Food fight: don't cook at home, or make your own fast food at home
August 30, 2018 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Opinion: Never cook at home. Trust me, I know it’s a drag. (NYT) Deb Perelman, author of the cooking blog Smitten Kitchen says it's cheaper and easier to let someone else do the cooking, at least when talking about NYC. Counter-argument: here is the fast food worth making at home (GQ), in which Drew Magary shares his experiences, and recipes, from catering to his three children. Bonus: 22* more fast food favorites to make at home (Buzzfeed).
posted by filthy light thief (94 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
* There's one overlapping recipe from the GQ and Buzzfeed lists, plus Drew has a shortcut to the Shamrock Shake, but they're different recipes. Actually, the Chic Fil-A recipes are also different, but they're really trying to make the same thing. OK, fine, 23 more recipes.

And Smitten Kitchen previously:
- It's National Pie Day!
- Sneak some zucchini on your neighbor's porch night!
- Make your own Pop Tarts!
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Marcella Hazan - A Culinary Giant
- We just can't roast enough chickens fast enough
- Many recipes for candy
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I never cook anything from Smitten Kitchen, but I bake things from her website pretty often. It wouldn't surprise me if at heart, she were a buy dinner/ make dessert kind of person.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:45 AM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


thank you for the valuable food fight tag for which i have been agitating for many years
posted by poffin boffin at 11:48 AM on August 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


I read this earlier this week and was deeply confused by it. Groceries are more expensive in NYC? Not really. I was making lunch for about $1.50 a serving. A sandwich or salad at the deli near my office was minimum 8 bucks.
posted by Automocar at 11:50 AM on August 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


Sounds like Deb Perelman doesn't know the difference between being poor and being broke. Anyone who thinks, "pay other people to cook for you, you're worth it!" is good advice hasn't the first idea what subsistence living looks like.
posted by belarius at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2018 [57 favorites]


Great! Now I want some of that damn Wendy's chili
posted by NoMich at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2018


I think you have to factor in waste. What's stupidly expensive is buying groceries for a week and then eating out multiple times, such that things go bad and you pay coming and going. Not that I, uh, know anybody who ever does that.

Last night I made a dish that consisted of $3.50 worth of bacon, about $1.00 of French lentils, $0.50 of onion, $0.10 of garlic, $0.50 of rosemary, $0.50 of sage, maybe $1.00 of olive oil, $0.20 of balsamic vinegar, $0.25 of capers. Say maybe $8 total, and I should get three lunches out of it, and it's pretty reasonably tasty. Not bad. But, of course, there's the rest of the bacon and all the herbs that I couldn't actually buy in that precise a quantity (rosemary and sage, each $2.50 at the farmer's market...), all perishable. (The lentils, oil, vinegar, and capers should keep indefinitely.) It adds up. And then if you fail to make the dish altogether...!

Mostly, though, I think I just automatically resent anything I have to do every day, even multiple times a day, just to stay alive. It feels like drudgery, in a way that weekend fun cooking or even an occasional weeknight splashout might not. It also involves the cognitive labor I associate very much with being poor, trying desperately to keep track of this or that and make sure you use everything up, or else.

But there's no escaping the fact that it's much easier and cheaper to eat within sane values of healthy if you cook at home. For a lot of takeout, there's no way at all even to track whatever you'd want to track.
posted by praemunire at 12:06 PM on August 30, 2018 [12 favorites]


I read this earlier this week and was deeply confused by it. Groceries are more expensive in NYC? Not really. I was making lunch for about $1.50 a serving. A sandwich or salad at the deli near my office was minimum 8 bucks.

I think it depends on a) where you get your groceries, b) what groceries you get and c) what brand the groceries you get are. Organic tomatoes from a farmers' market are going to cost different than the "$1.99 per pound" red lumps from a chain grocery.

I definitely think it's worth knowing how to cook for yourself - but I would not dream of shaming someone for throwing up their hands every once in a while and saying "fuck it". I am Empress of Behold While I Turn All My CSA Produce Into Salads For Brown-Bagging Lunch Purposes in the summer, but today I just plum didn't feel like packing a lunch and got something at the McDonald's downstairs. I try to make the majority of the time be home-cooked, but I'm human, ya know? And that's doubly true for everyone else; I am very fortunate in that I enjoy cooking and was raised to be comfortable in a kitchen, and was taught good habits and have access to really good food. And if someone like me still wants to say "screw this" and eat nothing but a bag of cheetos for dinner now and then, then how can I look down at someone that was never taught how to cook or lives in a food desert when they get takeout too?

Mind you, I do cast a side-eye on processed food manufacturers when they bend the truth to make cooking seem harder or more expensive than it actually is (like, doing a "cost comparison" of buying the ingredients for a cookie vs. buying the cookie and counting the cost of the entire bag of flour or the entire dozen eggs, instead of counting the 2 cups of flour and the one egg you would use for your dozen cookies), but that's a different issue. That's corporations being jerks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:08 PM on August 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


I guess I need one of those McDonald's blenders - I've had a hankering for horse gravy lately.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


Somehow the concept of nutrition seems to have completely escaped the author, in this article anyway. All the criticisms of home cooking there are accurate, though many apply only in unusual circumstances which any sensible person would avoid or at least not repeat, but for me food is primarily about nutrition and that's why I mostly cook at home. The fact that where I live, and the way I do it, it's also generally cheaper and easier to do so (for any nutritional level acceptable to me) is just a bonus.
posted by merlynkline at 12:10 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


It feels like drudgery, in a way that weekend fun cooking or even an occasional weeknight splashout might not.

yeah, it always feels strange to me that every time there's an askme about weekly meal planning, there isn't more acknowledgment of the mental exhaustion you can get from eating the same thing for 7 days in a row, but i guess that kind of aside would be deraily in ask? but like. i don't even think we do that to prisoners unless it's specifically punishment nutraloaf.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:12 PM on August 30, 2018 [29 favorites]


Also - regardless of how expensive groceries are in NYC, in my experience, restaurants are even more expensive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think Drew's list could form a good cooking primer for busy people with kids: don't make fast food main dishes at home for your family; they will require too much effort and be only slightly better than the fast food version for slightly cheaper, and don't fry much unless you really enjoy it. So no hamburgers, no fried chicken. This of course doesn't apply to family parties.

Spend your time cooking to make things you can't get at fast food restaurants.
Common fast food side dishes like mac & cheese, oven cooked fries (if you don't want to break the frying rule), chili, and baked potatoes are fine, because those will be 100X better at home.

Also, I haven't gotten to trying to remake fast good at home (other than an Awesome Blossom (which is just as good at home) because I'm too busy trying to copy recipes from the cooking tv networks.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


regardless of how expensive groceries are in NYC, in my experience, restaurants are even more expensive

It kind of depends on how you do it. $3 will buy a slice for lunch, or a slightly larger serving of my lentils dish. You can get quite a filling falafel sandwich from a cart for $5. But, to be fair, I doubt the author is mostly eating that down-market, and once you get further up the scale, you're right--unless you end up having to charge yourself for both the restaurant meal you actually ate and the one you were supposed to cook but didn't and the ingredients went bad. Again, not that I know anyone to whom this happens. Ever.
posted by praemunire at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think it depends on a) where you get your groceries, b) what groceries you get and c) what brand the groceries you get are. Organic tomatoes from a farmers' market are going to cost different than the "$1.99 per pound" red lumps from a chain grocery.

