Two weeks ago I ended a love affair. It had gone on too long and I was beginning to feel guilty. At first, it was exciting hearing my doorbell ring predictably each Tuesday mid-morning; thrilling to guess what might be planned for me that week. But after a few months, it became boring and demanding, and I realized it probably wasn’t good for me or my family. I broke up with Blue Apron.
It all started about six months ago when I heard about Blue Apron’s weekly meal delivery service, which will send a box filled with recipes for three meals and all the ingredients for same to your front door. I was told of the delicious options, and how they could be customized to meet my tastes and requirements. Throughout thirty-two years of marriage I’ve cooked dinner nearly every weeknight. Since becoming an empty nester three years ago, my meal repertoire has gotten limited, as my husband, unlike my children, will eat anything. Monday was always salmon night, and then I rotated four or five easy recipes through the next few nights of the week. I was bored out of my mind so the Blue Apron plan sounded intriguing. I signed up, choosing Tuesday as my delivery day and opting out of lamb. A couple of weeks later, the doorbell rang and there it was. On MY front porch. A medium-size brown box stamped with the words “Blue Apron.” My heart skipped a beat as I bent over and picked it up, carefully cradling it to the kitchen. I slit open its taped seams and found the recipe pages and an informative sheet about some of the exotic produce contained within …carrots. Hmm. I know carrots, so I tossed that. But, the recipes looked good. I tore open the large foil envelope that just fit into the box and when I did, cool air wafted gently across my face. I pulled back a large frozen ice packet to reveal lots of beautiful fresh produce, a cucumber, some kale, two scallions (always just two scallions), garlic, a lemon, and some cherry tomatoes. Next came three small brown bags labeled “Knick Knacks,” containing carefully measured spices and seasonings, for each of the recipes. Then another ice pack followed by wild Atlantic salmon, juicy beef tips and a lovely voluptuous chicken breast. While putting everything away, I danced a jig, joyous with the realization that I didn’t have to spend time planning a menu and preparing a grocery list. I would not darken the door of the grocery store today. Woohoo! It was only 10:30 a.m. and I had the whole day ahead of me. What was happening? Just dreams coming true, that’s all.
I began preparing meals with such names as Crispy Catfish with Kale-Farro Salad & Warm Grape Relish, Beef & Shishito Open-Faced Sandwiches and Za’atar Chicken & Pearl Couscous with asparagus & pink lemon compote. It was fun looking at the recipes and realizing everything I needed was in my kitchen, already pre-measured and packaged. No more rushing to the store at the last minute for smoked paprika. Then the prepping, chopping, and general sous-chefing began, which took a bit longer than I’d anticipated. Our first BA meal wasn’t on the table until 8:45 p.m. but the end result looked and tasted as if a real chef had prepared it. After a couple of weeks, I had the routine down: rinse all the produce, open the bag of knick knacks, put water on to boil, pre-heat the oven, then commence chopping. The hour or so spent mincing shallots, medium dicing cucumbers, coring tomatoes, smashing garlic “until it resembles a paste,” mincing lemon rind and ALWAYS thinly slicing scallions “on an angle, separating the white bottoms and green tops” was worth it. I enjoyed the challenge of preparing new dishes and trying new things. But, alas, after a few months, the thrill began to wane. I was making a glaze and the recipe instructed me to “combine the miso paste, soy glaze, half the vinegar, and as much of the sambal oelek as you’d like.” WHAT? Were they making this stuff up to fool bored housewives, make us feel special? I stuck with it despite my doubts. The weeks rolled by and I got tired of the little things, like standing at a cutting board for 45 to 60 minutes. I cheated and briefly glanced at Rachel Ray’s Thirty Minute Meals. But, I always went back and gladly accepted my box every Tuesday. Two weeks ago I’d been working on Seared Salmon and Fall Vegetables, and had meticulously torn the rosemary leaves from their stalks, dipped them in olive oil (oh, the ever-flowing EVOO), and fried them, only to find at the end of the recipe preparation that they were to GARNISH the fish. GARNISH? I don’t spend 15 minutes on garnish. I can tear off a few leaves of parsley and place it beside the dish in 15 seconds and have a perfectly acceptable garnish. That was it, the last straw. After dinner, when I’d finished washing the ten pots and pans, whisks and slotted spoons used to prepare dinner, I went online and cancelled the whole affair. I suddenly felt lighter; now I could say what we’d be having for dinner and I could even go to the grocery store and pick just the right broccoli crown or pork tenderloin. I could use my own damn spices. Ah, a weight had been lifted.
Two weeks I’ve lived without my Blue Apron box; two weeks spent perusing old recipes and low-carb cookbooks. I’ve schlepped to the grocery store a couple or three times per week, seen old friends who ask where I’ve been. And salmon is back on Monday nights. But, I must confess that I’m having second thoughts. I miss BA and its exotic baby kale pesto, its marinated radishes and shredded collard greens. Maybe we should get back together. I could read the recipe ahead of time and skip some steps, leave out some ingredients. There’s always room for compromise.