FDC Supplemental: Mail Food

Here’s the mail.

It never fails.

It makes me want to wag my tail.

When it comes I want to wail.

Mail.

-Unknown

Like most people, I really enjoy getting stuff in the mail. Back in the day my only mail consisted of birthday cards; a pretty solid piece of mail, but it only comes once a year. Nowadays we can generate our own mail to get that rush all the time. In addition to the odd things purchased on eBay and Amazon (I once bought a rusty old hatchet on eBay – what a world!), there are subscription services for clothes, collectibles, dog toys and treats, groceries, and video games. I’m pretty sure at some point my dad received a trial version of one that was just a bunch of different weird types of jerky. Most recently, my parents have been really into Plated, a service that delivers meals for two up to four times per week. My mom’s subscription allowed her to gift me a free trial week, which I happily accepted. This is the story of that journey.

To set the stage a little bit, I never ever cook. For example, tonight for dinner I ate leftover pizza, some old pasta, and a handful of Cheez-its. I was excited to have a week when I was forced to actually cook for myself. And since I live by myself, those meals for two gave me the opportunity to be lazy on other days because I’d have leftovers. And I’d presumably eat some vegetables, so Michelle Obama is happy in this scenario, too. There was also some serious appeal of having step by step recipes along with the exact amount of ingredients I’d need delivered to my door.

Right off the bat I was pretty pleased with Plated. The main reason: my fridge looked like that of someone who actually cooks ever. It didn’t take much for me to get delusional about who I was.

Plated is basically an adulting tool kit. Impress your friends and neighbors.

Plated is basically an adulting tool kit. Impress your friends and neighbors!

Meal #1 was Italian Beef Lettuce Wraps. Ground beef, bruschetta, and parmesan inside lettuce cups, along with some roasted potatoes. My spirits were already high as I prepared to dig in as Wild Wild West came on shuffle during the cooking home stretch. The wraps were pretty tasty, but also just an unholy mess. They were just…leaky, for lack of a better word. I also wished I had loaded up with more bruschetta, but I was scared of using it all up on the first of my two half dinners for two (or two regular dinners for one, for you math whizzes out there). Turns out there was plenty. It was pretty simple preparation, but everything was fresh and all the different textures and flavors made for a solid meal. As with most tomato-based dishes, this held up for some legit leftovers the next day.

My review at the time.

My review at the time.

I felt like I need to burn this napkin after desecrating it pretty badly.

I felt like I need to burn this napkin after desecrating it pretty badly.

The second meal was one I was looking forward to least but actually ended up being my favorite of the three. Bean burritos with homemade guac and pico. I’m not sure why I thought that would be bad. Actually, that’s totally a lie. My internal bias of wanting eat as many animals as possible blinded me to the possibilities. This was also the one recipe I made modifications to. I really don’t dig on corn in my food, and I was not about to put it in my burrito. I am ashamed to admit I just kind of threw it away. It wasn’t much, but eliminating food waste is kind of the point of this whole deal. Oops. Still left with a solid filling of cabbage, cheese, black beans, guac, and hot sauce, I forged ahead. I also thought it was cute the recipe said to use “as much hot sauce as desired” given my “desire” was “all.” On the home stretch I made a few crucial errors that made my burritos not quite as good as they could have been. I didn’t mix the filling well enough, so I ended up with one that had all the beans and one with all the cabbage (aka one good and one terrible). Second, I got distracted by the Appraisal tool in Pokemon Go and totally burnt one side of the burritos (I needed to know which of my Pokemon were breathtaking!).

Also one of the most disgusting looking guacamoles ever.

Also one of the most disgusting looking guacamoles ever.

Despite the burnt tortillas, the whole package was great. Spicy, lots of different textures, and way more flavorful than I expected. My one complaint on this dish at first was there seemed to be just a comically large ratio of pico to burrito. But when I ended my two meals with zero pico and zero burrito, I was proven wrong. Also, for those who have watched me try to do literally anything before, it will come as no surprise that wrapping up the burritos was a real struggle for me. Shout out to all my Chipotle burrito wrappers out there.

So. Much. Pico.

So. Much. Pico.

The last meal of the week was the Basque Chicken, aka pan-roasted chicken with a bunch of peppers and onions and potatoes. This was the most fun dish to cook. Everything just looked so good while it was cooking. At one point I just had a bunch of red onion and paprika on the stove and I thought about just calling it quits there and digging in.

I mean come on.

I mean come on.

This dish also really also really pushed the limits of the pan I had. There was a full onion, three tomatoes, and two bell peppers in the pan before the recipe called for the chicken to be “nestled” in. It was nestled alright. Snug as the snuggest damn bug in the snuggest damn rug. Again, this probably is more a testament to the extremely low number of times I’ve used my stove than anything wrong with the recipe, but the chicken ended up a little overcooked. All the oniony and peppery flavor still made it enjoyable, though. Would definitely give it another go.

So after three meals, let’s break this thing down:

Pros

  • My apartment smelled good all week.
  • The instructions were super easy to follow, and there seemed to be built in time to clean dishes while certain parts were cooking. The OCD in me very much appreciated this.
  • This wasn’t some namby-pamby meal for two. This was a meal for two Americans.
  • All the ingredients seemed super fresh, which was pretty unexpected from mail food.
  • I got a good chuckle out of the broken box of tomato sauce inside a bag as one of my ingredients. Lulz were had.
Nailed it.

Nailed it.

Cons

  • I still had to cook.
  • It seemed really wasteful. While the system is set up not to waste food by giving you the exact amount of ingredients you need, it was packaged up with tons of blankets, boxes, baggies, and ice packs. Most of it was recyclable, but the ice packs had to be defrosted, cut open, and dumped into the trash before you could recycle the bags. The thought of that ice pack goop haunts me to this day. I didn’t want to see that. I acknowledge there probably isn’t a better way without making the whole deal prohibitively expensive, but this is ultimately what made me opt out of paying for it. That and the first con.
  • Pricing wise comes down to $12 per person per meal. Not super expensive for dinner, but it’s not Cheez-its cheap.

Onions 

  • There were a lot of onions in my Plated box, so they get their own category. I don’t have any issues with onions, but there were four full onions in three meals.
  • These onions were super oniony. What did we do to onions to make them hurt my eyes so much?
  • If you can die from eating too many onions in a week, it is a pretty large number, because I am still alive.

If Plated could find a more sustainable way to package its stuff (or if I could just get over myself), I would most likely give it another shot. Feeling like a real person for a week was nice, but ultimately laziness won the day.

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