This is a good point, and gets to belarius's point about about being poor and being broke. Then again, when I made $25K in NYC, I bought 100% of my groceries at Trade Fair, and when I was making $60K in NYC, I bought 100% of my groceries at Key Food. I could never afford to eat out multiple times per week--twice was a luxury.

But I will happily eat the same thing for dinner for a week straight, and I eat almost exactly the same thing for breakfast and lunch every single day. I just don't care that much about food.

Now, baked goods, that's a whole other story... in fact, I'm searching for a whole pineapple currently to make a pineapple upside-down cake. Canned pineapples? Why don't you just stab me and get it over with.
posted by Automocar at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]




As a single person, it’s cheaper for me to buy a salad than to make one and it’s less wasteful because I can never finish off fresh produce before it goes bad. I can’t see how it would be cheaper to feed a family on takeout.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2018 [13 favorites]


The economics just depends so much on what you make and what you eat when you go out.

It took me a long time, but I've developed a roster of easy recipes that use relatively inexpensive ingredients that I can either buy in small amounts or freeze. I have enough of them that I don't feel like I'm eating the same thing all the time. I still eat out sometimes but it's almost always the more expensive option.

Before I had this experience though... cooking was much more expensive, and much more of a hassle. I would spend a lot of time making recipes that were just too complicated, and used ingredients that I'd end up wasting. I'd try to do some meal planning, but that was a lot of work and it would just snowball anyway. ("Well, this recipe uses up the spinach, but I have to buy chicken, ... this recipe uses the chicken but I have to buy dill....")

I don't know. I get the suspicion that she's thinking of herself as an experienced cook, and she is - but it's not the same kind of experience that would help bring the costs and effort under control. I think that comes from finding out what reliable, workaday recipes/methods work for you, through trial and error.... not so much coming up with new recipes to publish.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:28 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


One of the (many) things I liked about coming back to Chile after living in California for 2 years was the economics of preparing and eating food made made from fresh ingredients.
I go the a produce street market every Saturday morning, cook dinner from scratch most nights, and make my son's lunch, also from scratch, every weekday morning while he's getting dressed. My lunch is usually from a restaurant, as the office I work in doesn't let us reheat or eat food in it.
posted by signal at 12:30 PM on August 30, 2018


Ugh. No. What she's advocating is not reducing the costs of eating, but foisting the costs of eating onto other people, the environment, and our future health. And she's pretending that everyone can get to Chinatown for these $1.25 dumpings (which, where? who in Chinatown is selling dumplings for $1.25, don't just hang that out there with no explanation!) I live in an amazing neighborhood with lots of cheap food options, and dinner would still be $10 if I could eat out. That's outside my budget. The food carts by my office start at $8, except the hot dogs, which are apparently now a bee risk.

I mean, she's right, many people do not have time to prepare healthy food, or any food. People working >40 hours a week, people with caretaking responsibilities, people living with disability, etc. I'm glad delivery is available in those circumstances. Or for people who just want it. But things like a box of granola and a tub of yogurt are available for much less money than breakfast out, and would also make a perfectly acceptable dinner for many people. I buy my yogurt in single serve cups because...reasons.

Ignoring the fact that takeout involves huge amounts of waste (lettuce garnish! extra sauce packets! plasticware! containers that are nominally compostable!) while suggesting that a person can prevent waste by ordering dinner feels disingenuous to me.

She does not address the deplorable working conditions faced by many of our delivery bikers in the city, which is obviously outside the scope of her commentary, but I think it's really important to acknowledge that our choices have costs.

I'm very lucky to be part of a CSA here in the city and nearly every week I eat what I have rather than what I want. Finding the time to cook means I forgo other activities.

Agitate for better packaging of herbs and other perishable goods. Change the systems of oppression that make cooking difficult or impossible. Start conversations about how to cook small amounts of rice and grains. But don't sell a one size fits all solution without some transparency about who it works for.

"You don't always pay with money, but you always pay." That dollar slice has effects. If you're saving money somewhere you're paying with time or taste or effort or opportunity cost.
posted by bilabial at 12:31 PM on August 30, 2018 [42 favorites]


Yeah, and also (apparently I have Opinions about this subject, sorry) who cooks from recipes? Like I do every once in a while, but I have like 5 dinners that I rotate that I can change up with different green vegetables or a different starch or whatever.
posted by Automocar at 12:31 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


which, where? who in Chinatown is selling dumplings for $1.25, don't just hang that out there with no explanation!

Can't remember the name off the top of my head, but it's on Mosco St. next to Bangkok Center Grocery.
posted by praemunire at 12:35 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


bilabial - flagged as fantastic. Thank you for making every point I wanted to, but more eloquently.
posted by greermahoney at 12:40 PM on August 30, 2018


I read this the other day and thought it was intended to be tongue-in-cheek and also making fun of all those sanctimonious articles about cooking for your kids? I mean, she's being realistic about how hard it is to cook every day, ESPECIALLY with two small children, and how bad a lot of recipes are. Also, there's the cost in dollars of food and then there's also the time cost of the mental load of deciding what to cook, the time to cook and clean, it's not completely "free", can we please not disregard that labor? (FWIW, we cook pretty much every single night, it's hard, and I really like her dinner recipes. And when I was a single person living in NYC years ago I could buy a meal for less than $10 that would provide dinner and lunch, whereas if I wanted to make, say, 2 servings of chicken fajitas, it was definitely more than $10 of groceries. Maybe that's changed though.)
posted by john_snow at 12:48 PM on August 30, 2018 [12 favorites]


> As long you can buy five dumplings in Chinatown for $1.25 — forever, I hope — it’s never going to be purely economical to cook at home.

I notice that this is the sole example given to support this blazing hot take. I mean, the typical amount my wife and I spend on groceries per week would cover (at the very, very most) five meals for two in Toronto, fewer than that if we wanted good meals and even fewer than that if we ordered delivery. Then we'd still have lunches and breakfast to contend with.

> Restaurant delivery is a glorious thing. Everything goes in the trash chute and you have zero dishes to wash.

The privilege is strong in this one.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:49 PM on August 30, 2018 [13 favorites]


For non-New Yorkers, CSA = community supported agriculture.

"When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer... CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront (typically $550-$650). This early bulk payment enables your farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more."

posted by typify at 12:50 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Automocar: "Yeah, and also (apparently I have Opinions about this subject, sorry) who cooks from recipes? Like I do every once in a while, but I have like 5 dinners that I rotate that I can change up with different green vegetables or a different starch or whatever."

