All I want for Christmas is my very own Italian castle!
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I’m still trading postcards via postcrossing. Lots and lots of postcards. One feature of the site is a forum where users can arrange private trades of cards or play a game called “tagging” where someone starts a thread on a particular kind of card, and people tag one another, thus obligating themelves to send that kind of card to the person they tagged. For example, in a bridge tag, I might tag person X and then send them a card of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge card, and person Y might tag me and send me a card of the Zakim Bridge.
One of the things I’ve found very interesting about participating in these trades is the ideas that people have about Washington DC. When I’m asked to send someone a DC card, I’m invariably asked for one of three things: a postcard of the pandas at the National Zoo, a postcard of the Smithsonian castle, or a postcard of the White House. People ask for other things as well, but those are the three main requests. Does this mean that those are the three things DC is most famous for? or the three things that people are most interested in?
This has me thinking about the requests I make of people from other countries. France? I want the Eiffel Tower. Germany? The Brandenburg Gate. England? Big Ben. I’m sure these people receive dozens of such requests.
So lately, I’ve been doing some research and asking for different things. Recently, I traded postcards with someone from Tampere, Finland. Rather than my usual requests for views of the city or wild animals, I asked for postcards of the Tampere Main Library and the Lenin Museum.
It was a wonderful experience. I corresponded by e-mail and postcard with this person and learned a bit about him, and I got one beautiful postcard of the library (that building is amazing) and one fascinating postcard of the museum (the only Lenin museum outside of Russia). He also thoughtfully sent along a brochure from the museum, and a few other cards of Tampere.
All of this has me thinking about what stereotypes I have of other places and how they limit my view of the world. Now I’m off to ask for a tulip postcard from Holland.
I like to cook — sometimes. Other times I’m tired, interested in other things, busy or even overloaded. Those times, cooking is drudgery.
Which is why I am so enamored with meal assembly kitchens, which allow home cooks to:
… gather in a commercial kitchen and assemble prepared raw ingredients, following easy recipes, for up to 12 meals. No meals are cooked at Let’s Dish! or its competitors. Instead, customers pack up the entrees they’ve assembled in freezerproof bags and containers and take them home, to be frozen and then cooked as needed.
There are currently 10 different companies in the DC area offering meal assembly, and I’ve been to two of them. Let’s Dish! was fine. ThymeOut is very good — the ingredients are of better quality (and locally sourced when possible) and the recipes are much more interesting. ThymeOut is the one I will be going back to.
Both places used similar processes. They offer a variety of dishes on their website, and you buy a package of dishes (between 4 & 12, each company has different package sizes) and select which dishes you want. Each dish makes 6 servings, and they can be split into two dishes of 3 servings each. When you go to the kitchen, you put on an apron (and a headscarf at Let’s Dish!). They have stations set up for each recipe, with all the ingredients prepared and waiting, and you make one dish at each station. You can adjust the recipes to your liking (I doubled the seasonings in everything I made). You put each dish in a tray or bag and take it home and freeze it. Thawing and cooking instructions are provided.
There are several things I like about meal assembly kitchens. I like that the food is assembled and then frozen — not cooked and frozen — so it tastes much better than most other make ahead meals. It’s also very fast — I made 6 6-serving dishes in 90 minutes, and it only took that long because I was slow. For my family, that’s 12 meals — not bad for 90 minutes. I like that the meals are tastier than take out and healthier than fast food, and I can control the portion sizes to some extent (that is harder when eating out). It is also cheaper than eating out — although it is more expensive than cooking everything myself from scratch.
There are some drawbacks. The vegetarian options are very limited, and you pay one flat price, regardless of the cost of the dishes you make (I rarely eat beef or seafood which is more expensive than the vegetarian, chicken or pork dishes I made). The changes you can make to a recipe are limited to the ingredients offered — you can only add more or less of something, you can’t add something entirely different. There’s also a lot of packaging involved, which can’t be green.
However, overall I am very happy with the experience and the product. Dinner is a lot easier to get on the table. I still cook things from scratch, but only what and when I want to. Not night after night after night after night…..
This is what dinner table conversation is like at my house:
Me: [Whining about not feeling my blogging mojo because Rome is burning and whatever drivel I write is meaningless next to that.]
He: Rome has been burning for 10,000 years, and it will continue to burn as long as there are two people left to stare at each other.
He: Screw it, write what you want.