My family recently began receiving boxes from one of those ubiquitous companies that send overpriced pre-portioned ingredients, environment killing packaging, and a recipe.
We signed up for this even though I could buy more groceries for less money, even though these companies are arguably a sign of first world privilege, even though I could shop for (and cook) the same meals myself.
The fact is I’m at a time in my life right now where I just won’t do it. I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree. My husband has a job in IT that requires lots of late nights and travel. We have four children, all 13 and under. We have three dogs, fish, and a hedgehog.
Our days are packed. The kids all have homework with which they need help. They all wear clothes that must be washed. The dishes pile up even though I buy paper plates (I kill the environment too, but I do recycle). In my spare time, I have writing to do.
I’m just not going to regularly research recipes, load up my grocery cart, and actually cook the stuff before it goes bad. That’s too much all at once. I am exhausted just thinking about it.
If I go to the store with an ambitious list, I get confused and weary walking around looking for maitake mushrooms or fresh fennel. I’ll just start picking up boxes of Hamburger Helper and frozen lasagnas instead. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and frozen pizza make their way into the cart. I usually have only 30 minutes to shop anyway, before I have to pick up a kid from music lessons, soccer practice, or Tae-kwon-do.
But even with all these excuses, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on the expensive boxes of ingredients and recipes delivered to my door. I only ever fantasized about it. It was my husband, Nick, who ultimately signed us up. I’d never even mentioned my delivery service desires to him. He just saw an ad somewhere and thought it sounded like a good idea.
Nick’s reasons were different from my own. He said it would teach our 10- and 13-year-old children how to cook. The older kids could start on the recipe when they get off the school bus, when I’m still at my late class and he’s still at work. This brought visions of burned fingers, wasted premium ingredients, and fires. But I agreed.
Their first recipe was made under the careful watch of a babysitter while we were out on a rare date. I instructed her to intervene only in the case of fire. We came home to a delicious roasted cod with coconut basmati rice and bok choy. Sure, the cod had been turned over too often and broke into small chunks, but it also tasted better than a lot of restaurant food.
Instantly, I was in love. The second and third recipes were prepped and cooked by the older kids while I did other stuff in the house. Not all the recipes have been that good, and sometimes I’ve had to make the meal myself when the kids were busy, and I was afraid the ingredients would go bad. But all the meals have been way better than Hamburger Helper, hot dogs, or frozen lasagna.
My kids have learned a lot beyond how to use a stove – they know what bok choy is, and how to cook it. They know the difference between “sauté” and “brown.” These are things that would definitely not have happened under my watch.
I’m also learning new cooking skills. Yesterday, I had to make homemade aioli. It was easy, but making it would’ve never occurred to me. Last week I made fish that wasn’t fried! I’m from Louisiana so fried fish is the definition of fish; this is a big deal. I’ve roasted a mix of three kinds of mushrooms (without having to search for them in the store) and garnished – garnished! – things with chopped parsley and lemon.
I freaking plate the food. I don’t mean quickly shoveling it out onto paper plates. I mean fancy plating, even though the kids will immediately shove the fresh herbs off and whine about the decorative sauce dollop. The instructions say to do it so I obey, consulting the helpful picture on the recipe.
I don’t think we’ll do this forever. I’ll finish my degree one day, the kids won’t always need me as their chauffeur and, eventually, I won’t be stretched in so many directions.
But for now, I get a neatly packed box with everything I need to make a healthy, home-cooked meal delivered straight to my doorstep. I don’t have to use my own brainpower deciding what to make, which is helpful because I definitely DO have to use my brainpower to consider the gender roles in “Villette” or the faults in Locke’s memory theory.
This is a service worth paying for at this point, and I’m thankful for it. This isn’t an infomercial, this is reassurance to myself that I’m not an awful mom for paying extra for a convenience, and it’s reminder that the frozen lasagnas were a convenience too. (Not to mention, full of preservatives and lacking in vegetables).
To the many busy families out there: I want you to know that I’m with you. I’m not judging the frozen foods, or the lack of bok choy on your dinner plates. If you need an expensive box of ingredients delivered to your front door, I get you.
We’re doing it. We’re making it happen. Sometimes we make it from scratch and plate it, and sometimes it’s a frozen meal or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the bellies are full and the people are happy.
Good work, parents.