nights a week -- quick stuff on weeknights, fairly elaborate stuff on the weekends. I wish I had twice as much time to spend on cooking as I do, but despite a kid and two jobs we make it work.

I got lucky. If your goal is to cook more food at home and like it, I think these services might be a good substitute for luck. But you've got to play a long game. Changing the types of foods you like, and how you like to spend your time, is not going to happen in a matter of weeks or even months.
posted by gurple at 9:12 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


What seems strange to me, whenever I discuss the need to quickly cook reasonably nutritious food quickly with friends and co-workers, is that I always baffle people by bringing up a fundamental cooking tool: the broiler.

Virtually all of us that have a kitchen have a broiler. The broiler comes free with every oven. The broiler takes in raw beef or pork or chicken or fish and spits out restaurant-quality main courses in less than 20 minutes. But inexplicably, nobody I know uses the broiler, and I've talked to so many people who just don't know they have the equivalent of a grill in their oven.

(Note: I do understand that the broiler is of less utility to vegans. Also, I'm sure some of you actually do use the broiler. Because someone has to.)

I'll admit that the broiler was a "wait, what?" moment for me when I decided to give up high-calorie take-out or microwave foods and started reading up on how to prepare food. There's no Broiler Council of America to run PSAs that implore you to use your broiler. Even though I lived in a generation that still had home economics classes, I don't think the broiler was ever covered. My parents didn't use the broiler, or at least didn't tell me they did or show me. The landlord never went over and dialed up the broiler and made steaks to show off how good the broiler was when looking at apartments, but even my worst apartment had a decent one.

I guess the word just doesn't get out. Perhaps the broiler needs a defender like Roger Ebert to implore people to use it, like he did with getting the word out about the versatility of the lowly rice cooker. (Note: yes, yes, I know Mark Bittman promotes broiling, but instead of actually offering practical advice, he makes the broiler seem like a finicky thing that needs a great deal of finesse to operate and dwells on preparation techniques that don't even matter unless you're cooking for royalty.)

It's just such an essential tool to making a freshly-cooked meal fast. I guess because there isn't much money to be made in broilers, crock pots, rice cookers and steamer plates - all of which are inexpensive and last for decades - they're just not promoted much. Or maybe classism keeps people from using them, as they seem like such mainstays of middle America in the 70s. Perhaps we've lost our collective consciousness of what it means to cook quickly for a family. But these things all allow you to create full healthy meals with a substantial amount of variety with minimal mess and not a whole lot of attention. The simple solutions are probably already in your kitchen.

As a two-income household who maintains a family dinner every night, my wife and I know first-hand the frustration of everyone coming home exhausted and then needing to cook. We've tried Plated and Munchery and Spoonrocket and a few other things. None of them were remotely worth it, with small portions at high prices that tasted far worse than just broiling, steaming and rice-cooking up a meal. Whenever I try out new techniques for convenience, I always end up coming back to the broiler.
posted by eschatfische at 9:13 AM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


ghastly tedium

Sorry to hear that. Cooking can be a hassle sometimes but I derive a great deal of pleasure from creating food for family and friends. Which is why I am often mystified when people talk about how overwhelming basic dishes are. So my suggestion was simply an example of something that has worked for me and comes from the desire to demystify cooking which I think can be as complicated or as simple as one makes it. No offense was intended.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2015


These meals seem really complicated and fancy for home cooking. I don't think that a kit that requires you to cook a side dish of ~fancy~ rice with leeks and a garnish and stuff (that you will then polish off completely in one sitting) is really going to ease anyone into becoming a capable/confident home cook.

If you want complicated, fancy food, why not just go to a restaurant and get it? That's what restaurants are for. Home cooking is a different thing. Aside from the concept of paying for the pleasure of cooking and cleaning up after your own dinners, what's strange to me about this service is that the example meals don't really sound like the kind of meals you'd *want* to cook or eat at home in the first place. Or at least not to me, though of course YMMV.

I mean, if you're into cooking as a hobby and want to experiment with unusual and complicated ingredients/dishes/techniques/etc, that's fine. But if you're struggling to feed yourself and your family at the end of the day, and/or you *like* eating home cooking (which I personally do), then ordering Blue Apron meals and futzing around with garnishes is probably not going to help you with that.
posted by rue72 at 9:21 AM on June 16, 2015


I also love the broiler, but it requires a lot of attention - I burned a few things early on.
posted by congen at 9:22 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


...mystified when people talk about how overwhelming basic dishes are.

People are raised in a wide variety of ways with respect to cooking. My wife was making herself breakfast at 5, cooking for the family once a week at 8. I was failing badly at teaching myself to cook with Hamburger Helper at age 20.

There's no mystery in not being able to do something you haven't yet learned to do. It takes time and effort.
posted by gurple at 9:23 AM on June 16, 2015


My first kitchen fire was with the broiler /end reminiscence
posted by bq at 9:27 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The broiler is a really great technology that gets forgotten so often when compared to other time saving devices. It is a great suggestion. It can totally be used by vegans as well - char some veg, melting some cheese on slices of polenta, pizzas...

There's no mystery in not being able to do something you haven't yet learned to do. It takes time and effort.

