My neighbor, an unapologetic non-cook, made an amazing-sounding meal last week. Fresh cod topped with a miso glaze and served with smashed purple potatoes and lemon asparagus. She assured me it was delicious.
Meal-prep services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and a bunch of others deliver everything you need so that even if you’ve only mastered Pop Tarts and Stouffer’s lasagna in the past, you can produce a fancy, healthy dinner for about $10-$12 per person.
It’s foolproof because everything comes in the package and all you have to do is slice the veggies, follow the step-by-step instructions and plate your meal. (Remember when plate was just a noun? Me, too.)
It’s easy to see the appeal of these services, especially if you hate to go to the grocery store. The food is delivered to your door in refrigerated packaging; you just open a box of ingredients and it’s all in there, right on down to the teaspoon of salt.
The advertising for Blue Apron is compelling with testimonials like: “I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when we get a delivery!” This is accompanied by a picture of a handful of dusty parsnips and a lime, which tells me Christmas morning must have been a bit underwhelming at her house. (“So much nicer than the stocking full of gruel and moldy crumpets I remember!”)
Another happy customer gushed: “This might actually be the best thing that has ever happened to me.” The accompanying photo is of a hamburger. Apparently one of the shared qualities of these home-delivered meal kit customers is incredibly low expectations in life.
While some basic cooking skills are needed (you need to know how to melt butter in a pan without burning it, for instance), even the worst cooks would be hard-pressed to screw up these meals.
That said, these kits don’t appeal to this Southern cook. There’s not a single recipe calling for cream of mushroom soup in any of them. And believe me, I’ve looked. Even the “Southern-themed” PeachDish delivery service doesn’t resemble real Southern cooking.
The smothered chicken isn’t fried and the accompanying “salad” is just some leaves ripped off a stalk of celery. True Southern cooks only eat raw celery when it’s sliced and filled with pimento cheese for a festive and easy hors d’oeuvre. PeachDish does have a grits side dish but it looks like they’re prepared with water instead of chicken broth, butter, heavy cream and Velveeta so I’m right-away concerned.
Which got me to thinking about my own entry into this lucrative new field: “Crawdad: Home Delivery Meal Prep for Real and Aspiring Southerners.” Delivered to your door, no refrigeration needed because we know how to do amazing things with canned meat. This keeps costs low (I’m aiming for no more than $3.50 per meal) and saves on all that elaborate planet-killing packaging. I’m thinking our motto will be: “Come for the salmon patties; stay for the nanner pudding.” Yeah, that’ll work.