I've been cooking for forty years and have pretty much only ever cooked from recipes. Mostly these days I just google the main ingredient but unless it's a tuna sandwich, I always work from a recipe. I don't really trust myself to figure out the right spices and proportions and such.
posted by octothorpe at 12:52 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, and not to abuse edit, but yes, I do absolutely agree with Bilabial that this really disregards the environmental cost of takeout though! Which is a problem, as is food waste at home.
posted by john_snow at 12:53 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


Bilabial's point is the most significant point to make, regarding this topic, I think.

I'll also toss out, as a side thought, how much the context of contemporary New York real estate costs might affect this. If the option is between "pay for an apartment with a usable kitchen and eat at home" or "pay for a place without a kitchen and eat out," then I could see how the latter could be cheaper than the former. In New York.
posted by meese at 12:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


We have CSAs out here in the hinterlands, too.

I dunno. I read her blog sometimes, and it kind of makes me feel a little guilty/ inadequate, because she cooks all this delicious-looking stuff in a tiny New York apartment kitchen, and it always looks beautiful, and her counters always look spotless. So even though I pretty much never eat takeout, it's kind of a relief to find out that Deb from Smitten Kitchen says fuck it and eats cereal for dinner sometimes, too.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [30 favorites]


she cooks all this delicious-looking stuff in a tiny New York apartment kitchen

The funny thing is, at least by eyeballing, her kitchen is twice the size of mine (although I have more formal cabineted space). I'd only call that "tiny" by national standards.

And she has a dishwasher! Let us not forget the added drudgery (and mediocre results) of the washing-up.

I'm thinking I'd have to go up about $500/mo. (or maybe take another major tradeoff in some other aspect of the apartment) to get a kitchen even of that size. But I can't play; even with a bigger kitchen I'd still find daily cooking drudgery.
posted by praemunire at 1:06 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


At my new job, three meals a day (cooked from scratch from local products) is a significant part of my pay, so I don't cook. And I miss it. I miss my own way of seasoning and because the food here is very healthy and good for us, I miss overcooked vegs with tons of butter. I didn't even make those a lot.
Anyway, seconding bilabial, in this country where restaurant workers get a decent wage, eating out is not at all comparable to cooking for one self. Maybe in immigrant areas where a lot of restaurants are family-run and not everyone gets a full pay you can find a cheap shawarma or lentil soup, but lots of places a single cup of coffee costs about 8 dollars. There are a lot of frozen microwave dinners in every store instead, and on the news today, they said the most food waste is in the food industry, not private homes.

Also, it's a good point that Deb Perelman probably is more of a desert cook, and not so much of a meal-planning thrifty cook. Her recipes are fine, and I love her blog for inspiration, but I rarely cook directly from it. For me, each week has a theme based on whatever the starting point was, and buying a lot of ekstra new stuff is a waste. I'm working on a thrifty food blog for my young adult kids and nieces and nephews, but it's hard when you don't cook regularly. I think they'll end up learning to cook without my guidance before I finish it.
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I have like 5 dinners that I rotate that I can change up with different green vegetables or a different starch or whatever.

Yeah, pizza, stir-fry, pasta, hunk of protein that was on really good sale, beans. That's pretty much been the repertoire around here for the last 3 years. Soup in the cooler months. All of which are throw-together meals made of whatever's handy, none of which take more than half an hour to make (if you make the pizza dough ahead).

I get not wanting to cook; it can be a drag, and honestly when my kid doesn't want to eat whatever I've made there are flames, flames on the side of my face, but I still cook dinner 5 or 6 nights a week (unless you count "eggs and toast," in which case it's 6 nights almost every week).

If I didn't cook I'd eat a bowl of cereal and then be hungry an hour later and wind up eating whatever junk was around the house, because I honestly find takeout and delivery to be a much bigger hassle than just cooking, most of the time.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


even with a bigger kitchen I'd still find daily cooking drudgery.

GOD YES i have a big lovely kitchen and literally nothing but time and i'd still 100% rather be crushed to death by a falling chunk of frozen astronaut pee than cook every meal from scratch day after day after day
posted by poffin boffin at 1:16 PM on August 30, 2018 [18 favorites]


I'm a HUGE fan of Smittenkitchen and OMG, Deb, what the heck? Did you have a bad day?????

Seriously, the website is the best and I and my three children are all fans.

(I'm guessing she is just burned out on cooking each and every recipe she posts a million times to trouble shoot. Poor Deb!)
posted by bluesky43 at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Going through the previously links, I realize that I also miss chicken soup. Much.

And my kids and all their friends love, love homemade burger days.
posted by mumimor at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2018


I have a huge kitchen (12x14 sq ft) and a dishwasher, and I still don't cook every day. Although it would be accurate to say that when I do cook, I cook enough for several days. I'm washing the same amount of pans either way so I aim for bulk.

I joined a CSA one year, but I got too many of the things I didn't want to eat and not enough of the things I did. It's less expensive for me to just buy the produce I want. Here in the Midwest we also have meat CSAs, not just produce, so if you want to buy a half cow or a quarter cow (I know, funny mental image) and have the room to store it, you can save quite a lot of money over buying individual cuts of beef.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:25 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


We cook pretty much every day (in a small, shitty kitchen that is scheduled to become a small nice kitchen in October). It never occurred to me to just... not? I mean, when we as a family of 3 go out to eat it's like $40 including tip (TIP YOUR FOOD SERVICE WORKERS! IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD THE TIP YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO EAT OUT.) Meanwhile, our weekly grocery bill is ~$100. So. This math does not work at all.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:35 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ooh, listen to this. From tc.farm: "We offer farm-fresh pasture raised eggs, chicken, 100% grass fed beef and lamb, no-soy grass fed pork, heritage turkey, hand-made organic spiced sausages, and sous chef ready-to-eat meals." Prices from $50 to $300 per month, and you can customize how much of each you want. That sounds great.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:39 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Agitate for better packaging of herbs and other perishable goods.

Honestly I'd be happier with packages of food that come in portion sizes that cater to single diners. Especially meat - I have the option of getting the 1 or 2-pound package of chops or drumsticks or what have you, or the even larger "family size" package - but there are no half-pound packages. So if I want a chicken dinner once in the week I have the option of either living off chicken for the entire week, just doing it once and then freezing the rest, or just doing it once and having the rest of the package go bad while I dither about "yeersh I should use up that chicken how do I do that". (I usually go with the "freezing it" option, which then leads me to the situation I'm in now where I have 10 different small baggies of mystery meat in my freezer that I can no longer remember what they are because I didn't label them before I froze them, and I'm going to be making some random stew this weekend just to get it out of my damn freezer, pray for me)

.....Ironically, Smitten Kitchen was the source of one of my "what do I do with this fruit from my CSA" discoveries (a strawberry and rhubarb oatmeal thing that totally works as a breakfast food, i swear).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on August 30, 2018 [11 favorites]


I really enjoyed this piece, and took it as a tongue-in-cheek permission for busy people, rather than a prescription. There's so much pressure on (women in) certain classes and social circles to cook from-scratch dinners every night and SO MUCH misleading media about "how easy" it is through meal-prepping or meal-planning or whatever.

