Millions of people are ordering boxed dinners and meal services to the tune of $5 billion in sales and growing. The growth and variety of these services is dizzying but basically it boils down to this: recipes, ingredients, and delivery. All you add is cooking and cleanup.
After that it gets interesting. Competitors looking for their piece of the pie offer trimmings such as menus for special diets, recipes created by celebrity chefs, weekly menus designed to cut food waste, biodegradable packaging, etc. All of them promise an easy time in the kitchen and a meal that’s much more homemade than takeout.
Executive Chef Richard Papier opened Arana in New Orleans’ Garden District about a year ago. He is holding a bottle of Kai tequila (Day of the Dead), one of their many varieties. (Photo © Kent Hardouin)
Over 1,800 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Many more fled the city prior to the floods, including Richard Papier. Ten years later, he finally came back.
“I didn’t know if my home was OK. I was sitting at a computer watching the governor on TV talking about the city,” recalls Richard Papier of New Orleans. Although his home was in the Garden District, far from the Lower 9th Ward, he didn’t realize it had been spared from the floods.
Papier had had to flee, along with thousands of others, days before Hurricane Katrina slammed into Southeastern Louisiana in late August 2005. He left for North Carolina, but not as quickly as he planned. Traffic was snarled. Power lines were down.
“Trying to get out of town was crazy. We had to drive to Baton Rouge just to get out of town… Both sides of the interstate were being used, yet even so, what usually took 45 minutes to an hour took about five hours. We couldn’t find a gas station, either.”
Home isn’t the only place where families bond around the kitchen table. So do firefighters at work. Generally, crews assigned to shifts that extend over consecutive days and nights, spend a lot of time together on the job. Eating around the kitchen table, (yes, fire stations have kitchens as well as dormitories) is a tradition that nurtures a family of its own.
Unlike most families at home, however, fire stations do not have one person responsible for the cooking; usually each firefighter rotates cooking for the “family.” And when you are together for extended periods, on call for strenuous duty, sandwiches and leftovers are not enough–you need hearty meals! Some firefighters are already good cooks when they join the department; others learn on the job.