This morning I spent two hours at The Dinner Studio, which is one of those preparation kitchens where you put together meals that you've chosen on-line. I first read about it in the newspaper, in a feature on the various kitchens that have opened in San Diego in the past few years. It was just me and the giant spanking-clean exhibition kitchen, with my apron and a jazz soundtrack. Don't call me domestic, but I couldn't stop smiling.
WAYS IN WHICH THE PRE-FAB AGE IS ENHANCING MY QUALITY OF LIFE
1. I walked in the door with a banker's box, and I walked out with two weeks worth of dinners.
2. Everything was metal and shiny: big metal bowls, shiny metal spoons, crinkly metal cartons and a motion-sensored stainless steel sink so you don't have to touch it with dirty hands.
3. The recipes were laminated and clipped upright on the stations, so I didn't have to hurt my neck or multi-task my elbows in order to read them.
4. Whenever I reached for an ingredient, the correct measuring implement was already in it.
5. Every time I used a bowl or spoon, I got to toss it in the sink for someone else to wash.
6. Don't like hard-boiled eggs or black beans in your casserole? Leave 'em out. Want several more heaping scoops of garlic or cheese? The world is your oyster.
7. The recipe listed the exact size baking container for each recipe, all of which were neatly filed on a shelf. When the food was inside, I pinched the little corners around the lid and slapped on a neatly-typed label, which really thrilled the part of my soul that is fulfilled by completing manual tasks.
8. Adorable freckled manager Lavinia plied me with soda, coffee and great big ol' slabs of gooey fruit pie (Steph and Mary: I didn't even try ONE bite!)
9. Any time I so much as looked a teeny bit perplexed, a staffer rushed to my side with help and extra spoons. After a while, I tried to keep my expression neutral so I wouldn't inconvenience them.
10. When all my meals were done, Lavinia gathered up a huge pile of specialized condiments, toppings and sides that were part of the bounty.
11. The whole she-bang fit onto two shelves of our freezer.
12. We ate the Beer-Simmered Flank Steak tonight with rosemary potatoes, and it was scrummy.