I don't think it's meant to be a super-serious mandate for more takeout.

For non-New Yorkers, CSA = community supported agriculture.

CSAs are not a New York thing. The movement started in New England and they can be found all over the country.
posted by lunasol at 1:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [48 favorites]


So I'll preface this comment that I'm a big fan of Deb's, know her writing style well, we have a CSA share, and I cook for the family 6-7 days out of the week: this is TOTALLY a (white-woman, privileged) tongue and cheek rant that's is geared straight towards NYT readers. She has so many "weekday meal" and salad recipes on her site that it's clear that she does cook at home, but I bet she either wrote this on a fit of a day of test recipes not working, or was pitched the column idea by the NYT. She's writing it for the upper-middle class instagram moms who want to throw in the towel that night and order in, not the "broke vs poor" crowd.

One of the things I do like about her recipes, is that he reverse-engineers some of the fancy NY restaurant salads, and shares it with the rest of us. She has also helped Big Purr and I eat heads of raw broccoli with her recipes. I will say that she seems to be able to make a meal out of the salads, where sadly, my significant other requires meat protein with almost every meal, e.g.:
Obstacles to cooking can come from inside the house, too. Any of the spouses, partners or roommates we have invited into our lives can come home any day and tell us that he or she has adopted a new diet and can no longer eat whatever you just unpacked from the grocery store or love the most.

Let’s say you and this spouse or partner have worked out your mixed-dietary relationship and decide to build a mixed-dietary family? Adding more humans to your life means you will have to prepare food with more urgency, thus eliminating the joy it brings you.
Savory recipes we often use from her blog are:
Broccoli slaw
Baked pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe
Squash toasts with ricotta and cider vinegar (I do this as a holiday appetizer with goat cheese, and it's always a hit)
The Crispy Egg (I now make fried eggs because of her!)
One Pan Farro and tomatoes
Fake Shack Burger
Crunchy baked pork chops (or chicken fingers)
Stuck Pot rice and lentils

Sadly, I don't make nearly as many of her recipes, as little purr, job, mental health, the heat, cleaning up, etc etc has meant we are in a starch-CSA vegetable-meat vortex. And sometimes, we just order in the $40 chinese takeout, which seems to last for at least 2 family meals and a few lunches for me.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [27 favorites]


......and I can't stress enough. The dressing in the broccoli slaw is sooooooo good. I tend to use yogurt instead of buttermilk, but she has the combo of greens, crunch, dressing and sweetness DOWN.

I've also learned a lot of sweets recipes from her, but decided to focus only on savory since that's the topic of her rant.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2018


I joined a CSA one year, but I got too many of the things I didn't want to eat and not enough of the things I did.

After one harrowing summer, I began calling my CSA "Countless Squash Acquired."
posted by praemunire at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2018 [21 favorites]


I can't eat dairy, so cooking at home is a requirement. People assure me their food has no dairy, then the effects kick in. In a tiny kitchen in a city with great takeout/ delivery, I'd get more Asian food. Takeout food is more likely to have deep-fried food, delicious and terrible for you. I don't want to waste that much packaging. I'm a very competent cook, and it's not that hard. Although, a special curse on Ms. Ray's 30 minute meals, because I do not and will not ever have perfectly trimmed and clean veggies ready, the phone always rings, if you have kids they need help with homework, and the dishes don't wash themselves. Also, at least 1 ingredient you know you had will vanish from the fridge. This makes a 30 minute meal at least 60 minutes in real life, so just make a regular meal and get other stuff done as it cooks.
posted by theora55 at 2:00 PM on August 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


I have seen my future. I have seen the way I die.

Home made White Castle burgers.
posted by Splunge at 2:07 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Groceries are more expensive in NYC? Not really.

Oh, they most definitely are.

I moved out of NYC to a TX suburb last month and our food bills are so much lower it's shocking. Basic groceries such as eggs, milk, bread, produce, canned tuna, pasta, juice, cheese, meat are all far cheaper here. I used to pay over $3 for a gallon of milk. ($3.21 at rite aid with our member card!) In most NY supermarkets it was $3.50 or worse. A gallon of milk is under $2 here in most places. The most expensive I've seen is $2.57 at Walmart. A dozen eggs are around 99¢.

Gasoline is cheaper. By 60¢ a gallon at least. Fast food is cheaper. Dunkin Donuts is cheaper. The local supermarkets have better sales.
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


After one harrowing summer, I began calling my CSA "Countless Squash Acquired."

Hah - my CSA has a winter share, which runs separate from the summer one; you get a bunch of root veg, some frozen veg that the farm does in-house, and usually a butternut squash. they also have butternut in the summer share, which i was getting to a point that I was all souped out by winter and was just storing the squash in a pile on a table by the door because it was coolish there and was out of the way.

After a few weeks of this my roommate took to calling it "the Squash Forest".

....for whatever reason, I am now thinking of Laurie Colwin's essay Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant, where she recalls her struggles of trying to teach herself how to cook as a single 20something in New York. She also touches on how when you're the only person eating, sometimes the things you eat.....get a little weird.

(Case in point: I was recently introduced to the concept of using potato chips as an omlette filling and you guys this is a fantastic idea)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is the best use of excess butternut squash: lasagna. It freezes great too!

When I "meal plan" I might make say 5 or 8 servings but I freeze half at least. That way I always have a variety of ready made meals in the freezer. This does require some freezer space but less than you'd think if you turn it over regularly. Too big a freezer and it just ends up full of years old soup.
posted by fshgrl at 2:29 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Creating a meal alone — schlepping groceries, doing all the prep, all the dishes, and being stuck with days of leftovers — can feel like an education in why you should definitely not do that again anytime soon.

When I was single I made meals for myself all the time. I was never stuck with "days of leftovers" because, well, I only made enough for one meal. If the author is such an avid home cook but can't adjust for # of diners, well, they're not much of a cook at all.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


So if I want a chicken dinner once in the week I have the option of either living off chicken for the entire week, just doing it once and then freezing the rest, or just doing it once and having the rest of the package go bad while I dither about "yeersh I should use up that chicken how do I do that".