Fair enough, but for me it is a mystery as I see it as a basic life skill. I don't see it as optional. I'm not saying you need to be a great chef but everybody's gotta eat and we only have so much money to eat out.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:36 AM on June 16, 2015


I wish my parents had seen cooking as a life skill they needed to impart to me. We're making it a priority with our kid. I agree that it "should" (waves hands vaguely) be a basic life skill that we all learn, but a moderate level of affluence makes it possible not to.
posted by gurple at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2015


I occasionally consider trying out one of these services, so I'm probably your "who the hell is the target demo?", over here. (waves.)

So, for the curious, I'm:
- A full-time working adult with no children
- Supporting another adult with a serious illness that prevents him from working
- Said other adult is fantastic at cooking but his illness waxes and wanes unpredictably; sometimes he can handle cooking for us, sometimes he can't, sometimes he thinks he'll be able to and plans to, but when cooking time comes, he can't do it.
- I'm middlingly okay at cooking - I can follow a recipe and turn out something decent but I'm no good at improv, and don't particularly enjoy cooking. (Baking? Baking is my jam. If we could live on cookies we'd be set.)
- A bus commuter, which means it takes me a long time to get home from work already and stopping for groceries is not always feasible if I forgot something on our big weekend stock-up.
- Dealing with my own mental health issues, which is exhausting and stressful and sad and means that sometimes I am barely functional as a human being
- A recovering picky eater with a lot of food hang-ups that I am slowly trying to get better about
- Spending way too much money on takeout and delivery for all those reasons

One of these services would end up being cheaper and probably healthier than the way we eat now, would help with some (not all) of the difficulties my partner has with cooking for us and help him feel like he's contributing more to the household, and would free some of my mental space up for actually focusing on my own self-care.

Mostly I haven't tried one yet because I do worry about the shipping and packaging waste, because I haven't looked at them closely enough to see if there's something that would suit my recovering-picky-eater self, and because I hate the whole "free trial is easy to sign up for but then you have to spend an hour on the actual phone with us to cancel it" thing.

But, yeah. I might at some point. It would solve a lot of problems for me. It's not an optimal way to eat or cook, for sure, but it's probably better than what I have now. So there's your target demo. People who are up to their ears in other commitments, and choose, wisely or not, to prioritize things other than meal planning and grocery shopping in the free time they have. We walk among you.
posted by Stacey at 9:44 AM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree that it "should" (waves hands vaguely) be a basic life skill that we all learn, but a moderate level of affluence makes it possible not to.

But if people don't cook, then what do they eat?

Not being facetious, I'm wondering what "not cooking" or "can't cook" actually means. What counts as "cooking"?

The writer included the example of lox and cream cheese as a "family meal" that the writer's husband can't/doesn't eat anymore. But I wouldn't have thought of lox and cream cheese as something that you have to cook anyway?

I mean, I ate that for breakfast this morning, along with scrambled eggs, vegetable juice, and coffee. The whole thing took about ten minutes to make, and didn't even require me to use the stove. Was that cooking? I didn't think so, but if even that kind of very basic meal prep is something that the writer or other people think of as "cooking," or even if their standards are only very slightly higher, then I'm wondering what people's meals are like if they can't/don't cook. Or do they just not eat any meals at home (how? don't they get hungry?)?
posted by rue72 at 9:53 AM on June 16, 2015


My goddamned broiler sets off the smoke alarm, so for me, broiling means climbing on a stepladder to disable the alarm (or trying vainly to poke it with a broom for five minutes, giving up, and then getting on the stepladder) and then repeating the process at the end of the meal (minus broom). Forget it.

Although I do use the broiler to finish crème brulee and one or two other things, but I'm getting a blowtorch next month so I can dispense with even that soon.
posted by holborne at 9:55 AM on June 16, 2015


I'm wondering what people's meals are like if they can't/don't cook. Or do they just not eat any meals at home (how? don't they get hungry?)?

I went for a solid two or three years on takeout and deli sandwiches.
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for anybody else, but when I didn't cook, I ate breakfast out of a box and pretty much did not prepare lunch or dinner at home, ever. Not only is it possible, but lots and lots of people do it. It's an enormous luxury, which is not at all the same thing as saying that it's desirable.

I cover the smoke alarm with a plastic bag whenever I use the broiler or get the oven up above 400. I forget to take the bag off, afterward, about half the time.
posted by gurple at 9:58 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or do they just not eat any meals at home (how? don't they get hungry?)?

You can eat out all the time and take home leftovers or get takeout. That's how you get into the "Fight Club" situation of a fridge full of condiments (usually packets). Including the aforementioned sandwiches, there's pizza and tacos/burritos. There's usually once a week where I really want to eat something Asian with rice, so there's also Thai, Chinese, and Japanese places. I have a few Japanese supermarkets close by and their prepared meal section is usually well stocked with bento and sushi boxes.

I'm also lucky that there' a major university close by and I can just buy a meal ticket for their AYCE cafeteria.
posted by FJT at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The No Cooking Meal Plan:
Coffee for breakfast
A salad or protein plate from Starbucks, or several granola bars for lunch
Something out of a bag in the freezer for dinner if feeling fancy, or order in, or stop for fast food on way home, or Mac n cheese.
posted by bleep at 10:17 AM on June 16, 2015


But if people don't cook, then what do they eat?

