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Nothing Says Home for the Holidays Like Take-Out

Posted: 11/26/08 06:15 PM ET

When my daughter returned home from college for the Thanksgiving break, it was not home-cooking she was anticipating with glee. She had visions of the take-out food -- sushi, pad thai, tacos, and more -- that can be delivered to our New York City door in minutes.

Home-cooking may be on its way to becoming an oxymoron. It may only be Baby Boomers like me who still feel a smidge of guilt at not doing it all ourselves.

It's not as though I don't clip recipes or watch the Food TV Network. I do. But I am more like the stereotypical Fifties Dad who barbecued twice a year than the stereotypical Fifties Mom who put dinner on the table every night.

I am not quite as consistent at not cooking as an old friend. When he failed to order Chinese cuisine by a certain time, the restaurant would call for his order.

I do have certain limited specialties. I make a mean brownie (Ghirardelli triple chocolate mix) for a school bake sale. I'm still trying to duplicate my late father's gazpacho. And when my daughter was six, she admired the grilled cheese on the school lunch menu and urged me to go get "the recipe." So, dutifully, down I went from the fourth-floor classroom to the basement kitchen to learn the cook's secret. It was Adobo. So now I can make both my grandmother's grilled cheese (without Adobo) and the school's (with).

I don't see this as the downfall of Western Civilization. Even parents who don't cook can sit down with their children to eat and discuss the events of the day. Nor do I think it has to be high-fat and high-calorie when the three of us split one entrée. I even order those customized chopped salads where one specifies the ingredients from an array of vegetables more vast than any one home fridge would hold.

I do mind that my family likes to leave the ordering to me: "No one calls like you do," they plead. I also felt chagrined when it was a take-out menu that taught me it was time for bifocals. Unable to read the fine print, I had misordered.

My daughter and her roommates did order a pizza delivery one evening. Knowing how hard it is to enter a dorm these days, I asked if the kid had gone downstairs to greet the delivery person. I was told the delivery folks know to climb up the fire-escapes and be met at the windows.