Tonight, here on St. Mark’s Place, a decision needed to be made. The matter was being discussed in homes from coast to coast, in kitchens around the world. Fights may have broken out over the matter! Families torn apart! Brother against brother, father against son, all asking the simple question:
“What should we do for dinner?”
I typically figure out dinner early in the day, but work and travel kept me from any meal planning today. I’ve been here before, though, and am a decent enough cook to be able to whip up something tasty on the fly with a little Pam* and a prayer. But tonight, I was uninspired. So naturally, Yuri and I considered take-out. In a city like New York, we could have any kind of cuisine the world could offer us, right here in our apartment without stepping one toe outside. Ain’t that some moo goo gai pan.
Except that I don’t like take-out. Delivery. Whatever you call it when someone delivers food to your house. For many years, I’ve had an odd aversion to the concept and tonight, when I balked at what would’ve been a sensible solution to the dinner question, Yuri asked me to explain. I hadn’t ever considered it closely, so it was very exciting. I sipped a little apple juice and really thought it out.
It’s the effort of the whole thing. You, the food, the players in the transaction, all of it. And eating this way also feels a little cheaty.
Let’s take the last part first: If I decide I want to eat something that I don’t want to kill, shop for, carry, or cook — and if I want to do the absolute bare minimum of clean up after I’ve eaten it — ring up the Thai place and let’s do this. But Thai food does not appear out of thin air. It’s made. Out of things. When you get a rapidly cooling mass of pad Thai in a styrofoam box, the creation part is a distant memory. Personally, I think that’s a drag.
And then there’s the effort. “Effort? In picking up the phone or clicking boxes online? She’s off her gourd,” I hear someone say, and then that someone checks to see if anyone is delivering harvest gourd soup in their area. It’s not your effort, of course, but the effort of the process. Look:
You call to order —> order placed by person or machine —> order given to kitchen —> food prepared —> food put into containers —> containers put into bag —> astonishing number of condiments also put into bag —> bag given to delivery person —> delivery person takes bushel of orders to his/her car or bike —> food loses heat/freshness en route but is not discounted for loss of quality but in fact costs you more —> food arrives —> money changes hands —> delivery man leaves —> you sit down and open packages —> you eat —> you throw away all the crap that came with your sushi, including that weird plastic grass.
Good grief. Compare that to:
You take ingredients from fridge/pantry —> prepare —> cook —> eat —> dishwasher.
So, what did we do for dinner in the end? I realized I had prosciutto in the fridge, so I fried some up in a pan. I had some dates. I made some quesadillas without cheese for Yuri because his stomach was feeling bad and yes, quesadillas without cheese just means that I toasted some tortillas on the stove for him, which made him feel much better by the way. And that was dinner and it was enough.
Plastic grass is for Easter baskets! Everyone knows that.
*I do not currently keep any Pam in the house. I only wanted to link to the “Pam The Pan” entry from several months back.