Before my life circumstances finally just straight-up demanded that I cook, I ate a lot of stuff that could more properly be described as "prepared" rather than cooked and a lot of stuff that didn't even count as prepared. Raw vegetables and cheese wrapped up in a tortilla, yogurt and granola, bagels toasted with cream cheese. A wedge of brie and an apple and a mini-baguette, with a couple slices of deli prosciutto. Some trail mix.

I also had about a year where I just said "fuck it, who needs to live a long time anyway" and bought a muffin and a coffee from the Dunkin every single morning of every single day, which actually turned out to be almost as cheap as buying grocery store muffins and making my own coffee.

I really miss that part of my life.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2015


Before I had a kid, I scoffed at the ads for these meal boxes. Now I would be all over this if I could afford it. I love to cook and have been making an effort to make more healthy meals recently, but trying to shop, prep, cook, and clean with a toddler is torture. The last time I took him shopping he ATE THE GROCERY LIST. If there was a section of the grocery store where I could just pick up a couple bags with all the ingredients for a few decent dinners, I probably would pay a pretty big markup.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think the scrambled eggs might push your breakfast into "cooking" territory for me, rue72, but I agree there's a fuzzy line there. I wouldn't have thought of "putting lox, and cream cheese on a plate" as actual cooking. I don't think of myself as cooking when I declare cheese/crackers/fruit for dinner.

Since you asked, in our minimally-cooking house, breakfasts are usually cold cereal during the week, and I cook something more substantial (omelettes or pancakes or whatever) on weekends because I do like making breakfast. I usually buy lunch at work or snack throughout the day on my emergency desk rations - I keep some dried and fresh fruit and vegetables, almonds, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, and jerky around. My partner tends to forget lunch or not feel well enough to eat it, but sometimes he heats up leftovers or a frozen pizza, or has yogurt and fruit. On weekends we cook big dinners and try to make enough that there are some leftovers. In an ideal world my partner makes dinner on some weeknights as well, but we can't count on him being able to do that, so it's a nice thing if it happens but I don't count on it. The rest of the week, it's usually takeout or delivery, and maybe one night a week where we declare cheese-and-fruit-plate, or just make a giant smoothie and call that dinner. (Honestly, Giant Smoothie Night is the best night except for the very rare Ice Cream For Dinner Night and part of me thinks we should just do GSN all the time.)

I did work with someone once who swore she never had food in her home at all. We worked in a building with a deli and a convenience store, and she bought frozen dinners at the store and heated them up for breakfast in the morning, and went to the deli for lunch, and did not eat again until the next day's breakfasts. Weekends, she went out for her meals. I couldn't see living quite that way myself but it seemed to work well enough for her. (For her coworkers who were unprepared for the smell of microwaved seafood at 7 a.m., not so much, but that's a whole other discussion.)
posted by Stacey at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, for breakfast I usually prepare a smoothie and have workplace coffee.
posted by FJT at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2015


oceanjesse asks
Yeah, but can they deliver someone to clean my kitchen?


Have you seen Alfred?
posted by doctornemo at 10:20 AM on June 16, 2015


I'm wondering what people's meals are like if they can't/don't cook. Or do they just not eat any meals at home (how? don't they get hungry?)?

My ex-husband had no idea how to cook anything and could not have given a fuck about it. I seem to recall that he was able to make pasta and dump some sauce from a jar over it, but that was it. I remember a few times coming home after a week-long business trip and the refrigerator would have basically no food in it except something like a desiccated lemon or something like that. And I'd say in astonishment to him, "What on earth did you eat all week?" and he'd shrug and say "I ordered in." So, you know, yeah.
posted by holborne at 10:20 AM on June 16, 2015


If I ever move back to the city and end up making more then I do now I could see myself using a service like this. I don't mind cooking at all. I do mind the planning and shopping part of it. I dislike the whole process of shopping in general. And since I'd likely be cooking for one I find it takes extra planning to make sure I'm not letting things go to waste or get outdated.

Here is some good food, all portioned out, cook it sound pretty darn awesome to me. I'd get to do the part of cooking I like and no worries and more time for other things.

At ten dollars a meal I would have to have substantially more disposable income though because to me it would fall under the 'total luxury, I must be really well off to spend this much money on something I can totally do myself if I decided to prioritize it' category of expenses.

Right now I have one luxury item that I regularly buy, a $25 super awesome but super tiny bottle of hair product which causes me guilt pangs every time I order it so I expect I would need a huge income increase to actually do this sort of thing.
posted by Jalliah at 10:21 AM on June 16, 2015


If there was a section of the grocery store where I could just pick up a couple bags with all the ingredients for a few decent dinners...

On the face of it, that sounds brilliant. Who better to package up a bag of meal ingredients than a grocery store? I bet they'd have to price the bags way lower than these to-your-door services, though. Being faced with a stark contrast between the cost of the stuff all bagged up vs. just sitting on the shelves would sort of kill the buzz, I think.
posted by gurple at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2015


"putting lox, and cream cheese on a plate"

I believe they call that a Des Moines Bagel.
posted by griphus at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If there was a section of the grocery store where I could just pick up a couple bags with all the ingredients for a few decent dinners...

So chiming in late... we cook a fair amount of meals in my house (a nuclear family of 4). Many times it's pretty basic stuff - taco night, pasta, etc - but sometimes we make real meals too and it's nice.

