Vegan Texas firefighters and food assembly centers: These are the two recent phenomena that pushed me over the edge into the fiery blog pool. Apparently, Americans are searching for a good old-fashioned high that sitting around a table filled with dirty dishes seems to conjure. The only hitch is that eating Domino's Pizza and Chinese food doesn't seem to award that rosy Norman Rockwell glow. So American women, who weigh in with a whopping 80% of the food making chores, are reinventing themselves as fast food style chefs, filthy white uniforms not included, trading glum meal time for Dream Dinners! According to the New York Times (Sunday, March 26, 2006 edition), when the dinner bell rings, Mrs. Cleaver now jumps in her mini-van, and heads to the nearest of over 700 meal assembly centers in the good old U.S. of A.
Mom is immediately attired in a complimentary logo-heavy apron, whisked over to the professional-style prep line and sprinkles, whirs and whisks away any insecurities she may have about not providing her family with stylish, home cooked goodness (at 3-4$ per meal). Why yes, the chopped potatoes are emptied out of a bag into a stainless steel bin, and the poultry and meat chunks were cut miles away in an industrial food factory, but hey, it saves on visits to the emergency room from a razor sharp Wusthof Knife. (Been there, done that.)
Spending money at the local food mart, no matter how beautifully the apples are piled is, unfortunately, just shopping. There is still the awful inconvenience of cooking! So avoid the chopping, the cleaning, and the decision making of which bowl to toss the roasted pecans and chipotle pepper into, and make your meal a few weeks ahead of time at a nearby meal assembly center. Then just freeze it until the fateful day when yet another dinner is needed. Oh, the neighbor's kid is locked out tonight and needs to crash at your pad until his dad's train gets in? Sorry, it's crackers for you or your inopportune guest, because Mom only prepared 4 Salisbury steak pot pies 3 Sundays ago...
Instead of standing atop your Jimmy Choos in your luxury kitchen, with requisite granite countertops and Viking stove, meal assembly centers are encouraging friends to come in together to prepare meals and have a party while doing the humdrum of dinner. Sounds a little like the barn raising hoe-down in the Harrison Ford-goes-Amish "Witness"; well, without the stewed lingonberries and hot corn bread, home grown within 2 miles of the picnic table, and Harrison's nimble, big-city hands.
Yes, I am horrified at the idea that American humans need other humans to chop veggies for them, in order to cook for their families. I would like to imagine a little preparation, delegating of duties, and good-old imagination could solve this problem without the introduction of a newly discovered franchise! What the hell was the crock pot invented for anyway? More on the solutions to these daily dinner dilemmas in future posts...
In another corner of American cuisine, apparently the hunky men and women in uniform who climb trees to rescue your cat, are not holding a pork chop in one hand and a gray tabby in the other. They are in fact starting to sprout their own sprouts and drizzle tofu with organic virgin olive oil. Firefighters, historically synonymous with BBQ, the original hit-an-animal-over-the-head-with-a-club and drag-it-back-to-the-cave recipe starters, have gone almost full circle.
The archetypal hunter and gatherer poster boys are downing tofu burgers at Firehouse 2 in Austin, Texas. A cholesterol reading of 100 points over the suggested, left Specialist James Rae shaken until a former triathlete-turned vegetarian-turned vegan buddy came to the rescue. Said rescuer was the child of a general surgeon who had done extensive research on the plant based diet as a heart disease fighting tool. Well yes, you ask, "what if I don't have a former triathlete, turned vegan coworker buddy to set me on the right path"? I can't really help you, I am just paraphrasing the article I discovered in the same Sunday's New York Times... But, there is a website which these hunky vegans from George W's home state have set up. Don't forget to mention PETA sent you.