Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: Blue Apron – a Pandora’s box of weekly culinary adventures

We enjoy the humorous situations on TV shows, but truth be told, they often seem a little far-fetched. The grains of truth are certainly there – for example, a child leaving an important school project until the last minute – but surely they exaggerate for comedic effect.

At least, that was what I thought until I found myself in a situation straight out of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

In the pilot episode of this long-running sitcom, Ray buys his mother, Marie, a subscription to the Fruit of the Month Club as a birthday gift. As the name of the club suggests, each month, she receives a box of a different kind of fruit.

Rather than seeing this as a thoughtful, enjoyable gift, Marie panics at the amount of fruit she has in her house and how on earth she and her husband, Frank, will be able to eat it all. When she realizes this first delivery isn’t a one-time thing and this scenario will be repeating itself every month for a year, she has a meltdown, demanding to know why Ray would do such a thing to her. He apologizes, completely bewildered.

When I first watched that episode, I found it entertaining but thought Marie was overreacting a bit. A subscription to the Fruit of the Month Club was a pretty creative idea for a birthday present, and it was hard to imagine how the presence of a dozen pears could be so stressful.

And then, Oldest Younger Brother and Sister-in-law gave me a subscription to Blue Apron as part of my Christmas present.

Blue Apron is a service that sends you just about everything you need to make a meal – the recipe, the ingredients, and the seasonings. Everything is perfectly portioned and pre-measured to make cooking as easy as possible, and the ingredients are farm-fresh and sustainably sourced to boot.

After choosing three meals from the website, I anxiously awaited my first delivery. I am not the most skilled or experienced cook, and I had my doubts as to how this experiment would play out. I am, however, very good at following directions, a trait I hoped would be my culinary salvation.

When the box arrived, I opened it expecting to see the ingredients for the first meal I had chosen. To my surprise, I found the ingredients for all three meals. I proceeded to have a mild conniption.

How on earth did the Blue Apron people expect me to cook everything in this box before it spoiled? Who did they think I was, Julia Child? Apparently not, given that there wasn’t any wine included in the box.

Mom assured me the produce would keep and that the meat and seafood could be frozen and then thawed when I was ready to use them. She also promised to help me if I wanted her assistance – a truly generous offer, given how much Mom dislikes cooking.

I cooked the first meal, Spicy Shrimp and Korean Rice Cakes, on my own, and Mom and I made the second meal, Seared Chicken and Couscous, together. Each meal took about an hour and a half to two hours to prepare. Everything turned out surprisingly well, thanks to Mom being a helpful extra set of hands and my refusal to let her add or substitute any ingredients.

The biggest challenge we faced was neither the endless washing and chopping of produce nor zesting a lemon while overseeing a pan of sizzling chicken but the simple fact that the Blue Apron meals made two servings and there were six of us at the house at that time, some of whom had dietary restrictions. As such, the Blue Apron meals had to be cooked in addition to whatever else was being made for dinner that evening, making it tricky to plan.

While we were figuring out when we could fit in the Potato and Artichoke Quiches, another box, containing three additional meals, arrived. These meals, I should add, were selected by Blue Apron without my input. You should have seen my face when I unpacked a tray of raw catfish filets.

In that moment, I completely identified with Marie’s panic over the Fruit of the Month Club. How could there already be more food? I hadn’t finished making the food from last week! How am I going to cook everything before it goes bad when I still have to meet my work deadlines and manage all my other responsibilities?

To quote Marie, “I can’t talk, there’s too much fruit in the house!”

Mom took pity on me and made the quiches herself. But before I was able to make any of the meals from the second box, a third box of Blue Apron-selected meals arrived.

There is nothing quite like the guilt brought on by the combination of a busy schedule and a fridge full of sustainably-sourced fresh produce. The famed Irish Catholic guilt pales in comparison.

Since the arrival of the third box, I’ve managed to make two more meals on my own – well, apart from that panicky moment when Younger Sister had to race into the kitchen and help me open a package of ground beef because I couldn’t do that and stir a pan of sizzling aromatics at the same time.

Though the Blue Apron subscription has been a source of stress, it’s been an excellent learning experience and an opportunity to broaden my horizons. My peeling, coring, and chopping skills have improved, and I now know what a fennel bulb looks like. When I first took it out of the box, I thought I had accidentally been sent a heart transplant for the Jolly Green Giant.

I also have more confidence in my ability to determine if meat or seafood is appropriately cooked and of course, Boots, our family cat, loves her concurrent subscription to the Box of the Week Club.

I’d offer a bit more of a wrap-up here, but it’s getting toward dinner time and I need to cook Lemon-Caper Catfish with Spiced Lentils and Collard Greens because I don’t know if there’s a fourth box currently in transit. I’ve been so busy cooking, I haven’t had time to contact Oldest Younger Brother and ask him how long this subscription lasts.

And I just discovered that the all-important lemon has mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps a subscription to the Fruit of the Month Club is in order.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published Feb. 2, 2017


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