Even when we have a week of taco-night-level cooking the hardest part is actually meal planning. You can't just go to a grocery store and get stuff at random. Finding interesting recipes is actually a fair amount of work - we have a decent selection of cookbooks and get new ones out of the library from time to time.

This, to me, is the actual hard work: deciding what to make/eat. Shopping isn't so hard, cooking is a little time consuming depending what you make. But meal planning: hard. Which is what you're really buying from these places: an appetizing meal plan. With the food thrown in.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the meal planning... I'm fairly bad at picking meals for a week (my wife and I trade off weeks), and I'm excruciatingly bad at getting all the ingredients from the recipes onto the grocery list. I've poked around at a couple of sites that try to help with this, but the thing is we've already got a bunch of recipes we like, in a binder that we maintain.

I just need to get the ingredient lists for those recipes into some format where I can say "give me a grocery list for this meal, this meal and this meal", with some provision for "I already have two onions and a head of garlic in the house". Hell, I'm a coder! It would be four hours' work, mostly typing in all the ingredient lists. Haven't managed to make myself do that, yet.

I sort of envy people who've started to cook since all this stuff became available online.
posted by gurple at 10:47 AM on June 16, 2015


Those things, setting off smoke alarms, burning toast, and boiling over, have always seemed to freak people out.
My goddamned broiler sets off the smoke alarm
I cover the smoke alarm with a plastic bag whenever I use the broiler or get the oven up above 400.

Holy shit. Now I get it.

Since the early 70s, we've increasingly outfitted homes with a loud alarm that goes off whenever somebody tries to cook with high heat, to the point where just about every house has one.

That does create a pretty substantial disincentive to using the oven in a way that allows you to make fast, healthy meals - especially for apartment-dwellers or those with small homes whose smoke detectors are necessarily closer to the kitchen.

Sure enough, when you look at the National Fire Protection Association's chart of smoke alarm adoption from 1977-2010, one sees that it tracks the rise and tapering of childhood obesity very closely.

I started writing this as a sort of jest, but now I've begun to actually wonder.
posted by eschatfische at 10:55 AM on June 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


In most homes I know the disincentive is to put the battery back in the smoke detector.
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that it "should" (waves hands vaguely) be a basic life skill that we all learn, but a moderate level of affluence makes it possible not to.

And/or a moderate level of the Y chromosome.

I'm restraining myself from winging on and on (I keep writing stuff and erasing it. It's theraputic) about gender stuff here, but -- it's for real.
posted by Dashy at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering what people's meals are like if they can't/don't cook. Or do they just not eat any meals at home (how? don't they get hungry?)?

Everything I get from Fresh Direct is already prepared and just needs heating up. (or not, in the case of salads & sliced chicken breast, etc)

the rest of it is protein shakes and delivery from one of the literally 500 restaurants within a 10 block radius of my house.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2015


my smoke alarm has been sitting with its brand new battery for 5 months on the kitchen cart because i have 12 foot high ceilings that i can't reach without a ladder. my bedroom has the fire escape anyway so i'm probably not going to die.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:01 AM on June 16, 2015


And/or a moderate level of the Y chromosome.

I just want to say that I've finally discovered my superpower: marrying men who are down with the cooking (and grocery shopping). I'm not a total lump; I do cook about a third of the time... maybe a little less, depending on work schedules... and we are also completely, entirely unrepentant about "nobody in the house feels like cooking tonight; time to order in!" (First husband did 100% of the cooking, so I didn't even really learn to cook at all until we broke up.)

I do all the laundry though. Pretty good bargain, I think, especially since we are also unrepentant non-ironers!
posted by taz at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm fairly bad at picking meals for a week

Sometimes I make a plan and sometimes I don't. When I don't, especially for weeknight meals for my family, I have a repertoire of about 2 dozen straightforward healthy dishes. Of that 2 dozen dishes about a dozen can be broken down easily into different components and can be swapped around in order to create many variations. So things such as soba noodles instead of a rice dish, tofu or a bean dish instead of meat, polenta instead of pasta. I also rely on reusing components of previous meal leftovers (like leftover salad into salad rolls, plain rice into fried rice, unused bhatura dough into pizza, extra roast meat into the base for soup) and frozen meal components (or as I call them "banked") made at a moment when I had more spare time or help like Asian dumplings, humus, cooked beans, extra uncooked pork katsu, ratatouille, caramelized onions, Cornish pasties, risotto balls, or roast tomato sauce. A big part of cooking for my family is simply being prepared and organised.

And/or a moderate level of the Y chromosome.
FWIW I am a man and I've been cooking for my family since I was 8.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been tempted to sign up for one of these services, particularly after having made a few meals with my friend who does Blue Apron. I confess to being a bit snooty about it--"Well I know how to cook! I don't need this sort of thing!"--but honestly, it mitigates the part of cooking that I like the least: the meal planning.

I live by myself and after a full day of work and an hour of commuting on either end, the thought of planning and making a meal for just me sounds like more effort than it's worth. The people at the local pho and sushi joints know me by name. I also get a CSA box twice a month. My thinking was that if produce just appears in my house, it will be easy to cook and eat it! I am not always good about cooking though, and I end up throwing a lot of food away. I've been making an active effort to get better about it, but it's hard. These boxes sound healthy and cheaper than going out all the time. Maybe I should reconsider.
posted by chatongriffes at 11:22 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


taz, sounds like you have the same agreement my wife and I have - I cook (although she occasionally helps w/ setting the table, etc) and she does laundry. Seems to work well :)

This, to me, is the actual hard work: deciding what to make/eat. Agreed. I'm ambivalent about shopping but actually kind of enjoy the working in the kitchen aspect of cooking (at least part of the time, not every night). My problem is that I don't really have the time or inclination to look for ideas/recipes.

