The Family Home Meal: Fresh and local, even on a weeknight

The United States Personal Chef Association coined this slogan to explain what its members do: i.e., provide “great tasting food and the precious gift of time, with a convenient and affordable solution to the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”  True, as a personal chef, I cook for busy people so they can regularly enjoy tasty, nutritious, relaxed meals at home.

Those weren’t the only guiding principles when starting my business several years ago. For me, it only made sense to approach cooking for clients the same way I did for my family: as part of a healthy lifestyle, using fresh, mostly organic, whole foods.  Soon that core business value evolved and expanded to embrace sustainable practices, local farms, and regional food artisans. The same ethos has been spreading across our community and beyond. But sustainability, as a lifestyle, still isn’t on everyone’s priority list or even their radar. People are busy, and that’s a key reason some clients call me. I’m fine with that; family and personal time are high on my priority list, too. But I do like knowing that sustainable practices nevertheless enhance the time- and labor-saving benefits some of my clients seek first.

Now, it’s my frequent pleasure and labor of love to spend long hours in my kitchen; the slow food concept resonates with me. But much as I love to cook, after a day in a client’s kitchen I don’t always have time or energy to fix dinner from scratch when I get home to mine. Despite regular planning, I sometimes forget to transfer one of those pasture-raised chickens from freezer to fridge on Monday so it’s thawed by Wednesday.  As routinely as I hold cooking marathons to make lots of meals and meal components in advance, my family has been known to deplete our inventory before I’ve had time to restock the fridge and freezer.  And for all the good take-out/eat-out establishments downtown, options are next to nil in our county neighborhood.  In short, as a busy wife and mom myself, I’ve had that 4:30 pm experience of staring hopelessly into my refrigerator, asking with a tired sigh, ‘what’s for dinner?’

Yeah. I know. The irony is not lost on me.

Over time, though, we have honed easy ways to abide by the ‘eat well, eat fresh, eat local’ mantra, producing healthy dishes and enjoying leisurely dinner together at our home table–even on busy weeknights. I’ve posted some on the Recipes page; scroll to “Fresh, Fast and Local.”

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