The Limits of Do-It-Yourself Food Preparation
Even for people who like to cook, there are times when it’s nice to have a truly ready-to-eat meal
I am not what you may call an easy mark. On the continuum from highly gullible to excruciatingly skeptical — that is from someone who would buy a car online sight unseen, to someone who thinks the Girl Scout selling cookies at the front door is part of an international ring of thieves — I am likely in the middle. Maybe I lean toward skepticism and critical thinking, but I am mostly trusting of strangers.
So armed with that sensibility, I think there is a dubious trend in the DIY (do it yourself) arena. And it has to do with convenience and food, two things I believe in wholeheartedly. Leading up to the holidays, when many of us have family-filled schedules that involve lots of relatives, meals and little extra time, it is necessary to scrutinize these hot topics, and dig right in.
I have noticed many outlets around the suburbs and throughout the city that offer the makings of pizza — that Friday night favorite — and allow you the privilege to go home and cook it yourself. In your oven. And then, thank you very much, you can clean up, too.
I was under the impression that the reason pizza was so delicious when you eat it in a restaurant or have it delivered was because of the ovens — either the extremely high heat or the wood burning oven itself. So why would I want to drive somewhere, park, walk in a retail store, ask someone to put together the ingredients, then leave without it ready to eat? As far as I’m concerned, only half the job is finished. If I am stressed for time, can you not please just cook it too? And then bring it to my house?
American pizzerias have been delivering pizzas to hungry customers who do not want to contribute to any part of the preparation for more than 50 years. And for the last decade or so, delivery has been free. This is a good thing.
A good 90 percent of my life is DIY. So on Friday night, when I’m on my way home from work, hungry and in need of a convenient, delicious meal, it needs to be DIFM, or someone doing it for me.
Maybe I’m missing the boat completely, but the way I see it is I have years of experience of shopping for ingredients, cooking said ingredients into a meal, and cleaning up afterward. So if I can have one convenient night without adding to my resumé of food preparation experience, that is the way I want to go. Not halfway, with a chef putting the meal together, but all the way, with a chef putting it together, cooking it and serving it to me either to take home and devour or eat on site. Better yet, with it all delivered hot, savory and magnificent to my front door.
For these reasons, the frozen section of the grocery store at times perplexes me as well. There are shelves dedicated to frozen prepared foods that in generations past were strictly take-out material — orange chicken, beef with broccoli, the mainstays of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants that deliver.
And here’s the thing. They cost pretty much the same when you buy them frozen as they do if you picked them up hot and fresh from the restaurant itself. But you still have to cook the meal and wait for it to be ready. And it never, ever, tastes the way it does when you get it from a restaurant. Ever.
I gather this is all so you do not have to change out of your yoga pants and sweat shirt if you get a craving for General Tso’s chicken at midnight in order to find the restaurant open that will make it for you. Or that you can have pad thai for breakfast if you like, anytime you like. But you are still cooking. And that is the paradox of “convenience foods.” I do not find it convenient to still have the cooking to do.
It is most convenient if it is all done for me.
I recently heard about a new delivery system in major cities around the country, including Chicago, that understands people like me. It offers delivery from restaurants that do not deliver. Yes, you pay for the convenience, which is perhaps why the new endeavor is called Caviar.
Since I am halfway between gullible and skeptical, I will wait and see if it turns out to be a good thing. In the meantime, when pressed for time, I will fall back on the time-tested solution of ordering a pizza, cooked to order and delivered to my door, hot and ready to eat, by the local pizza delivery guy.Edit Module