Thursday, October 19, 2006

Prepared Food

One of the wonderful things about New York City is that you see such interesting sights. This morning, when I got off the subway, I saw an enormous, fat rat on the platform. Not on the tracks-- on the platform, 10 feet away from me. You know how they always say "oh, don't worry, they're probably more scared of you than you are of them?" Well this rat may have been scared or just confused, but it ran straight into the crowd of people who were going out through the turnstiles and I watched it actually run right over a guy's feet! He was way less disturbed by this than I was, perhaps because he was a construction worker wearing big heavy boots, but I couldn't believe no one else jumped or screamed or anything.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I can get back to the point and segue into another one of the other wonderful things about New York, a far more appetizing thing, which is its Italian food.
My latest temporary digs are in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood, so it's good practice for detaching myself from Park Slope. I didn't know this area very well, but it's quite nice-- close to Prospect Park and with a nice little concentration of shops and services along Prospect Park West. There is a small wine shop called Fields', and as I walked by one night I heard a woman greet an elderly man who was standing outside, saying "Hello Mr. Fields." There are so many businesses here that change hands but don't change names, since people don't want to pay for new signage, so I was amazed that old Mr. Fields still works in his wine shop.
My other favorite neighborhood business is a little butcher shop that sells a selection of Italian foods. I had heard their prepared foods were pretty good, so I decided to check out their lasagna and chicken parmigiana and some ravioli and meatballs. Oh my god this stuff is good-- I won't say it tastes like someone's little Italian grandmother made it, because I bet a lot of Italian grandmothers can't actually cook this well. And it's relatively cheap! A portion of lasagna is about $5. A chicken parm that is big enough for two meals is about $8. If I spent $4-5 on dinner every night, my food budget would be in great shape. Of course if it was always lasagna and meatballs, my waistline would NOT be in great shape.
So what are some other options I've found for convenience foods in these months of lacking good cooking facilities? Well there's frozen pizza and frozen fish sticks-- again, not totally healthy, but easy enough to make and only a few dollars a meal when paired with a salad. And then there is another fun option from Whole Foods: the microwave-steamed meal-in-a-tub.
Now I love technology and am a believer in the benefits of modern science. (In fact, when I was in high school I once made all my friends take this survey with a bunch of random questions that included "Do you think the world should be ruled by a scientific elite?" and I still don't really understand why so many people said no.) I love food, but if someone really did make that gum (was it from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or Willy Wonka?) that gave you all the flavors and nutrition of a 3-course meal, I'd totally be into it, at least on weeknights! So when I first discovered these neat-o microwaveable meals at Marks & Spencer in London, I loved them. Ever since, I'd been wishing someone would sell them in the USA, so I was thrilled to see that Whole Foods now does.
You get an oval tupperware-type container-- the top is sealed off and has a special valve that keeps in just the right amount of steam. Inside, you get some kind of fish or chicken or shrimp, in a nice sauce, with a few assorted veggies and some rice or pasta-- microwave it for about 4 minutes and presto-chango, you have a complete balanced meal and they don't taste half bad. The cost? About $7. Not the cheapest you can get, but not bad. [NOTE-- the first comment made me realize I should point out that these are not frozen pre-cooked TV dinners, which in my experience are usually lousy. These are fresh ingredients in a refrigerated package, and they actually cook in the steam rather than just reheating, which at least theoretically, or aesthetically, makes them healthier and fresher.]

Well, now I'm making myself hungry for lunch. That's the other thing, those microwave meals would be really easy to make at work. Maybe I should run down to Whole Foods and get one right now... let's hope I don't trip over any rats along the way.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you dinners. frozen food, cooked in the microwave, with a meat and a vegetable. Will the wonders ever cease?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

what's this italian place called? I think i'm close by and i love italian food.

Madame X said...

It's the United Meat Market, on Prospect Park West just a couple doors down from Farrell's.

Stephanie said...

I did a "Mega Menu" with some friends. We had a great time, made a bunch of frozen meals and then split them up! Here's the write up of it:

It was great fun and you might want to try it. Or just go out to eat with your cousin! :-)

Anonymous said...

It was Willy Wonka, fyi.

Joe W