Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fast, Fresh… and Delivered!

Every once in a while, rather than offer up a recipe, I enjoy serving up insights into what’s trending in today’s kitchens. Several young moms have turned me onto new food delivery services, like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, catching on fast with lots of age groups. These are online companies that let you order a week’s worth of individual meals from a restaurant style menu that include absolutely everything but the cook. You plan the meals on Friday and a huge box arrives at your door on Tuesday, with step-by-step instructions and pre-measured ingredients, right down to the 2 tablespoons of olive oil for sauteeing. If you need a single parsnip, 6 sprigs of rosemary or a ½ cup of lemon juice, it’s all right there. You chop that parsnip, snip the herb, and juice that lemon yourself. The idea is that any hassle, waste or mess has been eliminated. It costs around 10 bucks a plate and the meals last 3 to 5 days in your refrigerator.

Another food trend we’ve begun to lean on is practiced at Dream Dinners. This is a successful franchise that lets you come in, cook with a crew in a fully stocked assembly line of would-be home chefs—and prepare a week to month’s supply of yummy dinners that are immediately packed into coolers, brought home with you, and stored in the freezer for no fuss, no muss dinners later on.

It feels like cooking, looks like cooking and tastes like cooking!
I asked my foodie friends what they thought of all this. One or two admitted to using such a service, while others dismissed it as “a good idea for budding chefs, but a bit pricey.”
There is a reason that these services are popping up. While Americans watch a whole lot of Food Network TV, we begrudgingly spend just 27 minutes a day actually cooking! That’s less than half the time we spent in the early 60s. Sure Julia Child was popular then, but not a decade later, there came the advent of drive-through restaurants, and before we knew it nobody wanted to spend their time deboning a duck or baking their own bread. Let’s face it, when Gen X Moms were toddlers, their moms were burning their bras and buying designer briefcases; they had freed themselves from traditional women’s roles and created the slippery slope to where we are today: microwaving a pizza and calling it cooking—or simply eating out too much.
But now, with the help of these meal delivery services, the tide may be turning. Right now, there are LOTS of consumers, weary of being overcharged for so-so restaurant experiences and finger wags from the American Heart Association. There is, after all, a whole lotta sugar, salt and fat going into our collective tummy, compliments of restaurants like…well, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! How attractive that makes “eating in” for a change sound! At home you have complete control over what you’re putting into your body. It also tastes better, costs far less, and you get that cozy, family ambience without having to grease the palms of a lackadaisical wait staff.
I wouldn’t call cooking a lost art; I’d call it a longed for art—with people trying to get back to what we were, before we were too busy to cook like we care.
So why don’t people rediscover the joy of cooking at home? Is it because current surveys reveal that only 1/3 of Americans claim they know how to cook? As much as 51% say they lack the time to shop for ingredients, or the skill to manipulate said ingredients into the perfect meal.
Perhaps a fresh food delivery service is the perfect way for the novice to learn the cooking process. At the very least, it is the answer to serving up home-cooked dinners in minutes. Now that’s a trend I want to follow!

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