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Subscription Addiction: I Hate Blue Apron

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | November 21, 2016 |

By Kristy Puchko | Food Porn | November 21, 2016 |

“Have you tried Blue Apron!?” I get this a lot.

I’m a modern woman who works long hours, but loves good food, and deeply enjoys the satisfaction of cooking. Thus many of my friends, family, and casual acquaintances online and IRL have suggested the well-known subscription service that includes fancy recipes and fresh ingredients should totally be to my tastes. So I gave it a go, and it didn’t go great.


How It Works

You create an account at their website. Choose a 2-person or family plan, which feeds four. (Sorry single people. You got to cook too much.) I selected 2-person, which seemed well-suited for me and my Mister. And we selected our first week of three meals to come at a time where I’d be swamped, so we’d share cooking responsibility more than usual. I thought it’d make things easy.

Each week offers six dishes, three with meat, three vegetarian. So you can mix and match to best suit your tastes. And a thorough list of ingredients online allows you to avoid picking things you might want to avoid for allergy or preference reasons. I chose all the meat options, because chicken, pork and catfish. Prices vary depending on promos.

How It Went

The box arrived as I was running out for the day. I quickly loaded all the ingredients into my fridge on the same shelf so all of the carefully portioned pieces would be together. This seemed like a fine idea until I went to cook a meal, and discovered that either the chicken or the pork’s supposedly sealed tight packaging was actually leaking all over the everything. It made a massive mess in my fridge and of the vegetables, which I washed vigorously for fear of contamination. So far, so frustrating.


Crispy Catfish Sandwiches with Spicy Lime Aioli and Chopped Salad

My husband bravely took this on. Neither of us had ever fried our own fish before, and we’d never attempted a catfish dish. So he admitted being a bit anxious. But Mister found the directions easy enough to follow, and he was proud of how well they turned out. I was impressed. Though maybe not as perfectly fried as the ones on the insert, these were so delicious that my mouth waters at the memory of it. The sandwiches were big and hearty enough that they were a filling meal. Which is good news, because the salad was a joke. Romaine drenched in glorified mayo. It was watery, messy and bland. We put it in the fridge as leftovers, but neither of us could convince ourselves that lettuce, mayo and radish was a salad. It rotted.


Roasted Chicken and Mixed Mushrooms

The second night, I gave a recipe a go. I picked the chicken because I was eager to make collard greens, a dish I’ve long loved but never attempted. I thought because I watch a lot of the Food Network and cook most days that this recipe would be no problem for me. But what looked like six simple steps at a glance was actually way more involved than it seemed.


Step one involved all the prep which involved a lot of chopping, peeling, cutting and zesting. I went way past the estimated 15 minutes of prep time (that orange did not want to give up its seeds), and felt a bit defeated before we’d even begun. My frustration grew as the recipe used words I didn’t know, like “fond.” And getting out my phone to Google things while collards are cooking was stressful. I burnt the mushrooms because they cooked much faster than the chicken they were meant to roast with. Still, I did learn a technique for cooking chicken that allows its inside to be beautifully moist, and it’s skin deliciously crispy.

We ripped through these meals. But that was a bit of a bummer in its own right. Normally, when I take as long as this to cook a meal, I make enough to have leftovers as an option. All I had left here were some underwhelming collard greens. (I am no master of Southern cooking, it grieves me to confess.)


Spiced Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

The third night my husband volunteered to make the final dish, in part because he saw how unhappy the night before’s experience had made me. He marveled that my joy of cooking was squashed over a service meant to make posh dishes easy. But stringent, involved directions are not the Puchko way of cooking. My dad never taught us to measure with cups or teaspoons. He pitched in butter and salt and cheese until it seemed right. And being so out of my depths with the chicken dish—taking on so many new elements (ingredients, techniques, deep-fried garnishes) at once—killed the spontaneity I revel in when I’m making up my own pasta sauces, soups or roasts.

I sulked in the living room pretending to work when I was really surfing Facebook. He shelled peas, and peeled garlic, mashed potatoes and sautéed pork chops and kale. He followed the directions to a tee. And the results were fine. A bit bland, even with all the precisely proportioned ingredients. He explained he wanted to add some more seasoning, maybe the Hot Smoke Paprika from Try the World we’d gone so gaga over. But because we were committed to this miserable culinary experiment, he followed the instructions. He’s a great Mister, and a better cook than Blue Apron would lead you to believe.


Conclusion: I hated this experience. On paper, the recipes looked great. In execution, much of it was a mess, in the case of my fridge a stinky, potential hazardous mess. The meals were good to okay, not great. Not the kind of thing I’d brag about pulling off, which I thought was exactly the point of this: to teach people to make food they could savor and be proud of. But I walked away feeling frustrated at the cost, and a bit worse about my cooking prowess. Honestly, I felt so shitty about how this went that it’s taken me months to write about it. Because if this subscription service is so popular, maybe the problem is me.

Eventually, I realized that was silly. And also, I can’t very well attempt to write those meals off on my taxes if I don’t write about them. But all the same Blue Apron was not for me. the directions—which claim to be easy no matter your level—were overwhelming. The flavors were too often underwhelming. And while we learned a few tricks that will probably make their way into our dinner rotation, this was a pretty terrible experience. But hey, my brother—also trained in the ways of Puchko cooking jazz—says Hello Fresh is pretty great. So stay tuned.

Check out Subscription Addiction reviews for Level Up, Stitch Fix, Try The World, Darby Smart, Treatsie, Chococurb, Loot Crate, and Candy Club. In comments, tell us which subscription service you’d like to see reviewed next.