On top of that, I travel for work pretty frequently (at least one week / month on average). My wife seems to subside on frozen fish and veggies every night when I'm gone - I'm trying to get her to branch out a bit, but she hates cooking and I don't always have time to cook a week's worth of food for her before leaving town.

So even though Blue Apron and the like seem overpriced and wasteful to me (I'd rather just learn to cook better), I can definitely see the appeal.
posted by photo guy at 11:26 AM on June 16, 2015


One of the nice things about daily meal cooking for a family is that, depending on your mood/energy level, it can be either 20-60 minutes of Wholesome Parent-Offspring Skill/Culture Transmission or Everybody Out of the Kitchen Whilst I Combine Art and Science . Unless you have an open-plan kitchen, in which case they'll see you having a beer and browsing Metafilter while robotically stirring asparagus trimmings into your risotto.
posted by Svejk at 11:26 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cook (although she occasionally helps w/ setting the table, etc) and she does laundry.

Ha - same in our house. My partner was flabbergasted at my indifferent laundry skills (not to mention my ironing skills).
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2015


My wife does the cooking. But I do the laundry, if that makes you feel any better. I love food and I really wouldn't mind learning how to cook more, but I'm very scatterbrained and easily distracted, which makes me very good at my job (retail), but lousy at stuff that requires intense concentration.
posted by jonmc at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2015


My favorite part about Blue Apron is that they advertise hard on parenting blogs. It's always amusing reading bloggers trying to convince me that a dinner I have to cook myself is totally worth $40 or whatever. All of their kids simultaneously love the fancy new meals and ask for seconds AND there's always plenty left over! Ok.
posted by that's how you get ants at 11:35 AM on June 16, 2015


And/or a moderate level of the Y chromosome.

I'm sure if Guy Fieri or some other macho-chef personality came out with a "Bro Apron" version of the service, that would change things quite fast.
posted by FJT at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2015


>> And/or a moderate level of the Y chromosome.
FWIW I am a man and I've been cooking for my family since I was 8.


That's great, but you are the exception, and that does not change society.

The world we live in, which values its men over its women, certainly does excuse men for not knowing how to feed themselves. It also pressures women to cook, and penalizes them for not knowing how.

Along with most, this is the world in which Mr. Dash was raised. To his utter credit, he really does work on holding up his end of the household, and goes to the grocery store, and is more than happy to go pick up whatever takeout, or go out.

But his basic "I just don't know how! Teach me!" approach (and he is very, very intelligent) and his concurrent dislike of something he sees himself as bad at, I see very much as a product of being raised by a SAHM, and socialized, in the 1970s, a culture that continues today.
posted by Dashy at 11:37 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


you are the exception, and that does not change society.

I agree. It is a challenge to change a society which consistently undervalues certain kinds of work and gender. In our home, especially with my young son, we emphasize that there isn't "woman's work" or "man's work" there's simply jobs which need to be done in order for the household to work.

I once tried to teach the husband of a friend of my partner. Intelligent man, a teacher, although about my age he had grown up in a household where despite the fact his mother worked outside the home it was very old fashioned in terms of its gender roles. In order to even begin to teach him how to cook I had to unpack his baggage about what it meant to be a man and what it meant to cook. It ultimately was a waste of time because he felt cooking, other BBQ, was beneath him.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:54 AM on June 16, 2015


Guy Fieri or some other macho-chef personality

Love 'em or loathe 'em, you'd think that visible man's man type chefs like Guy, Emeril, Michael Simon and Tony Bourdain would've changed perceptions somewhat.
posted by jonmc at 11:58 AM on June 16, 2015


For those who keep posting comments along the lines of I just don't get why anyone would use this (it must be for lazy people with privelege): I cook for myself most nights. I cook a pot of beans, chili, lasagne, or something on Sunday for lunches for the week. I've got a garden full of greens and herbs, fruit trees, and have fresh eggs a couple times a week from my chickens.

I've got fucking cred, is what I'm saying - and Blue Apron sounds like a great idea to me, and I would try it out if it were in my budget.

I looked online at Honolulu's version. This weeks recipes are: shinsato pork & local butternut squash tacos; crispy opakapaka (a local fish) with dilled tomatoes; and shoyu ramen with chicken.

These aren't the kinds of meals I can just whip up on a weeknight. Just shopping for the ingredients would be a pain, and as a lot of people have pointed out: there'd be a lot of waste.

A box is $72 for six meals (three meals for two). It's more than I spend, but not that insane for the quality of ingredients you get. In fact, it's probably close to what I'd spend if I bought the ingredients separately (grocery stores are expensive here).

And just 'cause I can't help myself (and one-upping foodies is fun):

I feel your pain but risotto is as easy as you want it to be. Risotto can be cooked liked a casserole in the oven in about 20 minutes or so. It can be cooked in a pressure cooker in about 7 to 9 minutes (plus the time you are saute-ing your aromatics).

Both are great, but neither of these are a risotto.

