I hate to cook. I love baking, but I hate to cook.
I’m not good at cooking. I don’t have any kind of palate and I have no clue how to season. My friends cook meals for me and when I ask where they got the recipe, I hear the sentence I abhor even more than cooking, “Oh, I just threw a bunch of things together.”
This level of cooking is, to me, a superpower- the ability to take a bunch of ingredients and make them work together as a plate of food. I would so rather have this super power over flight or invisibility any day.
On my birthday this year, my sister sent me a two-week meal kit subscription.
Meal kit subscriptions are online delivery services that send you ingredients to make homemade meals from scratch. The concept seemed fun, but a little scary. You’re given ingredients and then asked to make something out of them? All I could hear were the echoing voices of my super power friends, “I just threw a bunch of things together.”
This might be the birthday present from hell.
But then I talked to my sister and looked at the website. It turns out that a meal kit subscription is the perfect gift for people just like me: the spice handicapped and the palate atrophied.
When my first box arrived, I nearly tackled the FedEx man. I couldn’t wait to start what I began to call them, my “food adventures”. The two-week subscription meant that I would be getting six meals, six gourmet caliber meals, if I was able to read instructions and not burn anything, that is. Trust me, that can be a lot for me to handle when it comes to cooking.
I feverishly opened the box and there before me sat a beautiful array of ingredients, all perfectly portioned for three amazing two-serving meals. The list of ingredients was incredible too as I couldn’t even pronounce half of the spices listed, which goes to say that I had never tasted any of them.
The first box came with the ingredients for the following dishes: crispy chicken Milanese with warm Brussels sprouts and potato salad; fresh pimento cheeseburgers with collard green and carrot slaw and lastly, seared cod and udon noodles cooked with shiitake broth and togarashi-spiced cucumber.
The order stated that the best way to use the box was to cook any seafood first as it expires the quickest. So I plunged into the seared cod recipe. What followed was an incredible experience that I am now thoroughly addicted to.
Along with your box of ingredients, are three full-color recipes with complete instructions with guiding pictures so you can be sure your broth looks the way the broth is supposed to look, a great thing for people like me who would have not thought twice had my broth been hot pink. I was a tabula rasa, clean slate when it came to shiitake broth, apparently it’s supposed to be light brown and taste incredible because mine sure was and did.
Not only did I learn about ingredients, but I also learned basic cooking techniques that were new to me.
The biggest thing I learned? Prepping is a real thing and should be done every time you cook, especially when you’re trying to get a meal done in the time span of a Sesame Street episode… or two.
I had always seen those little prep bowls in high-end cooking stores and wondered why on earth anyone would buy them. They seemed like such a waste of money and dish washing. But now I am praying and hoping for Santa to send me a set as little piles of chopped vegetables sitting around on my counter no longer appeal to me. Pick up the bowl, toss its ingredients into the pot when you need them, end of story. High-end cooking store, I’m sorry I ever rolled my eyes at your prep bowls.
After my first recipe, it was clear that I was hooked. I loved the convenience of knowing that I had the ingredients and guidance to make a pretty amazing dinner and I hadn’t had to haul two kids in a car cart around a supermarket, looking for a list of ingredients I had never heard of, wasn’t sure I was going to like and wasn’t aware of the cost. This service brought gourmet food right to my fingertips and already premeasured.
I love the way cooking the recipes made me feel. While cooking, I would imagine that I was a knowledgeable chef, “throwing things together”. My imagination didn’t need to know that I was clinging to those full color recipes like Indiana Jones and the Arc of the Covenant. The following week, my box contained a recipe for roasted pork steamed buns with black garlic mayonnaise and spicy cabbage slaw. I pulled open the blind in my kitchen, thinking that people driving by the window would see me pan searing a pork loin and think I was awesome. The only pork I had cooked before then was bacon and I was pretty proud.
I loved my two weeks with meal kits. I have already told my family that if they are ever stumped for what to get me for birthdays or Christmas, Meal kits, meal kits, meal kits.
It’s the perfect thing for food explorers like myself, who get overwhelmingly excited about trying new flavors and learning something new.
Hopefully, the trend will stay.