Instead of freezing all of it, tear (or chop, if you prefer) some of it up into bite-size bits to add to:
- salad
- pasta (can be as simple as olive oil and salt/pepper/thyme, or store-bought sauce)
- rice
- stir-fry (sometimes I use frozen mixed stir-fry veggies for convenience)
- jazz up a can of store-bought chicken soup

Granted you may still be living off of it for multiple days, but at least there's some variety so you don't get so bored - especially if you make an effort to use different seasonings for the different dishes.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine how this could be correct, although I have a friend in NYC with an exhausting job who only eats takeout. On the other hand, I have another friend in NYC with an exhausting job, and she cooks in bulk and freezes batches for later use. This is her blog.
posted by acrasis at 3:30 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


When I was single I made meals for myself all the time. I was never stuck with "days of leftovers" because, well, I only made enough for one meal. If the author is such an avid home cook but can't adjust for # of diners, well, they're not much of a cook at all.
She's the author of a New-York-Times-bestselling cookbook and the publisher of probably one of the most successful food blogs of all time. I don't think she really needs your validation. But she's a person with a life, and sometimes cooking is hard when you're a person with a life. I understand that it's not for you: you cook up perfect meals with ease every night and then clean the kitchen without a second thought. You never get home from work late and exhausted and then realize that you're out of pasta, and you can't cook the thing that you had planned. If that happens, it's no big deal, because you are such a wonderful, improvisational cook that you can just whip up something delicious with what you have on hand. You are perfect! We should all be like you! But we're not. And there just has to be space in the world for people who are not perfect at this, because I think there are more of us than there are of you, and shaming us into silence isn't going to change that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2018 [37 favorites]


im tired and i have a napkin with some granola on it in front of me on the desk, when the hunger becomes overwhelming i just mash my face against the granola and eat whatever is stuck to my mouth

this is my dinner and no one can stop me
posted by poffin boffin at 3:44 PM on August 30, 2018 [18 favorites]


I used to pay over $3 for a gallon of milk. ($3.21 at rite aid with our member card!) In most NY supermarkets it was $3.50 or worse. A gallon of milk is under $2 here in most places. ... A dozen eggs are around 99¢.

Huh. TIL just how ridiculously cheap American milk & eggs are.

The large national chain grocery store near my home charges $4.59CAN ($3.54US) for 4L (~1 gallon) of 2% milk. My apartment-sized fridge doesn't easily store that much bagged milk though, so I buy a 2L carton instead which costs $3.99CAN if I get regular milk or $4.69CAN if I get the microfiltered milk that doesn't spoil before I empty the carton. Y'all I'm regularly paying $7.22US a gallon for milk. A dozen eggs are $2.92 US if you don't much care how the chickens were treated, but it's $3.46US for enriched-cage-housing eggs (battery cages are being slowly phased out here so that's going to be the new standard).

(And yes, this is related to the Canadian dairy & egg supply-management that Trump has been losing his mind over.)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


Change the systems of oppression that make cooking difficult or impossible.

OK, do you think this is something I could get around to this in the next 45 minutes? Because my partner probably is gonna want to eat some dinner tonight.

Seriously I don't disagree with the fundamentals of the comment I'm quoting, and I don't mean to pick on bilabial (or anyone!), but the suggestion of long-term, generational-change efforts doesn't feed anyone NOW, and it turns out we actually do in fact need to eat like, on the daily. There are probably people on this planet for whom it turns out a significant amount of dining-out (or taking-out or whatever) really do amount to a savings. And in the plastic bags thread, plenty of people were pointing out the massive, unthinkable waste in the grocery supply chain itself, so it's not like that's a neutral choice, waste-wise.

Look, everything it is possible to do in this world we have made is terrible, and immoral, and destructive. So someone wants to eat a fucking dumpling today. I say dumpling away.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:55 PM on August 30, 2018 [17 favorites]


Is there any traditionally female chore that you can get out of without it being an occasion for moral panic? (I did cook from Smitten Kitchen tonight but netted zero virtue points because my kids were sitting in front of a SCREEN.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:59 PM on August 30, 2018 [34 favorites]


The large national chain grocery store near my home charges $4.59CAN ($3.54US) for 4L (~1 gallon) of 2% milk.

Milk is one of those things that is hard to compare state to state.
There are Federal dairy support schemes and each state seems to have a dairy board that mucks about with pricing.
For instance, in my state, $3.50 (USD) is about right for generic milk trucked in from California.
If I want milk made in my state, it'll be closer to $3.90 or $4.
Organic will be $4.50 or $5.
Fancy milk can reach $7.

If I saw milk for $2.57 a gallon, I'd start wondering if it was Squeaky Farms Brand.
posted by madajb at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


After one harrowing summer, I began calling my CSA "Countless Squash Acquired."

I got tons of beets in mine. I would really prefer zero beets, much less majority beets. I did get the world’s most delicious canteloupe, though. All other canteloupe tastes like Magic Eraser compared to that one.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:41 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Autumnheart, I'll swap you your beets for a canteloupe from my CSA next time. (I pickle 'em, generally.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2018


I read this the other day and thought it was intended to be tongue-in-cheek and also making fun of all those sanctimonious articles about cooking for your kids? I mean, she's being realistic about how hard it is to cook every day, ESPECIALLY with two small children, and how bad a lot of recipes are.

Yeah, I'm a little surprised that everyone here seems to be reading this as a 100% sincere argument intended to convince people not to cook. I took it much more as a (welcome) acknowledgment of the fact that cooking comes at a real cost (of time and energy if not money). But basically, nobody ever tells you that it's ok not to cook.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:16 PM on August 30, 2018 [15 favorites]


yeah, it always feels strange to me that every time there's an askme about weekly meal planning, there isn't more acknowledgment of the mental exhaustion you can get from eating the same thing for 7 days in a row, but i guess that kind of aside would be deraily in ask? but like. i don't even think we do that to prisoners unless it's specifically punishment nutraloaf.

The 'you can freeze it and have ready-made meals in advance' plan also has this weakness, which is that I like lasagne but I don't like lasagne every night for a week. The secret, as it turns out, is that many foods can be cooked twice. Lasagne you're kind of stuffed, admittedly, unless you "deconstruct" it. But take the roast beef you did a few days ago: add the roast veggies you put in with the beef because that's what you're supposed to do even though they don't turn out great that way, chop it up a bit and put it in a saucepan with beef stock, and you have a stew after about an hour's simmer (which is actually quicker to make than a stew from scratch).

Leftover stew? Boil it off then put it into thick pastry. It's a meat pie!

Leftover meat pie? H...how
posted by Merus at 5:17 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


it can be quite difficult, as a single person, to cook interesting meals for only one or two nights per week, without a lot of food waste. this means it's hard to gradually shift away from eating out, it's all or nothing.

plus if you have a "legitimate" logistical reason for needing to buy food at restaurants certain nights (weird schedule or whatever) then you're almost forced to waste food and money.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:18 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have an unfair advantage in the kitchen because my mom grew up in the rural south and then mastered French and when I'd eat at friend's houses I began to understand that I really needed to know what my mom knew or I was never going to be happy. Then dad left and mom worked all the time and dinner deteriorated into a shadow of it's former self and I pulled out the books and read them until I'd made myself ravenous and I could do this one with stuff that was here already and everybody was so happy that I've kept it up to the point that the kids I am now responsible for won't eat at their friend's houses. It's a small, emotionally effortless thing for me because the dividends are huge. This is our fuel for life.

I do all the shopping or give somebody a list which may or not be filled. I don't do dishes. There are eaters for that.