ProTip, if you hate cilantro too, a good substitute in most recipes is fresh coriander leaves. Look for them in specialty groceries in the produce section.

Bad news: cilantro and coriander come from the same plant: Coriandrum sativum. Cilantro is coriander leaves (or perhaps coriander is cilantro seed).
posted by kanewai at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's great, but you are the exception, and that does not change society.

FWIW I think this is both generational and class-based.

Younger men cook more than older men. To some extent.

On Facebook the number of middle-class dudes posting pictures of stuff they just smoked in whatever fancy BBQ mechanism nearly outnumbers people posting photos of their kids and/or cats doing things.

Among my work peers the men cook as much as women mostly because my work peers generally have working spouses and no one has any more or less time to cook.

I know how society is broken down but if it makes you feel any better it's changing along a bunch of axes.
posted by GuyZero at 12:09 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


the actual hard work: deciding what to make/eat
This rings very true to me, as someone who's been cooking dinner for myself and then my family ~6x/wk for nearly 30 years. A couple years into my 2nd marriage my husband and I decided that our equitable arrangement of swapping cooking/clean-up duties was just not working for us because he liked to cook less than I do, and I like to do dishes less than he does. It's mostly worked out ok (I'm a fast cook and he's a slow dishwasher, so a lot of nights its about the same amount of time invested). But the one thing that feels more burdensome to me is having to be the "decider"--especially recently when he and my other household member got increasingly restrictive about their diets. I wound up just making a simple spreadsheet of about 2 weeks of basic meals that everyone mostly eats/enjoys and try to keep the essential ingredients for most of them on hand.

I still can't quite wrap my head around spending $10/pp and still having to do the cooking AND cleanup, though!
posted by drlith at 12:11 PM on June 16, 2015


There's a giant grocery store on the same block as my apartment and I still tried Plated for a while, because meal planning is just the worst for me. We have several amazing cookbooks at home, food blogs bookmarked and recipes printed out, and just... it's all so goddamn unpredictable in the end. I have never mastered the whole "make sure these remaining ingredients don't spoil" business, so I was always throwing out food. I think that's the part that bothers me the most - I can't wrap my head around people consistently using what's in their fridge week after week, with so little spoilage, on their own.

Plated helped but it was ultimately too expensive for dinner alone, so my husband and I are back to cheap take-out and TJ's frozen meals.

And I like cooking! I'm one of the people who finds the whole thing really enjoyable, and much tastier when I make something myself. I just know that if I want to make something that calls for several tablespoons of sour cream, I'm going to throw out the remainder several months later when I notice it oozing out of the container. (I swear cleaning the bathroom is less intimidating for me than cleaning the fridge. Gross gross gross.)

My grandmother and mother are able to make amazing meals, but no one's ever sat me down to go "Okay this is how you actually feed yourself longterm now that you're a goddamn adult." If I ever find something like Plated that can also do breakfasts/lunches and is similarly priced hell yeah I'm signing up for it.
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:12 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Love 'em or loathe 'em, you'd think that visible man's man type chefs like Guy, Emeril, Michael Simon and Tony Bourdain would've changed perceptions somewhat.

You said it yourself: they're MEN'S men. As long as that chest-beating disclaimer is part of the description, it won't change a thing.

And they're celebrity chefs, not just regular dude doing regular things like getting a weekday dinner. That's the true irony of the sexism of cooking -- it's a woman's job, but at the top, it's very male, especially at the high end restaurants.
posted by Dashy at 12:20 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


drlilith's point about being the decider makes me think about how it's so often the women in a straight relationship who are the ones spending mental energy on remembering to set up dentist appointments for the kids, etc. It's absolutely the deciding that I am so weary of (she said from the grocery store parking lot, procrastinating on going in).
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:37 PM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's the true irony of the sexism of cooking -- it's a woman's job, but at the top, it's very male, especially at the high end restaurants.

Haha yup, women aren't even allowed to be masters at the thing we're supposed to so good at.
posted by mirepoix at 12:39 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And they're celebrity chefs, not just regular dude doing regular things like getting a weekday dinner. That's the true irony of the sexism of cooking -- it's a woman's job, but at the top, it's very male, especially at the high end restaurants.

I get your point, I just remember that at Emeril's peak of popularity, (when I worked in a bookstore ( I still do but a different one)) I saw a sharp increase in men buying cookbooks, which I'm guessing is a step in the right direction.
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on June 16, 2015


I get incredibly frustrated that all the mental energy around our food is on me, but I will concede that whatever it is about some people who can "just cook", he doesn't have it. He can barely order something he'll like in a restaurant, and he doesn't like the sandwiches he makes because they don't taste good and he doesn't know why. If I sent him into a store with instructions to bring out a protein, a green, and a starch, he'd be in there for an hour and we'd be having brussels sprouts and flour and some tiny bone-ridden part of a chicken that hasn't even been discovered yet. Buying The Wrong Thing is his superpower.

