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Somewhere in the middle ground between cooking at home and eating out, there's a growing market for pre-prepped foods. This kind of meal delivery system is perfect for people who don't want to go out to eat and don't have the time to prepare a meal from scratch.
Meez Meals, now serving the Oak Park area, takes its name, quite appropriately, from "mise en place," the classic restaurant term for having everything "put in place" before meal preparation begins. And that's what Meez Meals provides: pre-cut, pre-portioned ingredients that you assemble at home. Weekly meals are delivered to your door every Monday in reusable coolers. You can get up to five meals a week for six people, or as little as one meal per week for one person. Obviously, the more you buy the better the pricing.
The menu selection is adventurous, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and "comfort foods" like couscous, spaghetti and enchiladas. According to Meez Meal owner Jen Moore, "We change the menu every week because we want to keep meals interesting. Most people have just 5 or 6 recipes in their cooking repertoire that they make over and over again. We want to mix it up with recipes they might not have thought to make on their own. "
Two Meez Meals for two people comes to $55. Compared to take-out, that's not a bad price. The servings, though not modest, are not huge…which means you can either supplement them with, say, a cheese course, or do what most of us should do any way: eat less.
One abiding gripe of mine is that when we cook a cuisine of an exotic culture, like, say, India or Burma, and use spices that are unique to that culinary tradition, we end up with a cupboard full of spices we never see again because they drift into the black hole at the back of the shelf. Spices also tend to get old and lose their flavor much faster than you might think – the folks at Penzey's tell me that spices should be used within six months. Meez Meals helps avoid the problem of wasting spice by including all the seasoning in the weekly shipments, frequently already mixed into sauces.
Truth be told, not all ingredients are included. For the Kung Pao Edamame, for instance, you have to use your own salt and olive oil to prepare the dish. If you don't have those ingredients in your kitchen, then maybe you should just eat out.
We're empty nesters now, so a service like Meez Meals probably has less appeal to us than, say, a young couple who put in long hours and value every second of free time. For those people, having someone else do your mise en place is a huge plus.
We actually like cutting vegetables and putting everything together ourselves, but we may be the exception. For the many Oak Parkers who want to cook at home rather than go out, but who would rather not spend hours at the cutting board, Meez Meals is a decent and reasonably priced option. There's even a hotline you can call if you forget how to boil water.
For me, I'd be delighted if there was a service that could come into my kitchen after I'm done cooking and clean up the mess.