Alex Davis co-wrote Dinner at Your Door with Andy Remeis and Diana Ellis. She formed her first dinner co-op in 2003, with no family nearby from whom to mooch great dinners. Her sassy ad copy has appeared in Bon Appétit, People, BusinessWeek, and Sunset.

Why I love my dinner co-op

Somebody else cooks and delivers

November 6, 2008

What a blessing and responsibility to be the weeknight cook in your family. On a good night, you’re inspired — you’ve got fabulous ingredients and are ready to rock the kitchen with a certain meal you know everyone loves. But when the fridge is empty and you’re out of ideas, it’s a whole other story.

Wait a minute! You’re a great cook. A crafty, engaged food shopper. You love recipes, grow your own herbs, and care about nutrition. So why do you run out of steam around midweek? Your problem isn’t weeknight cooking. It’s TOO MUCH weeknight cooking.

Even passionate cooks have subversive fantasies of blowing off the weeknight dinner hour altogether. Out on a bike ride? Keep on riding. Feeling lowly? Hop in a hot bath and hide out until mealtime is long past. I am now living these fantasies two nights a week, except our family still eats a fabulous dinner at home — it’s just prepared by somebody else.

When I formed a neighborhood dinner co-op, I found balance and got re-energized in the kitchen. In fact, you could say I got my groove back. I had so many weeknights to NOT cook, that when my night rolled around once a week, I was ready to turn some heads. Cooking for two extra families broadened my audience and somehow elevated my game.

Door-to-door dinner.

I work in advertising, and my best work almost always happens when there’s a little pressure to perform — and a clear deadline. With my dinner co-op, I allow myself about two and a half hours once a week to throw down 12 servings of something exciting. My husband and kids do the deliveries for me, then I’m off the hook for days.

One of the best things about our dinner co-op has been the variety of meals that we’re trading: Roasted Eggplant Lasagna, Salmon with Fresh Strawberry Relish, Indian Lentil Burritos, Vanilla Pork with Granny Smith Apples, exotic noodle salads, roasted, caramelized beets and root vegetables, incredible chutneys, and fresh fruit salsas. Finely shaved prime-rib sandwiches with horseradish sauce and watercress. Crisp salads with grapefruit, avocado, hearts of palm, cheeses, seeds, nuts, homemade croutons, and fresh herb dressings. Stuff you cannot pull out of a freezer.

Trying to get your groove back? You could go all the way to Jamaica in search of Taye Diggs. Or just hop on your cruiser bike and see what’s cooking right down the block.

There are 3 comments on this item
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1. by Shari on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:37 PM PST

That’s a very cool idea! Do your kids like it too? My kids are so picky, but it might help them overcome this problem.

2. by Fasenfest on Nov 6, 2008 at 2:17 PM PST

Great solutions to balancing the desire between warm baths and great home cooked meals. Bravo. And I’m jealous of your community. Seems a marvel that you managed to get so many families to join suit. Are these new friends or old?

3. by Alex Davis on Nov 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM PST

It has been amazing what the kids do eat. There’s a bit in the book from our pediatrician, who points to studies that show kids who’ve been exposed to a wide variety of foods at a young age (even if they initially reject them) are more likely to adopt those foods as adults.

Re: our community, many dinner co-ops I know originally spun out of my book club. However, lots of people are co-op compatible and never really hang out together socially. Look for the family with the killer vegetable garden, great taste in wine, or someone who brings fresh-baked bread to the neighborhood potluck! There are at least 30 dinner co-ops operating in our little neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.

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