Recipes are manuals. Reading theory makes you creative. I will always choose a life where I have the time to focus on this for an hour each night because neglecting one of your senses is wrong. You wouldn't short any of the others so why all the autoneuroticism about this one? Don't accept that as normal.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:36 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


If we've moved on to the advice section now, I think that the key to making food interesting, simple and cheap for a single person is changing between food styles. I love chicken, and some time ago I felt I needed to apologize to my daughter for serving chicken 3 days in a row. She said that she didn't feel it was the same food when it was in such different recipes. (I think there was a roast chicken, a pie thing and then a wok with a bit of shrimp in there as well). This applies even more when you are alone. I'm not a big fan of bell-peppers, but I think they are good for health reasons and can give a good taste when combined with other stuff. So one day I'll use half a pepper in a pasta sauce, and the next day I'll use the other half in a Thai-inspired dish with coconut milk and herbs. Roasted, glazed carrots one day, and purist steamed carrots the next day. I eat mostly vegetables when I'm alone because here you can buy one pepper or one carrot, but the butcher won't sell you one chicken thigh. I can get one steak cheap sometimes, and then I'll use half for Stroganoff one day and half for a grilled steak the next day, or maybe skip a day and then have it.
posted by mumimor at 5:38 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


The 'you can freeze it and have ready-made meals in advance' plan also has this weakness, which is that I like lasagne but I don't like lasagne every night for a week

Cool the lasagna, freeze in individual servings (or twofers) defrost or not, then reheat in oven or microwave. I don't understand why you'd eat it for a week?
posted by fshgrl at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have a couple of pasta dishes that freeze and reheat very well, and I freeze them in individual servings. I also love spaghetti, but not left-over spaghetti. I bought a Crock Pot and make a big batch of sauce, then freeze it in individual servings, then just reheat it and cook the noodles fresh when I want spaghetti. Now I’m not wasting half a jar of sauce every time I want spaghetti.

If you want to put chicken in dishes but you don’t want to cook chicken, a rotisserie chicken is great for this. Just strip off the meat and freeze it in separate portions.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:05 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I will say, though, that a lot of my “cooking for a single person” methods are doable because I have a big-ass fridge and a ton of counter space for small appliances. It’s hard to cook effectively when you’re one person AND have a small kitchen, without space to really store much in the way of ingredients and/or completed meals for freezing.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:10 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


We have CSAs out here in the hinterlands, too.

We don't have them in Australia, though, so I appreciated the explanation.

I used to cook a lot. Even for myself - it wasn't always stuff I'd want to serve to someone else, but it was something I was perfectly happy eating. Then things started to happen - I got a job that required getting up earlier, a longer commute, getting home later and more decision making during the day, so less brain power to spend on things like deciding what to eat and cook. I began to have really unfortunate digestive reactions to garlic and onion, both of which have been mainstays of most of my cooking for most of my life. And my mobility has decreased to the point where things like going to the shops or spending a lot of time standing up in the kitchen cooking complicated things, or even just doing lots of chopping for uncomplicated things, requires planning and preparation if it is to happen at all, and it is often much, much easier just not to do it. Although it can be difficult to find takeaway food that doesn't have garlic or (much) cooked onion, and people do have the annoying habit of putting raw onion on salads even when you tell them not to, the process of choosing food from an app and pressing a few buttons to make food appear at my door is still easier than having to figure out how to make stuff I can eat, organise to have all the ingredients, execute the making of it and then doing all the clean-up when I didn't get home until 7.30.

My ideal would still be a pill that I could take instead of having to eat. This magical pill would require no decision-making or planning or special ingredients. It could be consumed in seconds. It would provide my nutritional requirements. And - here's the clincher which makes it magical - it would make me feel full, or at least not hungry anymore. It would definitely not taste like Soylent or similar products, which I have tried and make me gag and want to throw up. I would not want to consume it all the time, I like eating sometimes. It would just be nice to have for all those times when I just. can't. be. bothered.

Anyway, reading those lists of fast food was like a world of wonder and excitement. I have never even heard of most of those places, let alone consumed any of their fast food. Clearly on my next trip to the US I need to bring a camera and video a fast-food tour of the US, seeing how many bizarre concoctions I can try. Or the people who do the youtube videos of kids eating various foods and having amusing reactions should do a series on fast food so I can at least experience it vicariously.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:34 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


moved out of NYC to a TX suburb last month and our food bills are so much lower it's shocking

This is going to be one of those things that’s dependent on location, but I moved out of New York to Oregon and then Delaware and my grocery spending did not go down. Then again, I don’t buy milk or eggs.
posted by Automocar at 7:58 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is there any traditionally female chore that you can get out of without it being an occasion for moral panic?

Having sex in exchange for money?
posted by medusa at 8:18 PM on August 30, 2018


neglecting one of your senses is wrong. You wouldn't short any of the others so why all the autoneuroticism about this one?

It...I don't...this does not track for me at all. I suck at and hate cooking; eating my own food is definitely shorting ALL of my senses, and even maybe some extra ones I didn't know I had. Going to the gorgeously appointed Italian place down the block on the other hand, is a feast for everything except my wallet.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:19 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]



Is there any traditionally female chore that you can get out of without it being an occasion for moral panic?

Having sex in exchange for money?


So long as that money is dressed up as a diamond engagement ring the absence of this exchange has ABSOLUTELY been an occasion for moral panic.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:20 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


2 60+ hour working professional parents with 2 ungrateful little shits of children here. We spend 20 minutes on Sunday morning picking out 4 recipes and making the grocery list of things we don’t have. One of us shops while the kids are at soccer practice. Nothing we make takes more than 30 minutes, often less and we use a slow cooker liberally. Recipes tend to be kid friendly — lasagna, sloppy joes, variations of Mac and cheese, pasta, and stir fry. No we don’t copy any fast food but these are fast foodish in that they’re cheesy and carby and work for stuffing your hungry face. If you’re organized and stocked with a bunch of staples and spices from previous cooking, it really fits into our lives much better than take out.

4 planned meals is plenty. It creates enough left overs for lunch the next day, you figure one night might be leftovers or a quick burger with the team after soccer practice (Kidd Valley - Seattle yo) or dinner at a friend’s house. In addition we might keep a frozen pizza in the freezer for a baby sitter night although we always have stuff to make fresh pizza too. A few sandwich ingredients and fresh fruit and we are good.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:10 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


"yeah, it always feels strange to me that every time there's an askme about weekly meal planning, there isn't more acknowledgment of the mental exhaustion you can get from eating the same thing for 7 days in a row"

My mental exhaustion these days comes from having to come up with different things to make every day since I have a 9-year-old in pre-adolescence who is NEVER FULL and a 7-year-old with the metabolism of a squirrel on meth whose stomach appears to be a black hole and we go through an UNREASONABLE amount of food. I need weekly meal plans that begin with "spit roast a whole pig in the backyard, here's seven different ways to prepare it through the week." (I'm lucky if a 20# turkey lasts 3 days!) I can't even imagine how much worse it'll be when they're legit teenagers.

"The food carts by my office start at $8, except the hot dogs, which are apparently now a bee risk."

Only in Times Square, they were clearly tourist bees.

