Down the street from our house is a little shopping center. Along with the handful of eateries and shops is a storefront business I'd never heard of before, called Let's Dish. The window had a menu posted and a glance inside revealed a few stainless steel kitchen prep areas. Curious, I went inside to inquire about the place.
I was told it is a "revolutionary concept" in home cooking. A "great idea" for enjoying some gab-time while putting together "healthy and delicious meals" for my family. The best new way for busy families to cook, I was told by the enthusiastic assistant. Well...interesting. I'm all for families cooking together, eating together, communing together. But, uh, how does it work? I asked, looking around at the steel stations but not seeing any stoves or ovens.
Apparently, you reserve a time slot, go to the store, and choose which of the monthly offerings you want to "cook". Maybe "prepare" would be a better word here. The October menu boasts the likes of Greek Isle Chicken, Wine Country Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Southwestern Pinto Burgers, and Crispy Herb Tilapia, for example. If you want those four entrees, you grab a container and go to the assigned prep areas where ingredients are all chopped, grated, sliced, and waiting. You follow the posted recipe to assemble the ingredients into the container, based on the number of servings you want. Then you take it all home and freeze it, bringing it out to pop in the oven when desired.
Or, she bubbled, for really busy folks they offer a pre-done assembly, where you order your meals and they assemble them for you. You just dash in and pick them up. Freezers lined one wall where you also have the option to walk in and buy frozen pre-assembled ready-to-take entrees.
"This is so great!" she chirped. "I never go to the grocery store anymore, except for milk and bread," she boasted. Best of all, she proclaimed, echoing the company's website, "Back at home, you've got fresh and delicious, home-cooked meals whenever your family needs 'em."
The "home-cooked" part is what got me. Is something home-cooked just because it is baked in your oven? Is it really so hard to buy a few ingredients, chop and grate, and saute or bake them yourself? This routine is certainly more costly than cooking at home. The price per session is $25 per dish (serves 6), with a four dish minimum. That's $100 to assemble four meals. As far as I could tell, those are the main dishes you're assembling, not accompanying vegetable side dishes.
I walked out a little befuddled and shaking my head. Obviously, the concept is lost on me. I like to cook. I enjoy getting into the kitchen at a certain time, chopping an onion, peeling some potatoes, or dicing tomatoes in readiness for the soup or sauce I will be making. I find it rhythmic and relaxing (most days, at least!). As you know, all my family gatherings always seem to involve cooking together in some form. Food is an important factor in the fabric of my family. So the idea of merely assembling and baking just doesn't appeal to me; it seems too much like the "dump and stir" method of cooking that has become popular of late, but more expensive.
I understand that not everyone enjoys cooking; others really don't have much time. This might be a better alternative to traditional take-out or fast food, certainly. But I dunno, I'm still confused by the whole concept. Is it really home cooking?