Cooking, but with no sparks

It wasn’t a date, because Boots is very happily married.
But it was date night at the meal preparation place. And I was a perfectly willing replacement part to make a single into a double.
“Ready for our pseudo-date?” I said in the parking lot.
“It’s not a date!”
It’s one of those franchise meal places. Go in, put meals together, package them up and take them home and put them in the freezer. Take them out, pop them in the oven, make a salad and boom – dinner.
Interesting concept for people with money and not a lot of time.
Great meals, too. Coconut crusted chicken, Moroccan chicken with pumpkin, pork chops with sweet ginger and apple, chicken enchiladas.
Every time you go, they call it a session.
And Boots found out on Thursday that Friday’s session was date night.
“I may need your help Friday night with a menu thing,” she emailed.
“What, a dinner party and I’m not invited?”
She sent me the menu – her six meals that needed to be built.
“You can go ahead and laugh now.”
Told her I was honored. I wanted to see this place in action.
“But it’s not a date!”
No date. Think of me as a relief pitcher.
Or male escort.
We got on our aprons and washed our hands – and explained to basically everyone that THIS WAS NOT A DATE. I was not the husband.
I was simply the male escort.
(Hot male escort.)
Each station had room for two groups to put together two meals. Spices, wet ingredients, protein, vegetables, condiments were all in easy reach. The Moroccan chicken was split with ingredients for the chicken Mirabella; the peanut-crusted tilapia was next to the giant filled Italian shells.
Most everything went into gallon or quart freezer bags.
And that meant it was tough for four people to work at one station. And lead to questions like, “Did you put the turmeric in?”
Boots ended up stepping back a couple of times.
“Did he just take over?” a helper said. “Guys never want to come, but they end up doing nearly everything once that get here.”
It was not a date.
We did run afoul of the little old owner-helper-lady at the coconut-crusted chicken station. We had put the components together in individual bags – buttermilk in one, coconut and panko breadcrumb coating with the spices in another – and I went about my bidness putting it all together in another gallon Ziploc.
“It’s like OCD cooking,” Boots said.
I took the chicken bag – six small frozen chicken breasts – and inserted it into the bag; the coating mix went next, followed by the buttermilk. I smooshed all the air out and zipped up the bag.
“Oh, no, you can’t do that,” the little old-owner-helper-lady said as she wrenched the bag from me. “You have to go to the labeling station for that.”
And deconstructed my carefully, OCD-inspired bag of meal parts.
And reconstructed it at the labeling station – a shelf really, with a file folder that held recipe index cards for the meals you bought – by simply dropping the recipe card into the bag.
(She didn’t even smoosh the air out of the bag.)
“Yeah, I can see where that was important,” I said.
(Rebels that we are, Boots took all the index cards for her meals from the labeling station and stashed them in her apron; we put together every single meal at the prep stations – Ha.)
We put together all six meals in about an hour.
“Gosh, you guys are quick,” the owner said.
We sampled some Tex-Mex sauced flank steak over rice and had some really good apple crisp with walnuts and raisins while we waited for a cart to take Boots’ food to her car.
“So, what did you think?” the owner asked.
“Pretty interesting.”
“You think about it and the biggest part of cooking is the prep work,” she said. “This just eliminates that whole process; there’s no mess and no time wasted.”
And while I appreciated the ease of everything, from a cook’s standpoint, I like the prep work. That’s the time where I get the most satisfaction out of what I’m doing. It is the fun part.
But I can see the benefits for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time, but still wants to put a really cool, really tasty meal on the table.
It wasn’t a date.
But it was a fun way to spend part of a Friday date night.
(And for my fine escort services, I got a pan of chicken enchiladas; not bad for an hour’s work.)


Anonymous said...

Does that place have something to do with Dream Dinners?

Schteve said...

You're such a Mimbo (and Rockstar!).