When I’m not writing blog posts, I’m a technologist. I watch netcasts and listen to podcasts to stay current on technology and issues. To pay the bills, they run ads just like broadcast TV and radio. The ads are for products you don’t normally find on broadcast media. They are typically targeted to educated folks with disposable income. And, yes, a typically male audience.
One of my regular netcasts is Windows Weekly. One of their recent advertisers is Blue Apron. The pitch: for a regular fee, Blue Apron will ship you a kit with recipes and the exact amount of ingredients you need. Your package comes weekly. Using the contents of this kit, you will learn to cook fabulous dinners befitting a chef. Supposedly, chefs in training wear a blue apron, hence the company’s name.
I take exception with this service. It’s not a bad or evil service. I suppose if I were a busy professional (with more money than time), I might subscribe to it. Listening to the ad, though, makes me think about some of the hooks of the service: it comes to your door in a timely manner, sophisticated recipes are included (on a laminated card no less), just the right amount of food is delivered, no waste (supposedly), there are videos on the web showing how to prepare the recipe, and (as with all food recipes) the photographs of the finished dish will make you drool a pool.
The idea of shipping a culinary dinner kit to your doorstep strikes me as counter to a CSA and the idea of eating local:
- You’re not minimizing your ecological footprint by localizing the transportation of ingredients. Instead, the food is shipped by farmers to Blue Apron’s facilities. There it’s turned into a kit and shipped to you.
- Nature does not grow perfect ingredients. Veggies have blemishes, sizes are weird. You can cut a salmon steak to an exact 8 ounces, but what about the leftover? Blue Apron claims there’s no waste in the ingredients they ship you. The uglies, odd-sizes, and fish tails have to go somewhere.
- You trust what comes to the door. You can’t interact with the farmer. You can’t verify the process of food selection, warehousing, or kit preparation. You can only ask questions through the web site or an 800 number.
- Your “community” is limited to a digital presence of comments on blog posts. While I think social media is useful, it doesn’t take the place of one-on-one interaction with real people.
Let’s play “What If” here. What if I were a busy professional with more money than time, wouldn’t I simply go to a restaurant? Yeah, but that gets old, and I still have to eat. Maybe I really want to try my hand in the kitchen simply to clear out my brain from a long day.
Maybe there’s an opportunity here. I’m not an entrepreneur, but could a clever graduate from GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education create a comparable local business? What if they bought seasonal ingredients through area CSAs, or cut deals with local farmers? Design delectable dishes. Create simple instructions – on laminated cards of course. Package it all up. Deliver it by Uber-like drivers to folks who want fresh, fancy, make-it-at-home dishes. What if? Would this be taking CSAs in a different direction?
Of course, maybe this idea of DIFM (do it for me) is counter to the mindset of CSA participants. I know I’m a DIY (do it yourself) kinda guy when it comes to my kitchen, my food, and my technology. Although I did try to brew beer about 25 years ago when it became legal in Texas to do so. The beer tasted good, but it was a lot of effort (and kitchen mess). I decided beer should be DIFM. But I will not wear a blue apron.
About the author: Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook. His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies. Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water. Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.