Am I Blue? My foray into the Blue Apron culinary cult

Posted on 02 Jun 2016 at 9:05am
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The package of goodies arrives … including the dreaded button mushrooms.

If you listen to Podcasts as much as I do, you’re apt to dream of some of the frequent sponsors, so pervasive are their spots. Square Space. Casper Mattresses. Blue Apron.

The latter is a home food delivery service, but in many ways, unlike what you’re accustomed to. It’s not like pizza delivery (prepared food) or grocery delivery (raw ingredients you choose), but a box the size of a Birkin bag, with each ingredient individually packed, ready to be made into a specific meal. And they even have that done for you, with complete recipes at the ready.

And having listened about it so much, I decided to drink the Kool-Aid … even though Kool-Aid is something they would never send you. Nope. Blue Apron prides itself on healthy, fresh ingredients. And you will take those ingredients.

It seems as if most of the recipes begin by wilting kale or swiss chard ... a good way to get you greens.

It seems as if most of the recipes begin by wilting kale or swiss chard … a good way to get you greens.

That was the first wrinkle I had when signing up. You indicate whether you are a vegetarian or not; if not, you say whether you will eat about five major meat proteins (chicken, lamb, shrimp, seafood, beef)… and that’s it. Beyond that, you are sort of at the mercy of Blue Apron’s nutrition nannies.

I noticed this when I got my first set of recipes sent to me — enough for three complete meals, two servings each. One recipe prominently featured sauteed mushrooms, and while not allergic, they are not something I like to cook. Or touch. Or see. So, I tried to change my order so as not to get the mushroom dish. And while modifications are allowed in limited ways, it seemed that Blue Apron decided it was my mother: You will eat mushrooms or you won’t eat.

So I stuck with the order. And just skipped the mushrooms.

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One recipe called for coconut milk, which came powdered, but it paired well with the fresh seasoned-to-taste shrimp.

I could do that because I know a little bit about cooking, and knew how to modify the recipe enough to make it work for me. I think this is something Blue Apron customers do not often do. Because you quickly notice that this service could be called Home Cooking for Dummies.

You know when you had to take Defensive Driving, and they start out telling you things you already know (“Don’t drink and drive!” “Safety is the safest way to be safe!”)? Well, that’s sort of what it’s like following a recipe. They assume you know almost nothing and have almost nothing other than pots, knives, water, salt and pepper and olive oil. One of my recipes included a single pat of butter. One included 2 oz. of white flour. Another, a vial of white vinegar. To me, these are all kitchen staples that I didn’t need sent to me. But Blue Apron makes it even easier on your than your home ec class did.

My final plated version of the red curry coconut shrimp with rice noodles. even the lime garnish was included

My final plated version of the red curry coconut shrimp with rice noodles. even the lime garnish was included

The box includes literally everything: Produce is bagged, and clearly labeled. Meats come in sealed packages. A “knickknack” baggie offers many extras. All wrapped in a Mylar sleeve and surrounded by ice packs, delivered to your doorstep once a week. And on top of it all, big cards then walk you through the process.

The recipe cards are like pages from a cookbook — lovely photos of the completed meals on one side, step-by-step instructions (including “wash produce” and “divide onto two plates”) that take you from boiling water to dinner-for-two. Despite the mushrooms, the recipes have resulted in delicious meals. One — red curry and coconut shrimp with rice noodles — was something I’d never consider making at home. The others (meat balls over jasmine rice, fried chicken and mashed potatoes) broke down the process into such manageable bits that it made turning an average meal into something sorta gourmet.

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Another fully realized dish — this time, chicken.

At about $60 a week, that nets to $10/dish per person … not bad. But since you can keep the recipe cards, nothing can stop you from recreating it for yourself with a trip to the grocery. Of course, you’ll have to measure out your own pat of butter. That’s cool — I’m a pro at it now. And apparently a member of the cult of people who have already allowed themselves to be wrapped around the Blue Apron strings.

But I’m not complaining… much. Though I still don’t want the mushrooms dishes.

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