What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
A girl can’t eat like she’s on vacation every day, but a chef who delivers is the next best thing
It's Monday evening and I'm waiting for my dinner. It's being delivered -- for the week.
That's right. My dirty little secret is that even though I'm a food writer, I don't like to cook dinner. I can't tell you how many meals my husband and I cooked and I meticulously photographed and made notes on for one cooking website or another, but for a good couple of years or so I wrote 12 stories a month on cooking and couldn't make the same thing twice. It was kind of funny, really, to watch my food phases come and go -- lots of quinoa and lentils in my vegetarian days, then omnivore with a vengeance -- bacon and lard galore.
But it got to feel like, well, work: Plate the food, wipe down the bowl, find the best place on the counter with the natural light, snap some photos, ask my husband to wait JUST A MINUTE before he eats and finally eat it when it's lukewarm at best. Then sit down to write the recipe and some clever story about what I had just eaten.
When my main gig switched business models and I moved to writing more about restaurants and eating out, I was relieved to be mostly done writing about cooking at home.
Don't get me wrong, we still had some culinary adventures. There were the “lamb fries” a farmer friend dared me to eat (that's balls. And we indeed cooked and ate them). There's every dish I learn to make in another country that has to be replicated in its entirety, no matter how frustrating the shopping is. And I will always love homemade pizza night.
But seriously. Between a full time job, a hopping freelance career, working out, and finding time for Netflix TV series marathons (any other "Prison Break" fans out there?), who has time to cook the kind of meals I prefer to eat?
We don't own a microwave, and except for an occasional Kashi freezer meal in a pinch for lunch at work or my guilty pleasure nighttime snack, I don't eat processed food or fast food. And I can't afford to eat out at my lovely little local foods restaurants every night.
So when my husband, who actually does most of the cooking anyway, would travel for work I'd make an omelet for dinner most nights, or mush a Larabar into some Greek yogurt and call it a night.
If only I could be independently wealthy, I'd moan, I could have a personal chef. But my spending money from my freelance work was stretched enough between the powerlifting training and saving for our next trip, so poor little princess, a private chef was just not an option. (I guess it would get crowded in our 900 square ft. one-bedroom cottage to add staff, anyway. I may be watching too much "Downton Abbey.")
Then one glorious day, the heavens parted and angels trumpeted. I saw on Facebook that a very cool local chef had started a home meal delivery program he called a CSM (Community Supported Meals -- think CSA, but instead of random produce you get cooked meals!). And shut the front door, it was PALEO!
Now, if there were a CEO of the Paleo way of eating, she'd kick me out faster than you can say almond-flour biscuits. I would be the world's worst spokesperson for the diet, since whenever I feel like eating macarons, I just do. Or homemade pizza. And, OMG, on Fridays as a special treat I even have homemade granola from the cutest little local cafe in my Greek yogurt (an upgrade from the usual nuts and berries).
But the rest of the time, except when I'm on assignment (or in Paris), I try more or less to stick to the no-grain thing. So when I saw chef Timothy's post, I wrote him as fast as my little fingers could fly to tell him to SIGN ME UP. I also wanted to write about it in my local newspaper, so you know, it was research.
I ordered a month's half-share at $100 a week -- that's seven dinners, delivered at the beginning of the week in oven-ready containers. Each dinner comes with a local meat (further delirious joy for me, because I definitely don't eat the factory farmed stuff) and two vegetables. No grains, dairy, sugar or anything processed. (When spring truly arrives he'll use all local produce but I signed up in January. Not much growing around here in the dead of winter.) And it's cooked by a Real Chef.
Chef Timothy has spent a good deal of time traveling, learning about food in places like Italy, and, what I think is especially cool, started a program at the Salvation Army here in Louisville where he trained folks living in poverty or with substance abuse issues how to gain employment in the culinary field. He cares about where food comes from and how it's prepared, and in general is just the kind of guy I'd like to have making my weeknight dinners.
So I signed on in January just before I was injured and it made sense to continue on when I had surgery in February and was recuperating on the couch. And each month I just keep rolling into the next because I can't bear the thought of going back to menu planning and grocery shopping for work night dinners.
My husband and I split the seven meals during the week, joking about who will “make dinner” as we pop the containers into the oven, and on weekends eat out or cook fun, sometimes elaborate meals at home.
I get healthy food that tastes good and I feel good about, I rationalize that it's cheaper than eating out, and my time is free to do things like write this story. Win/win!
Paleo tacos (aka lettuce wraps)
And every Monday is like a tiny culinary Christmas waiting to see what chef Timothy brings me. When he leaves, I line up the seven tidy containers on my table and examine each one, labeled neatly with the meat and farm where it came from before plopping two in the oven and the rest in the fridge.
He knows I love curry, hate bell peppers and can't eat mushrooms, so they're always going to be to my liking (even if not always exciting -- chicken with sweet potato and broccoli is my “eat this and you can have a Soy Delicious Coconut Mini Ice Cream Sandwich later” dinner).
This week I got a “Kung Pow! Chicken,” last week an amazing curry with cauliflower rice that I'd seen online and asked for (yes, he takes special requests). The one my husband and I fight over (no lie -- we don't share food well and have had dreadful arguments about divvying up french fries in the past) is spaghetti squash with sausage in a marina sauce.
I will never mistake it for spaghetti and meatballs, but you know what? I think I actually prefer it. If I'm going to have white flour, I'm not going to waste it on something as meh as spaghetti, and I can feel virtuous about my vegetable intake for the day.
That's another thing. Before I signed on I would have said I ate plenty of vegetables. I would have been wrong. I get SO much vegetable matter in my dinners I have no problems with, you know, staying regular.
So does it make me a hypocrite to not lug my cookbooks out every night and plot out fabulous new gourmet creations that can inspire a story? Maybe. But I don't mind. I admit it; I love having my dinners delivered, and I don't have any plans to stop.