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Jewish World Review
Dec. 29, 2005
/ 28 Kislev, 5766
Cooking up relief for busy moms
You can bet June Cleaver had a home-cooked meal on the table every night, which is why Wally and Beaver never became crackheads. After all, dinner is supposedly the "anti-drug."
But what are today's moms supposed to do come home, ditch the pumps, help with the homework, kiss the hubby hello, pick up a kid or two from basketball and still somehow manage to cook a Cleaverian capon?
No can do, Bub! This revolution is missing a cog! Tonight's supper is macaroni with steamed mom same as last night.
Or at least, that was pretty much the menu chez most working moms until a second revolution started taking off the one that might finally make the first revolution work.
It's called fresh meal assembly, or easy meal preparation evolving terms for a slew of new out-of-home kitchens that women are opening up all over America more than 500 to date, up from just 100 of them in 2003 and zero in 1998.
They haven't reached New York City yet, probably because the rent here is prohibitive and the takeout plentiful. But the rest of the country is becoming very familiar with these storefronts, each equipped with about a dozen counters and, at every counter, all the preshopped, prechopped ingredients necessary to make the recipe sitting right there in front of you: cinnamon pork tenderloin, say, or coconut shrimp.
Most easy meal kitchens run two-hour sessions during which customers assemble 12 freezer-ready meals, which each feed a family of six. The price is about $200, or less than $3 a serving. And the fact that these meals actually get cooked at home, suffusing the kitchen with Cleaver-era aromas? Priceless.
"To be honest," admits Westchester mom of twins Nancy Beard, "we did a lot of takeout and, G0d help us, Lean Cuisine." That was before she discovered One Two Three Dinner in Briarcliff Manor. Now she arranges to meet friends there, and together they make dinners and socialize while they do it. "We just did five meals in an hour and a half," she beams.
It's the conviviality as much as the convenience that makes these public kitchens so compelling. When women joined the workforce, they not only lost the time to cook, they also lost the time to chat. These out-of-home kitchens give ladies (and the occasional guy) a chance to socialize while still being productive. Meanwhile, the husbands are so grateful for non-nugget meals that they often volunteer to baby-sit. Talk about win-win.
"I've never seen anything quite like this, that's bubbled up from the ground up and so fundamentally solves problem," says Bert Vermeulen, president of the Easy Meal Preparation Association.
If dinner is the anti-drug and working moms are, for better or worse, still expected to make that dinner happen, easy meal prep is the missing link.
Now when working dads start getting together for playgroups, we'll be all set.
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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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