To Cook, or Not to Cook, that is the Question

To Cook, or Not to Cook, that is the question.  And the answer is “No.”

Dinner at our house is a somewhat individualistic affair.  The children complain that we’re “weird” because a) we’re possessive about individual foodstuffs (that’s MY bagel) and b) no one really cooks.  (including them, hint hint).  Because I’m the Mom, strangers and family alike assume I should be slapping on the apron and firing up the stove. That’s not at all how I see the situation.

Here’s how my reasoning goes:

healthy mom
How my neighbors get dinner

I’m the Mom.  So?  Yes, I am indeed female.  However, I see no connection between the lady bits and time in the kitchen.  I know it’s a social tradition, but to keep with the Hamlet theme here, that’s one tradition more honor’d in the breach than in the observance.

I don’t like cooking.  Self explanatory, really

This isn’t a restaurant.  Also self-explanatory.

I’m not Michelle Obama.  She’s amazing.  She’s walks the walk, she keeps her kids on 1 hour of screen-time a day, she kick-boxes in the rose garden, and she grows her own food.  As a contrast, I sit in a recliner eating chocolate chips out of a bag and watching “Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

Cooking is best left to the pros.  You don’t see me spinning thread, weaving cloth, or sewing up my own jacket, do you?  I don’t cobble my own shoes.  I don’t cut my own hair or wire my own circuit boards.  This is because I live in a service economy, and also….

I live in New York City.  After I say that, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

How my family gets dinner

No one cooks in New York unless they want to.  Here’s the short list about New York and cooking:

  • You can safely use your oven as shoe storage between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and spring break.
  • You buy a cast iron frying pan because it doubles as a formidable weapon in case of home invasion.
  • You boil water in the microwave (sometimes with the tea right in there)
  • The wok is still in a box in the closet, filled with old tax returns.
  • You know the difference between the sharp delivery guy and the one who’s a weak bozon.
  • Your kids complain when it’s their turn to pick up the phone and order dinner.

That being said,  there are plenty of New Yorkers who, unlike me, cook wonderful stuff all the time.  They’ve worked this skill into the very fabric of their lives. They bought the

A very smart cook.

“Sneaky Chef”  cookbook and their fridges are filled with purées in labeled containers.  They know how to oven-roast broccoli without making it taste like a shoe.  They shop at greengrocers and farmers’ markets, then do pre-prep and meal planning for the whole week.  Well, that takes a level of commitment that I just can’t muster.  All that planning and work!  Just the thought of it makes me want to call “Number One Happy Great Wall” for some chicken, broccoli, and cashews with brown rice that will arrive in about 10 minutes flat.  For me to make my own chicken, broccoli, and cashews with brown rice takes a level of coordination, shopping, storing, foresight, and specialized equipment that I would compare to climbing Mt. Everest – it might be an amazing life-goal in theory, but in practice it’s difficult, expensive, and potentially deadly.  Just like my cooking.

This, in short, is one of the biggest perks to living in NYC that I can think of.  You can turn chore time into leisure time.  Someone else – a whole row of professional restaurants, in fact – does the cooking and brings it right to your door.  Depending on the cuisine and the neighborhood, it’s no more expensive than buying your own ingredients, chopping them up, and then doing whatever needs to be done to turn them into an edible meal.  Of course, there are half-way solutions too.  A lot of people (not me – did you guess?) enjoy cooking but not the shopping.  For them, there are services like Fresh Direct  and Hello Fresh that bring the chopped veggies right to your door, so you can just throw something in the pan and it comes out great.  It still involve too much planning ahead for me, but normal families probably love it.

But, here’s the rub.  I’m a foodie living in a neighborhood that is bit of a food desert (for New York).  It’s not as bad as, say, places where you have to eat at gas stations and drive-

A perfectly viable alternate use for a frying pan

throughs, but it has its limitations.  I cast longing glances over at Jackson Heights and Flushing.  Up here, the Dominican restaurants are excellent, but you can’t have it every day (well, you can, but that’s another story).   The corner Chinese place is cheap and cheerful but not great (not actually even Chinese — I think they’re all from Malaysia), and the Ramen place is great but no delivery.  The Thai place is completely inedible, and everyone else is overpriced because they can be.

So, I have a clever plan.  I’m thinking out loud here, but it will require one of those brilliant start-up entrepreneurs like the asshole who started Uber – hopefully someone less objectionable – maybe female? – to take this idea and run with it.  Disclaimer:  not me.  I can barely keep up with walking the dog, going to work, and this blog.

Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you’re one of these great home cooks who makes a delicious, balanced, whole grain-veggies-and-protein dinner.  Or maybe, you’re a stay-at-home wife with a husband in IT, and you cook him lunch every evening, and he heats it up the next day in the Data Innovation Lab and it smells incredible.  Or maybe you make a nice lasagna every blue moon, just like Nona used to make.  You cook whatever you’re going to cook anyway, but you make double the recipe, and you list what you made on my brilliant app….to whit “Washington Heights – zucchini lasagna – ready in 2 hours.”

Meanwhile, I open up the app to see what my neighbors are cookin’ up right now.  “Look at this zucchini lasagna!  It got 5 stars last month!” I swipe my order in.

At the same time, a cadre of independent bike messengers open up the app.   “I can do 2

Still working out the bugs.

hours of delivery now”, they say, and immediately the app pairs them up with the cooks and the consumers.  A bike messenger picks up my lasagna and brings it to me.  I have already paid both the cook and the delivery guy with the brilliant app I am describing.

Later, as I heave into the toilet at 3 a.m., I remember to log back into the app and give that cook five “frowny” emoticons and one “pepto-bismol” emoticon to counteract the 5 stars the cook gave himself.  OK, I guess you entrepreneurs will have to work out the minor details later with your Angel Investors.




  1. Tut, tut, tut. I started cooking when I was four years old. Love to cook, love to eat. That said, your “Extras” app has promise. Hmmm, I already have a NYC Certificate in Food Protection. I’m thinking of making a cassoulet this weekend since we’ll all be snow bound…..

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