Blue Apron has been a huge boon to us because he *can* follow instructions even though he can't make decisions, and then neither of us have to do the shopping. I'm the simple/bulk cook, he's the one who makes congee or fish or pork bao or roasted fennel for weeknight dinners. And it's given him enough confidence to pick a few things to make routinely (his fried tofu with mustard vinaigrette and roasted broccoli is one of my favorite meals). In the past year he's gone from cooking twice a year (chili) to at least once a week or 3 times on BA weeks, and he's starting to show signs of beginning to understand how to plan for several meals at a time. It's slow going, and I don't think he'll ever be the kind of person who can poke around in the fridge and just whip something up, but it's better than chili twice a year.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm actually good enough at cooking that most of the time when I have the ingredients, it's easier for me to make something than it is to go out and get some pre-made, and most of the time, I like my version better anyway.

BUT it's easy to lose sight of just how much background is involved in that. I know what equipment to use, I can break an egg without getting shell shards (uh, sometimes), I can slice and dice and I know how to cook and season things the way I want. And I still end up getting owies, like, all the time. I burn and cut and grate myself on a regular enough basis that I've usually got some sort of cooking wound healing somewhere on me, and I have a few permanent scars too.

And I also have a partner who is a grown man who can't seem to make anything more complicated than a cheese sandwich. (Although he does have some secret recipes for things like burritos and pizza and drunken noodles that he cooks with his car somehow.)

He's not a jerk or a babyman at all, and he really isn't trying to trick me into doing all the cooking. He always does the clean up, and he probably does more housework than I do because I suck at everything but cooking. But he didn't know that you are supposed to take that papery skin off an onion, and he's smart and well educated, but he had about a kindergarten level of knowledge of food and cooking, like not even knowing the names of a lot of common vegetables. And just seeing him trying to do things in the kitchen really drives home to me how many things I do know that I take for granted.

Cooking is a lot of hard work, and it requires a lot of background information that a lot of us don't even consciously realize we have. I do think it's a valuable adult skill, but it is not easy or trivial to pick up, and it's not something anyone should be shamed for not knowing how to do. In fact, I think most of us could stand to respect those skills a little more, whether we have them or not.

Sustenance cooking has been socially feminized and subsequently devalued for a long, long time, and that's kept a lot of people from being taught them, sometimes through no real fault of their own.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:18 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


but neither of these are a risotto.

In a pressure cooker, with all the same ingredients that you would use for standard stove top risotto, the risotto will be nearly identical. In fact I think it is better cooked. But hey you want to prefer the laborious stove top way more power to you. As for the the comment about coriander, I suspect he was joking.
posted by Ashwagandha at 1:39 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dashy: " I've seen occasional mention of a service where you (pay to) show up at a commercial kitchen, they provide ingredients, and you cook a week's worth of food, parcel it out, take it home and freeze it. But the audience seemed to be yuppie soccer mom pretending to star in a food show, not necessarily for affordability reasons."

witchen: "Too bad it seems to have been discontinued."

I have some friends who really like these places (they still exist!) and basically you prepare casseroles and freeze them and then you have nice home made lasagnas ready to pop in the oven. If you round up five friends, you can do it as a party at the store, and bring your own wine, and they feed you snacks, while you and your friends spend an hour or two chatting and prepping meals to freeze.

But the other way to do it is to host your own freezer meal party! Basically you get together a group of between 6 and 10 people, and you each plan one freezer meal (usually casseroles or crock pot dishes) and buy all the ingredients for it. Then you all meet in a church basement somewhere that has a kitchen to chop and mix and assemble and cook, and everyone goes home with one of each meal. Well, that's how my friends do it, they make portions for 6 or 8; if you're pre-prepping meals for 2-4 people you can manage it in a reasonably-sized home kitchen. I have friends who do this monthly and just live for it -- four hours with all their good women friends, no kids, and they've got 8 meals for the month already done. Here's some instructions on doing your own party.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:31 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


That said; one of the girls in my class once set the entire kitchen lab on fire trying to make scrambled eggs...so, classes may not help everyone.

Oh no, that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing! More than that, I'd say you should create a fire for each batch of students. Learning how to deal with a kitchen fire calmly and safely is an essential skill. If you deal with a kitchen fire incorrectly you risk, well, a larger fire (and associated burns).

I imagine there was some oil/butter that spilled onto the flame? That's a thing that can happen.

/fire derail
posted by el io at 3:14 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Soooo, I am the workerbee in our household, and I am the wife, and up until a few weeks ago I was still cooking all the meals even though my husband stays at home and watches the baby.

"But why, Offalark?" and the answer is -- because I really didn't want to give it up. I like cooking, and I like planning meals, and I like shopping for them. I feel like I'm letting my family down if I'm not personally making them dinner. Social guilt!

A few weeks ago, though, I realized this was nuts, and though Mr. Offalark is...not...a great...cook (I asked him to chop a clove of garlic once; he chopped the whole head) (asked him to prep some fresh thyme; he spent 30 minutes picking every leaf off the branch) (we won't talk about what he did to the crockpot chicken) but I have come to the conclusion that we can have tasty and affordable meals without me having to make something New and Original Every Weeknight, and also without him going crazy trying to match what I make.

I use Plan to Eat for our meal and menu planning. It helps a TON with keeping our budget in order and solving the "what's for dinner tonight?" dilemma. Mr. Offalark uses it to know what (if any) prep work he needs to do tonight.

