6 Ways to Combat Pandemic Cuisine Boredom
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It’s 2021, and we’re still staying home. That's living at home and working from home. And baking and cooking at home. Eating (and maybe even drinking) at home.
But that doesn’t mean that our palates have to stay home — or that we can’t bring restaurant-quality food experiences to our own personal dining rooms! During the year of the pandemic, the popularity of meal kits and prepared meals has risen like, well, sourdough, and this new year will likely see even more growth. After all, we’re all exhausted, and a fridge full of ready-made meals delivered to your door sounds like just the break you need. Even for those who still have the energy to cook, subscription boxes are a great way to learn the basics.
By now, everyone’s heard of or tried Blue Apron, Freshly, Sunbasket, and other big brands that have popped up in ads all over your social media feeds. However, sprouting up like the organic mushrooms you might find in one of those boxes are niche competitors waiting to become your favorites. Whether your focus is wellness, taking your taste buds on a global tour, or just practicing some self-care in treating yourself to something easy-peasy, no-need-to-lemon-squeezy (because a chef already did that for you), we have 10 other options for you.
South Asia's Tantalizing Spices
Global Belly: This Indian American, women-owned company is one of the best and easiest ways to get a healthy taste of South Asia in your kitchen. Madhuri Sharma started this company as a way to make from-scratch Indian and Thai cuisine more accessible to the home cook, taking the guesswork out of sourcing the exotic herbs, spices, and other seasonings that could make this cuisine seem intimidating. In fact, pantry kits with portioned spices give you room to riff. Although the selection is small, the experience is not. Global Belly's professionally developed recipes are based on authentic, traditional preparations and include content cards with the dish’s background, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to make it. This turns every meal into a learning experience and gives users respect for the cuisine and cultures, helping to fight stereotyping and appropriation.
Takeout Kit: Continuing on the global journey is this option, where the only thing you need to shop for is your protein of choice. The menu is truly global, spanning Asia (from India to Japan to Vietnam and Thailand) to Europe (with paella, risotto, and spaetzle) to Africa (featuring Moroccan shakshuka and Ethiopian fare). There's even a stop in South America (Peru and Argentina). Every option provides some background information on the dish you’re choosing, like its origin, traditional preparation notes, and more. What’s cool is that it even comes with drink-pairing suggestions, such as honey wine with lentils and injera, pale lager with Sichuan mapo tofu, or mint tea with shakshuka.
Eattiamo: Straight from Italy, these meal kits are authentic and chosen to have the highest-quality production methodologies the old country can offer. But don’t think that these are relegated only to old school — you’ll find new innovations in each month’s options, too, such as a gluten-free white corn pasta with filling, deep green spirulina or vibrant corn, turmeric, and black pepper pasta. Every box features seven products or ingredients that you can enjoy separately or together, and offers provision enough for four.
Seligo: Another Italian contender, this kit is all about the pasta. It provides an antipasto, an artisan-made, small-batch package of ancient grain pasta, and a sauce — all of which are imported from Italy and verified to be authentic to their origin. The recipes are centered around Sicilian traditions, such as eggplant-based Pasta alla Norma, which was one of my favorite taste experiences from my own trip to that island. Other pasta sauces have included traditional basil pesto, raw pistachio pesto, arrabbiata, and others.
They send special gifts in the form of tools that will help you up your flame game.
Fire Up the Grill!
My BBQ Box: If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a pit mistress, here’s your chance. With this kit, all you have to do is bring the meat! Every kit comes with a “custom-crafted, competition-tested dry rub” that focuses on a specific region of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Detailed instructions help to make you a champ at a variety of techniques across various states, from Texas to Tennessee and Georgia to California. I absolutely adore North Carolina barbecue with its sharp vinegar tang and Texan smoked beef, so to be able to bring the best of these states home sounds like a dream. Plus, they send special gifts in the form of tools that will help you up your flame game.
And for Dessert...
Blissful Bakes by E Squared Sweets: Of course, we must have dessert! This brand focuses on creating kits that vary by the season, keeping your last course on theme with the time of year … no matter where the inspiration for your main came from. Pre-measured ingredients make everyone a master baker, and step-by-step instructions are available in both written and in video formats.