I have divorced three entities in my life: two meal kit services, one human man. I’m sorry for the hazy use of “entities” there, but it would be strange to call my meal kit service a man, and as for calling my ex-husband a meal kit service — yes, he had a passion for takeout, but he meant much more to his friends and loved ones. This is the story of how meal kits and I met, married, broke up, acrimoniously parted, underwent a tense custody battle, and are now communicating only through our lawyers.
- MARCH. Let me begin here: I am a man who doesn’t cook. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve made two major pushes to learn, but because of a disgusting bolus of stuff around my gender and obsessive-compulsive disorder — plus living in a series of shared apartments with serious cooks who would monopolize the kitchen all day in a long, luxurious series of movements — I’ve always given up and lost all my progress. Now I live in a neighborhood with no restaurants, a distant grocery, and no car. In the first flush of the COVID pandemic, most ways of getting food feel either dangerous or ethically intolerable. Time to subscribe to a KIT of MEALS!
- APRIL. My first meal kit service is one I’ll call Bachelor Dump. The recipes come down to “put one pouch in a pot and another in the microwave, making sure to press the buttons in the right order, including Start.” I’m avoiding my roommates because they’re still socializing indoors with other households, and we’ve had a couple of hideous fights about it, so I dart to the kitchen to cook while they’re showering or out. Then I live for the next two days on the resulting leftover, which is bottomless, and sticky.
- MAY. Endless rain of Bachelor Dump.
- JUNE. Relations with my roommates have thawed, in the sense that the permafrost is thawing: the weather is nicer, but still, nobody’s happy. This means I can come to the kitchen a little more predictably. Unable to bear any more Brussels sprouts mixed with something vaguely peanutty, I lose my fucking mind and switch meal kits. Now I subscribe to the biggest and most popular kit, which I’ll call Pseudosous. At the sight of the first thing I’ll make — a grilled cheese with something sautéed in it — I get amped up with joy and terror. I haven’t had cheese since March.
- JULY. The grilled cheese is almost beyond my skills. My current Cooking Roommate (who is, it has to be said, absolutely phenomenal at it) is an iron skillet enthusiast, and I’m as frightened of iron as if I were one of the Fae Folk, so I try to make the sandwiches in the only stovetop vessel I own: a gorgeous Le Creuset stock pot left over from before my first divorce (the one from the man). The result is predictable, but it’s also delicious. For the first time in a decade, I also cook meat which isn’t loose sausage that I gingerly dump from the package directly into the pot. As one far too honest testimonial on Pseudosous’ site says, “I feel like I’m cooking!”
- AUGUST. I’m still having a wonderful time with my best friends at Pseudosous, especially since I’ve now moved from my shared apartment into a studio. I’m getting increasingly competent at cooking; the recipes are at my exact difficulty level, and I now have the skills and equipment to laugh at a grilled sandwich. Every meal I make is René Auberjonois’ chef song from The Little Mermaid. Hee hee hee! Hon hon hon! Still, I’ve started to notice that many Pseudosous meals rely on premixed sauces and stuff — you can use this service to train yourself in the basics, but you can also become dependent on it, because the kits do the hard work for you while giving you all the sense of accomplishment you’d get for a much harder task. Hmm???
- SEPTEMBER. I discover that Pseudosous’ email communications take two forms. One is “We know this is a real gutpunch, but we’re afraid that we’ve had to substitute WHITE VINEGAR for APPLE CIDER VINEGAR in one of next week’s recipes. Rest assured that you can use the vinegars exactly the same way, and that our operators are standing by should you need any further advice.” The other is “salmonella onion.”
- OCTOBER. I order a couple of Pseudosous recipes — collaborations with a TV chef — which are much more challenging than usual, and find that it’s hard to go back to the regular ones. Managing the tricky time management of the elaborate sides and fussy meat was exhilarating; the normal meals now feel no harder than the stuff from Bachelor Dump. I stare at my reflection in a spoon. Am I just a cook now — a normal person who enjoys chopping and isn’t afraid of meat? And if that’s true, why am I allowing all my meals to be shipped to me by a stranger who’s obsessed with capers, sambal oelek, and little tubs of creme fraiche?
- NOVEMBER. I divorce Pseudosous, invest in measuring cups and spoons and a god damned Microplane, and now I run through the streets of the city, balancing an egg on a spoon.