"For non-New Yorkers, CSA = community supported agriculture."

We do totally have farms and CSAs in flyover country! (In fact near me we're quite spoiled for choice because we have so very many farms, offering so very many CSAs!)

"Especially meat - I have the option of getting the 1 or 2-pound package of chops or drumsticks or what have you, or the even larger "family size" package - but there are no half-pound packages."

Are supermarket butchers not a thing in New York? I can go to even the downmarket supermarket and just tell them how much I want -- one chop, half a pound of chicken breasts, one salmon fillet -- and they just do that. (Or 10 fillets, or four # of breasts, or 12 chops, all 1" thick mind you!) It helps to call ahead if you want a TON of something, or something weird, OR if you want lamb or pork ground (once the grinder's on beef for the day, they're not cleaning it and swapping out), but generally they can do anything from offal to tenderloins.

"Great! Now I want some of that damn Wendy's chili"

Ugh me too, all the time. That's the one fast-food item I have a "make at home" recipe for and it's DAMN good!

The one I WANT a recipe for is Roti lamb meatballs. (Roti's a Chicago chain that's slowly branching out.) I would seriously eat those every day, my family gets annoyed by how often I want Roti.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 PM on August 30, 2018


With an empty nest we recently invested in HelloFresh. I intend to use it for 6 weeks because of the packaging wastagge but they send these excelent recipe cards and for their rapid box recipes it’s now simple to see why I always had leftovers or had to reheat same food next
Night.

It has also broadened my quick (20*30) minute recipes immeasurable. Since I have most of the staples and have easy access others ( discounted Sainsbury’s Vietnamese or Thaai herb packs are perfect) I now find myself adapting about 30 recipes I’d never made before and adding just enough of my garden veg that one of us takes a fresh lunch next day.its massivly reduced food waste and once I stop the delivering, will really cut down on packaging waste. I know now that200 grams of chicken make enough for 2 people ( I never learned to cook but a apprenticed at 16 in a Spanish remote farm where 4 heavy, 2 lighttish meas we’re prepared from scratch for q
10 farmworkers 5 family in that group and 7 children & older fams from 4am to 11pm)

So getting those HelloFresh or choose your box set of choice while initially expensivish, had now got the potential with my own hacks (adding a cup of bulgar lentils (or the 10plus varityof locaal pulses/lentils I stock up on when traveling for work Croatia y scicily are pulse paradise)is now on track to reduce costs and wastage like nothing else I’ve ever tried before,
Caveat I have my own 4 raise beds for veg
YMMV
posted by Wilder at 9:16 PM on August 30, 2018


I think think we’re thinking big enough here.

Food, as a commodity, as a product, as something that is stored, is very unique. It goes bad, it can be recycled, we need it to live, and it takes to economies of scale really well.

Now, it is true in terms of time and effort, for a single person in a dense city like NYC it is often easier and cheaper to buy food then making it at home - but we don’t want to start building dormaity style units without kitchens- even a small kitchen is a matter of personal autonomy .

But it’s still cheaper to have someone else do it, cause a kitchen making salads all day can make them faster and cheaper then any one person could.

Orwell theorized an system of kitchen shops around London dedicated to meal production with pickup and deliveries and cafeterias and automat versions. I look around NYC and what do I see? I see a lot of soup and sandwich places, a lot of made to order salad bars, a lot of buffets and deli trays and food halls. I see a lot of people making deliveries with insulated backpacks. I see takeaway buzzers and deli ticket counters and phone notifications that go off when your Order is ready.

In short, I see a lot of Kitchen Shops.

But they’re all so small scale, such limited thinking. Imagine a really big Kitchen Shop chain owned by the city, large enough to effect subsidizes and agricultural policy, large enough to offer different variants, large enough to have a mandate to provide access to fresh, local, nutrient heavy food across taste, allergy, and requirement regimens. Large enough to put all the taskrabbit and postmates technology to good, with stable, well paying delivery and kitchen jobs.

Imagine it! The city’s own Whole Foods hot bar, at least one in each post-code, expand8mg the idea that everyone in the city deserves a hot meal. Dedicated to stopping waste at the point of production, all organic waste funneled back into city composting projects for parks, community gardens, coastline building and neighborhood allotments. All source ingridentd (within reason, no one growing vast fields of wheat in New England much anymore) has to come from local farms, with preference (and larger state and federal funding) for small to medium hold farms with organic and low carbon best practices - keep the money in the region and maybe get a few empty exburbs converted back into productive farmland or returned to carbon sequestering greenbelt, mashes, and woodland.

City kitchen shop diners! City Kitchen Shop bistros! City Kitchen shop middle bars and luncheon food hall and automats and juice spots! City Kitchen Shop all organic hot dog stands! If gigantic YumInc chains can do it why can’t we do it with something owned by the people, with shared investment, management, and oversight, produce food for everyone at cost - think of the changes to the service industry! No longer a temple of exploitation and harassment. Kickstart the damn thing with Universal SNAP benefits, everyone gets the same amount to spend at a City Kitchen Shop per month.

No one should be made to feel guilty cause they don’t want to cook. Sign yourself up for a meal delivery system with preferences for nights of the week, or purchase a subsidized pressure cooker and sign up for three days of prearranged, preference selected pressure cooker ready meals. You could even absorb a few food providing charities this way, they’d know the most vulnerable in thier districts. Pick off the best kitchen managers and logicians to help run the whole thing.

Of course everyone involved in making the food decisions has to eat it first, espicslly the numbercrunchers and politicians. That’s just fair.

Still want to cook? Great! Visit the Kitchen Sjop Farmers’ Markets or sign up for the citywide CSA, pick up or delivery? Liberate cooking from drudgery, let a million hobby chefs and home cooks bloom. Under this system, everyone could eat like an upper middle class person and food could be fun again. Or not! That’s your choice and it doesn’t carry any moral weight about what you should or should not do! The goal is to feed people, de-commodity food, and restore rural and suburban argicultural sectors away from monolithic big argicoro so they’re more nimble to respond to climate change and food borne illness. .

That’s the kind of scale I’m thinking about.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 PM on August 30, 2018 [22 favorites]


I love Deb Perlman (I made her really delicious one-bowl banana bread tonight!), I love baking and cooking when I have the brain space for it, and I really appreciate the blessing and luxury of just...giving up on cooking meals sometimes. I am a bad personal life planner, I spend all day at school being in charge of decisions for about 250 students and when I get home I am kind of over being the boss of everything. 2-3 times a week I bother to cook for us (usually enough for two meals), and the other nights we have leftovers, takeout or go out. I wish I were a better meal planner but it’s just one more damn thing to be in charge of and a lot of the time I don’t wanna.

Groceries here are appallingly expensive, there are just two of us, we do not like a lot of the same things and my spouse does not contribute to the cooking so we eat out more than we probably should. I feel bad about this a lot of the time and I am absolutely aware of how much privilege and financial security this entails. I am grateful for it.

