On Monday night it was just Jakey and me.  Poor Nate went to bed at 6:45PM with a temperature of almost 104.  Meanwhile James was putting another few hundred miles on his car as he drove home from Stanford.

It sounds like his follow-up check-ups with the radiation doctor and the surgeon went really well this week.  The radiation doctor was amazed that the outside of his neck was completely healed and that he doesn’t really have any pain anymore (he’s been eating tortilla chips for several weeks).  He said most people have pain for six months!  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t know that was possible…

This week I was checking my email and I had a question from Sarah on our recent meal-prep experiences.  I’ve been meaning to share some thoughts for weeks now while our research and know-how is still cutting-edge.  And I use that adjective aptly as the six weeks James was gone are almost entirely a blur of putting Jacob to bed multiple times a night and…. CHOPPING.

But first, some backstory…

Long, long ago, when in hindsight I had all the time in the world, I started to hear about these places where you would go for a few hours, assemble a bunch of meals, and then bring them home and put them in your freezer.  Everything was already planned and chopped and decided and all you had to do was measure and mix and label.  I went to a place in Menlo Park and another one in Santa Cruz.  I steered clear of a chain called Dream Dinners that reviewers described as “assembling TV dinners.”  And then Chef Dane’s opened up near our house in Santa Clara.  He was an experienced chef who clearly enjoyed his own cooking.  Exactly what I’m looking for in a chef.  A stout angel from heaven.

As his business evolved, he realized that none of us wanted to assemble our meals.  We didn’t want to plan.  We didn’t want to grocery shop.  And most importantly, we didn’t want to CHOP.  We wanted to take the little white bowls full of little diced goodness and dump them into the sauté pan like on television cooking shows.

Chef Dane quickly realized that what we actually wanted was for him to assemble our meals and for us to just pick them up and put them in our freezers.  Well, if he would have just put them in our freezers I would have paid extra for that, too.  James’ tagline was… “It’s like money in the bank.”  Honestly, Chef Dane cooked the best Christmas dinner I’ve ever had.  But like many small businesses, he couldn’t make the economics work and they closed their doors.  One of the darkest days of my life.  It was March 29, 2010— Black Monday.  Worse than the year we lost Long’s Drugs.

After the closure of Chef Dane’s, we never really got back into the meal-making industry.  There were a few weeks where we tried Blue Apron.  But we deemed it TOO MUCH CHOPPING and canceled.  James became our meal prep service, supplemented by Door Dash, where we could have anything delivered for free to our doorstep from a hundred restaurants.

Then the Millennials came of age and started the monthly Care Package bubble of the 20-teens.  You can have curated outfits, organic skin care products, affordable razors, educational toys, manly bespoke accessories, and healthy dinner ingredients, all delivered to your doorstep.

While James was gone for treatment, we were the extremely fortunate recipients of a relatively new service called Sunbasket.  Our deepest thanks goes out to so many caring and generous friends and family who recognized that the boys and I could very well starve without James.  We had all of this amazing food show-up on our porch every Wednesday.

Sunbasket’s claim to fame is the chef from San Francisco’s Slanted Door and celebrity chef Tyler Florence.  The food was beautiful.  Absolutely perfect and organic and fresh and delicious.  But the CHOPPING!  Every night I would come home to my chopping project of onions and garlic and chives and purple potatoes and yellow potatoes and three kinds of fresh herbs.  And then I’d chop ingredients for the salad.  It took me twice as long as the estimates which may be commentary on Sunbasket estimators, or me as Chief Chopper.  In hindsight, it was a good distraction from the realities of the situation and of single parenting.

I’ve heard good things about Munchery, but we don’t seem to live in their service area where they ship their “ready-to-heat” meals.  We live in the “meal kit” area which sounds like a 15-minute prep version of Blue Apron and Sunbasket.

I’m now considering trying the next Millennial brain child: The Daily Harvest.  It’s just soups and smoothies, which James is pretty tired of after his eight week soups and smoothies diet, but sounds kind of good to me.

I finally went back to Dad’s tried and true dinners.  The last week before James came home, Jacob was hunched over his steaming plate of “Daddy spaghetti” and declared, “Good job Mom.  Your dinners are back in business!”

If only Chef Dane was, too.


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