My husband and I recently admitted to each other that we were feeling… curious.
Are we happy? Yes. In fact, even as recently as last night, we looked each other in the eye at the exact same moment, to remark upon our profound happiness.
And yet, we still wonder what life would be like if we expanded our horizons beyond Blue Apron.
Before you jump to any conclusions, we’re not one of those couples who bounces around between products. When we find something we like, we stick to it. We’ve been with the same personal hygiene, laundry detergent, and paper products for as long as we’ve been together, not to mention coffee and condiments. But lately, with all the eating-in and proliferation of ads in print and social media, we’ve found ourselves, well, tempted.
It used to be easy to stay committed, back in the day when there was just one major competitor, Plated. Why look elsewhere, we reasoned, when Blue Apron was satisfying us, night after night?
I know what you’re thinking: Blue Apron does use excessive packaging, it does involve a fair amount of prep, and there is the occasional dish that’s less than mind-blowing. But we’re adults. We’ve lived long enough to know that only fantasies are perfect. Relationships—even the best ones—have their flaws.
The pros of Blue Apron so outweighed the cons (don’t get my husband started on the value!) that we didn’t even flirt with Plated. Never even clicked on the website.
My wanderlust started with HelloFresh ads on the subway, those beautiful ads, so bright, so vivid—but how does the food taste? Before the fantasy could take root, I’d steer my gaze back to my folded-over section of The New York Times, and say to myself: I love Blue Apron, we love Blue Apron.
Ironically enough, it was in that very publication just weeks later that I spotted a full-page ad for Chef’d: The Times’ very own meal kit. I felt my resolve slacken. The moment I got home, I snuck onto my laptop and clicked on the Chef’d site: Just seeing the Times logo font endorsing a meal kit was enough to stir my desire. This must be good, I thought to myself: It’s the goddamned New York Times!
I should mention now that our years-long Blue Apron relationship has grown over time to include our kids, so I paused to think about how this decision would affect them. Children need stability. They hear our thrice-a-week Mmmmmms and “Wow!”s at the dinner table, and often throw in their own effusive praise. What message would it send if we suddenly, abruptly broke that bond?
That was the end of that. I never even mentioned Chef’d to my husband.
But last week, as we drove home from a family vacation, enjoying our favorite NPR podcast, an ad came on for yet another meal plan: Gobble. I can’t recall a single feature described in the ad—maybe the ingredients come pre-washed and chopped? Maybe not. All I know is, something inside me stirred.
I was overcome by the feeling that something better might be out there. More delicious. Easier to prepare. What if what we thought was deep, sustaining happiness was just kind of meh? The answer was just a click away.
When the podcast resumed, I snuck a glance at my husband and mouthed, Should we? I thought he’d shoot me down, but instead he raised an eyebrow, and let a sly smile ripple across his lips. That was as far as the conversation went. After all, the kids were in the back seat.
But it was the green light I needed to take the next step.
When we got home that night, the Blue Apron box was waiting by our front door. So eager. So generous. So naïve to the plan we’d tacitly just agreed to. I felt like a cheap tart.
The next night, after whipping up some Hot Italian Sausage and Gnocchi—more delicious than I’d expected, so Blue Apron—and tucking the kids into bed, I logged onto BlueApron.com to see if we could, you know, take a break.
The answer is, quite simply, No. You can “skip a delivery,” but there is no option for freezing your membership so you can eat around with other meal kits. Even Blue Apron’s logo screams “Marry me!” It’s ChristianMingles.com of meal kits, when I was craving Tindr.
No wonder I’ve been feeling suffocated.
That’s it, I thought, and logged onto Gobble. The first three dishes I saw got my juices flowing: Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Lemon Basil Orzo Salad, Chicken Florentine Rigatoni Bake with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Chicken Enchiladas Verdes Bake with Avocado and Pinto Beans. (Full disclosure: Beans are usually a dealbreaker, but I was in a state.)
My fingers danced across the keyboard, making selections, starting my account. I’m doing it, I thought. This is it, it’s really happening. I got all the way to the point of choosing a delivery day: Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Wait, what about Monday? We’re a Monday family at Blue Apron; it lays out perfectly for the school-week. B’bye, Gobble.
Chef’d, I learned, died a mysterious death, so I checked Epicurious‘s list of best meal kits. As I scanned their recommendations, I found myself eliminating contenders, based on key words in their reviews: “paleo” and “gluten free” jumped out of Sun Basket; “plant based” and “Tom Brady” took Purple Carrot out of the running.
Then something weird happened: I got really tired. And I hadn’t even made the first move with one of these sites, let alone fool around with a recipe. That’s not a good sign. Or is it?
My husband wasn’t even up for the hunt. Everyone talks about commitment-phobes, but maybe we’re commitment-philes. After all, as tempting as it is to imagine a meal kit that requires less prep, produces less packaging waste, and could send us to greater heights of culinary ecstasy, there is also pleasure in knowing a good Lemongrass Ginger Turkey Burger when you’ve tasted it. ❏