We're having chicken tacos for dinner this evening, leftovers from a meal I made on Saturday. I still get the cooking itched scratched on weekends, but it took me well over a year to admit that trying to do a 2 hour commute AND cook dinner just wasn't cutting it, and that was all on me, not him. He tried to tell me he could make things. I just refused to listen.
posted by offalark at 3:40 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I sliced a tip of my finger off with a mandolin slicer making something for a New Year's dinner, and have happily ordered out for the entire month of January until I was brave enough to go back into the kitchen. Cooking is really fucking scary sometimes.
posted by erratic meatsack at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mandolins are the only kitchen item I have a fear of. All the grossest kitchen injuries I've seen involve mandolins.
posted by Ferreous at 7:07 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Scratch that, one involved a microplane zester.
posted by Ferreous at 7:07 PM on June 16, 2015


Cooking is really fucking scary sometimes.

Well, mandolines are scary, which is not the same as "cooking is scary." The good thing is you don't really need a mandoline unless you absolutely have to do fine, precision slicing -- most cooks don't, and if they do, a decent knife will get the job done.
posted by mirepoix at 7:13 PM on June 16, 2015


Someone save me an AskMe: can you cut salami with a mandolin without fucking up either the salami or mandolin?
posted by griphus at 7:15 PM on June 16, 2015


But I've cut myself on microplanes too! Just once, though, and I use them fairly often.
posted by mirepoix at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2015


griphus, I wouldn't. That would just muck everything up.
posted by mirepoix at 7:17 PM on June 16, 2015


If you're in a situation that requires a mandolin invest in an anti-cut kevlar glove. It's a thousand times better than using those terrible plates that hold the food while you slice.
posted by Ferreous at 7:26 PM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


PedantFilter: mandoline, not mandolin.
posted by mirepoix at 7:34 PM on June 16, 2015


I don't actually feel like I've cooked sonething until I've burned or cut myself. Happens more or less every time. Once I do that, I can relax and just finish making whatever it is I'm making (now that I've said that, I'll start burning myself twice per meal, I'm sure).
posted by holborne at 7:45 PM on June 16, 2015


if i wanna cook a pizza on my lute i will do so and no one can stop me
posted by poffin boffin at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have a half pint of ricotta that I will probably toss in a few weeks unless I can find pea shoots somewhere.

Put a spoonful of honey and some berries over it and you have either breakfast or dessert. To elevate, add some fresh tarragon or basil and your mouth will thank you. (And yes, I am fully aware of the privilege that lets me say that. Those of us who cook for money very rarely understand what it's like to cook to survive-with-some-pleasure.)

Beyond that, for me--as someone who cooks for a living and wants everyone to cook:

Whatever gets people eating more food that isn't highly-processed chemical garbage (which I eat! and I recognize is terrible for me!) is something that I personally approve of. If that means buying pre-chopped onions? GREAT. If that means using a service that sends you everything pre-chopped and pre-measured? GREAT. AWESOME. 100000000000000% on board.

What I want to see is that kind of thing being made affordable and easy for everyone from stay-at-home-parents to I-work-seven-jobs-and-have-ten-minutes-to-get-food-on-the-table.

I could go into my rant about community kitchens--I won't. Just... being able to eat, pleasurably, is something I feel is a basic human right. We need to, so let's make it tasty. And let's make it something that is available on a basic level the same way healthcare is in most Western countries.

Food. Water. Roof over head. Medicine. These are basic human rights. There is no reason other than the moneygrubbing why these can't be things every human can't count on.

If you're Christian, maybe this will resonate: clothe the naked. Feed the hungry. Giving the hungry pleasure in their eating is not a bad thing. It is fulfilling what the will of the God you believe in yearns for: people who are happy and healthy.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 PM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


What I want to see is that kind of thing being made affordable and easy for everyone from stay-at-home-parents to I-work-seven-jobs-and-have-ten-minutes-to-get-food-on-the-table.

You'd think that if Blue Apron can do it with overnight shipping plus packaging for $10/pp, you should be able to pick up ready-to-cook portions at the store for significantly less. I've spoken before of my love for Fresh And Easy, which had a range of ready-to-cook items from prepped fresh produce to ready-to-heat prepared sides and entrees, but they've closed a number of stores in their primary markets this year.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:30 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd be fucking happy with 'ready to put in the oven for twenty minutes, is more affordable than McDonalds, and is full of vitamins and nutrients and missing stacks of sugar and nonessential fats.'

There is no reason why we as a society can't be like "yo, cooking sucks, take this and put it in your oven for 20 minutes and you have a delicious meal for your people that isn't actively bad for you."

Oh wait there is. Capitalism. Socialist--NO. Humanist--revolution now.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, on rereading, my comment assumes someone can afford the electricity bills to run an oven in the first place. I'm sorry for that assumption.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:56 PM on June 16, 2015


can you cut salami with a mandolin without fucking up either the salami or mandolin?

No but you can grasp it in your greasy fist and gnaw on it with your sideteeth and spit out the meat-holstering paper directly into your lap.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:53 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


or directly into the faces of those who would dare oppose you
posted by poffin boffin at 9:48 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The scales have fallen from my eyes--I suddenly understand why I have bits of pork fat in my sideburns.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:12 PM on June 17, 2015


> I tried Blue Apron, thanks to a Mefite sending me a link for a free week, and it was... fine. I'm going to stick with it for a few weeks and then probably cancel it

Well, I made it two weeks. The food just wasn't very good -- bland, and not enough vegetables; plus the delivery times were inconvenient for me.

What's the next thing? I'll sign up for that now, please.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:10 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


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