Scrolling through my Facebook News Feed for the last few days, I have been inundated with ads for companies that will deliver ‘complete and ready to eat’ meals to your homes on a daily basis.
The photos, and there are many, look more like the kind of food you get on an airplane. OK business class, but even there they at least serve it on china.
Who in their right mind sits down to dinner to eat out of a plastic tray?
Apparently a lot of people.
I find these ads depressing.
I find the idea of eating like this even more depressing.
And things are depressing enough already.
However, I am not surprised by them. The vast majority of people in the US, and particularly in cities like New York, never learned how to cook a meal for themselves. Despite the popularity of The Food Network, it is for many people a lost art.
I should know. I was one of them.
I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island in the 1960’s, when miracles like Swanson TV Dinners or Mrs. Paul’s Frozen Fish Sticks were considered cutting edge dining. And that, to a great extent, is what we grew up eating. That, and Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms and Hostess Cupcakes.
When I got married and we lived in Manhattan, neither my wife (now my ex-wife) nor I knew how to cook a thing. And why should we care? We lived in Manhattan, where there were more restaurants per square block than liquor stores, jewelry stores, pharmacies, book stores, clothing stores or bike shops combined. So, as a result, we ate out every meal every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We had a wide range of options from which to choose- a smorgasbord, so to speak, of cuisines from Japanese to Chinese to Hungarian, to Steak Houses, to Fish to Korean. On and on ad infinitum. Why bother to cook? Why bother to learn to cook.
Children who grew up in this world also never learned to cook. Indeed, they were able to have whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it. Delivered to your door. That’s how most millennials live today. Take away. Delivered. Hello Grub Hub.
I might have remained that way had I not remarried Lisa, who, fortunately for me, had a passion for cooking. How quaint!
For the first six months that we lived together, good sport that she was, she joined me at Lou’s for breakfast every morning — just across the street on 53rd and 6th. How convenient! Lunches and dinner at a wide range of midtown eatieries. On Sunday, we had brunch at The Four Seasons or The Essex House. What could be better?
Then, after about 6 months, she turned to me one day and said, “Why don’t I make us dinner?”
To me this was near insanity. Why bother to do that when we have all these great restaurants? Who cooks?
But the secret to a good marriage is being flexible, so I said, ‘sure’. First we had to go to Bloomingdales and get plates and glasses and cutlery and pots and pans and cooking utensils. When you live in Manhattan, who needs all that junk? I had a friend in the TV business who lived in the Hotels des Artistes and took out the kitchen entirely. “What do I need that for?” he asked. I understood.
In any event, as I said, new marriage, so fine.
I was properly gobsmacked when Lisa whipped up a gourmet meal worthy of a Michelin star or two.
And that, fortunately, was just the beginning.
We rarely go out for dinner any more.
What would be the point?
Eating is one of life’s great pleasures.
So it strikes me as deeply depressing that so many people consider those plastic meals as food, when it is, in fact, so relatively simple to learn to cook your own. And so my healthier (and cheaper!)
Now that we are all trapped in our homes with lots of time on our hands, it’s a great time to learn how to cook.
It isn’t that hard to do.
And the pay off is a lot more satisfying that binge watching Friends again.