I just wish I lived somewhere with $1.50 dumplings or meal kit delivery available- I’m the perfect candidate for both!
posted by charmedimsure at 11:59 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I will say, though, that a lot of my “cooking for a single person” methods are doable because I have a big-ass fridge and a ton of counter space for small appliances. It’s hard to cook effectively when you’re one person AND have a small kitchen, without space to really store much in the way of ingredients and/or completed meals for freezing.

It would be safe for you to assume that "big-ass fridge", "a ton of counter space" and "pantry storage space" are commodities unavailable to the average New Yorker. If I were to make a full pan of lasagna, divvy the pan up into leftovers and freeze it, that would take up 2/3 of my freezer.

I have seriously contemplated buying a dorm-fridge-size chest freezer - except I also lack floor space to store it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:11 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I love Smitten Kitchen.

Like many others I read the article as tongue-in-cheek. I mean the title is "Never Cook At Home" and it's written by someone who makes a living (or at leasts contributes significantly to her income) by cooking at home and encouraging other people to do so). She starts off venting about the hurdles to cooking. But then at the end she starts talking about why she does cook and what she loves about it.

I like the way that closely following a recipe can alleviate pressure after a long day of having to make all the decisions.

I love how a dish that worked, or a meal that everyone liked, has the power to change my day.

I like that pulling off a good meal when you least expect it is the fastest way to feel victorious, even when real life does not.

I like the way that, even when I’m standing over the stove, cursing the recipe writer who suggested that onions might caramelize in 10 minutes, I’m totally absorbed. I’m not on group texts. I’m not following the outrage of the moment on Twitter. I’m getting a brief, needed respite and refuel from fretting over our democracy or forcibly separated families or any of the other horrible things humans do to one another.

This thing — focus, concentration, a goal and the reward of something delicious I get to devour — is so rare in my day-to-day life, I’ll take it when I can.

posted by bunderful at 5:28 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Mostly, though, I think I just automatically resent anything I have to do every day, even multiple times a day, just to stay alive.

This is why I have a big freezer.

Of course, if you're poor you can't afford a big freezer or (more importantly) somewhere to put it.

Soup is my Sam Vimes' boots.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Athanassiel - we do have CSA’s in Australia! Well, we do in Sydney anyway. We get a box from Ooooby (Out of Our Own Backyards) delivered every 2 weeks. There’s also Aussie Farmers Direct IIRC. I’d be surprised if Melbourne doesn’t have something similar.
posted by web-goddess at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2018


I often repeat Maria Bamford's line: "Everyone always says cooking is easy, but it's not any easier than... not cooking."

Also, folks seem to think that the author is suggesting eating out or getting delivery for every meal, but she is clearly not. She mentions eating cereal, popcorn, and Popsicles (!) for dinner, which will definitely serve to bring your non-cooking per meal cost down.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:26 AM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


If the author is such an avid home cook but can't adjust for # of diners, well, they're not much of a cook at all.

The author is a professional cook and food writer. If I suggested you were bad at your job because you chose, occasionally, not to do your job for free for several more hours after the end of your workday, you'd rightly punch me in the nose.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:33 AM on August 31, 2018 [13 favorites]


i do have a reasonably big freezer but it is mostly full of the ~40 icepacks required to inhabit my garbage fucking flesh prison full of constant pain

and also popsicles
posted by poffin boffin at 9:51 AM on August 31, 2018


The icepacks also inhabit popsicles??
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2018


This rings true for me - single and I don't have a dishwasher. I enjoy cooking but miss the faster cleanup with a dishwasher. I try to bake regularly…but that's even worse on dish production and cleanup.
posted by caphector at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Web goddess - we have similar kinds of things, yes, but I have never heard them referred to as CSAs. But it is possible that my acronym knowledge is deficient.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2018


This is going to be one of those things that’s dependent on location, but I moved out of New York to Oregon and then Delaware and my grocery spending did not go down. Then again, I don’t buy milk or eggs.

In my experience, basic groceries are less expensive in many places outside of New York, but some foods may be more expensive depending on one's location. I buy a wide variety at our local supermarket for a family of four just as i did in NYC. My food bills are about a third less than they were back East. That includes paper goods, meat, fish, eggs, bread, milk and other stuff.

Went shopping this morning, in fact. Took this in the dairy section. I haven't seen a price that low in NYC for many years, even in BJ's or Costco.
posted by zarq at 10:52 PM on August 31, 2018


Are supermarket butchers not a thing in New York?

They definitely are. Often, they're the best place to get raw fresh fish in a neighborhood. Almost every Manhattan supermarket has a butcher. Rarely, lower end supermarkets like C Town or Key Food might not, but there is almost always another within walking distance that will. The same goes for Brooklyn and Queens, although the next nearest supermarket may not necessarily be within walking distance. Western Beef is a lower end supermarket chain that is known for their butcher department.

Until last month, I lived in an area of Queens with at least 11 supermarkets or more within 10 minutes drive. Only one that I'm aware of, a Key Food, did not have a butcher dept. They did have a deli counter. There were two other Key Foods in that same area that did have a butcher dept.

There are also butcher shops that are independent businesses. Those butchers used to be in virtually every neighborhood in the five boroughs. They specialized in cuts and types of meat and prepared foods for a particular area's population. Italian butchers, kosher butchers, etc. The supermarkets have slowly put many out of business but not all.
posted by zarq at 11:07 PM on August 31, 2018


While "Deb Perelman, author of the cooking blog Smitten Kitchen says it's cheaper and easier to let someone else do the cooking, at least when talking about NYC." Operant term "cheaper." But, be aware, cheaper means some pretty cheap ingredients. I positively shudder when I see these fast food -dollar- menus advertised. I mean, what are they using for ingredients, dog or cat food? No way.

I've also noticed, when eating in restaurants, coffee shop or road house types, in the last few years, the quality of ingredients have absolutely gone down as profit margins have shrunk and everyone is cutting every corner they can to get by. I'll choose them over fast food every time but... I rarely eat out anymore...

And now that the US government is letting Chinese and most other "third world" processed meat products into the country, yikes! "Chicken" tenders? No thanks. 99¢ burgers? Again, no thanks.

Cooking at home is less expensive, the food is of a more decent quality, healthier and only requires a little planning and discipline. My 2¢.
posted by WinstonJulia at 6:09 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


So having now read the article, this quote resonated for me: “Most parents are mired in a daily battle against young people with untenable demands for a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and halved grapes.”

I’ve got a four-month-old. She hasn’t had solid food yet, so I don’t know this struggle. When we went to the now out of business baby stuff store to register, we got to the grape slicers and walked out. We may regret that.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:32 AM on September 1, 2018


Slicing grapes in halves or quarters for a toddler is a good idea. (Choking hazard.) But a grape slicer? Does it have a safety blade or something? Because I would think a paring knife would work just fine, no? (I remember using one for hot dogs and grapes and stuff.)
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on September 2, 2018


Oh, neat. I guess it would work for anyone with hand/wrist motor control issues, too.
posted by zarq at 1:53 PM on September 2, 2018


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