9.15.2014

LAST MINUTE DINNER PARTIES + OVERCOMING BAD HABITS


I am not a terrible cook. I make a mean pot of curry. But I pretty much suck at cooking anyway because I am a horrible meal planner. I have lots of excuses I like to tell myself, they're always entertaining and very, very valid. We are sort of emotional, spur of the moment type eaters, I like to say. Some days we crave red meat and set out for a burger, some days I'll get an idea at 3PM and it's on the table by 5, other days we snack on apples, cheese, radishes, salami, popcorn... mini Snickers... more popcorn... we go through a lot of popcorn. I guess we're an eat-to-live family, is the optimistic way to put it. And me, well I'm just an undisciplined homemaker with a heart of gold. I have yet to earn my pearls. 

We do eat pretty healthfully. You gotta keep up with the pace of life out here on foot, with nothing but ya grit and an expensive collection of shoes to get you through. We do a lot of moving and a lot of schlepping, and I don't just want my family to have the energy to manage it, I want my family to thrive. So I take what my body craves seriously and believe in eating pretty much exactly what my body tells me it wants to eat, when it wants to eat it, and I try to pry my kid's mouth open and shove all kinds of cruciferous vegetables in there when I can, it's practically a hobby. But there's no rhyme or reason to any of it and I struggle with structure and consistency. 

So I initially said no to partnering with Blue Apron. I've heard so many good things from so many friends who use the service and really, genuinely love it, but I didn't think there was much I could add to the topic and plus, y'all would see right through me so fast. I ain't no June Cleaver over here. Not even--but then--wait a minute--do I feel a personal growth opportunity coming on? .....Maybe, just maybe, if I make learning to be a structured cook into a work project, and thus actually have to do it... maybe this would be the time I'd finally get myself in there and make myself into a proper dinner-on-the-table type already, because probably it's just a matter of doing it, right? These days I do have a school kid or whatever. Hells bells, Holbrook. I think we have a challenge here!

So I chose the vegetarian plan (we aren't big meat eaters). I will say this immediately because it's true: I've loved having consistently fresh, sometimes weird ingredients to work with, that haven't been bruised bouncing against my legs in their bags by the time I get home. (The packaging for these meals is solid.) The other day I got to hang out with an eggplant, such a cheeky little vegetable. Eggplant has always intimidated me. We had a good chat, I gave her my best shot, she still freaks me out. Funky texture, weird seeds. We've made peace with it.


Hey Huck took these, impressed?

So your box arrives every week and it's a little like unwrapping an edible birthday present. You have no idea what'll be inside there and it's kind of fun to try and guess what all the ingredients are going to add up to make before you peek at the recipe cards and see what fate has in store for your dinner plans. The recipe cards are seriously great, though I still struggle to follow recipes and always end up missing an ingredient or obvious step anyway. It's a special skill.

Huck's was up for trying all of it, even the spicier dishes. His favorite was the whole wheat pasta + corn in a browned butter sauce. I told Huck those whole wheat noodles were worms, he was aaaaall over that.


Huck, ya cute. 

So I'm gonna level with you. Three weeks in and I haven't made much progress. Like, any progress. Dinner time is still erratic and unpredictable. I still open the fridge in the evening to make some delicious tostadas for dinner and then think, "no but what I really want is pad Thai." I'm still cheating on my kitchen with my Seamless app pretty regularly. I guess I'm a slow learner. But I have enjoyed the consistently delicious outcomes I get when I do get in the kitchen and cook. Confidence booster. There hasn't been a single dish that hasn't caused some slight disbelief that *I* actually made it. I do recommend the vegetarian menu full stop. But I haven't discovered my inner June Cleaver yet, and sometimes I worry I never will. 

But that's okay because I DID discover my inner [insert famous party hostess here] and she's pretty rad.

(Why it is I can not think of any famous party planners right now aside from Martha Stewart? Help!)

Here is how that happened: One hectic week during my 3-week trial with Blue Apron I managed to amass such a backlog of meals that every time I opened the fridge an avalanche of perfectly portioned Blue Apron ingredients would tumble all over me. This made me rather uneasy. Here I am failing so spectacularly, thinking to myself, I am the worst, as well as, I'd need an army to eat all this food, when suddenly! Ding ding ding ding! Lightbulbs and all that. Sparklers.

So I texted a few friends ASAP and invited them for an impromptu dinner party. Army = check! 

I prepared five Blue Apron meals in quick succession that afternoon. It took me about three hours, and since it was all there and measured out and explained to me in very clear steps, it was pretty easy. Enjoyable even. I felt pretty capable, too. Go me! I've always really loved hosting parties. I kind of consider it a skill on my short list of special resumé skills. What I really excel at is the last minute party. I love to scrounge up what all I got at the moment and turn it into something super low-key yet still really special. Working with Blue Apron on a last minute party was such an epiphany. No menu planning or hectic morning spent hitting every market in town means I have extra time to spend on the playlist and some flowers and on running the dishwasher one last time so I can make sure I have enough clean plates for everybody. Throw on a dress and some lipstick, your guests arrive, hurrah! One of the easiest and most relaxed parties I've ever thrown, and seriously fun dishes to try out. Some paneer, a watermelon farro salad, a friend of mine brought over bacon-wrapped dates and then it was a party! Brandon gave the sweetest toast that made one of our guests get teary-eyed.  I'm telling you. The greatest night.

Thankfully my girl Isabelle thought to snap some photos of the night on her phone, because way to go, blogger, forgetting to take pictures. Good one.


We ended the night on the roof making s'mores. After I put Huck to bed (mostly around his bedtime ;), we stayed on the roof talking and laughing way too late into the night. After they'd left and once the house was quiet, I caught myself humming while doing the dishes. At 2AM! That's a real party success. Like I was saying, all this led to a slight epiphany, steel yourself for this truly unique moment of self reflection.


When you're in the kitchen for that many hours and you're starting to think you'll never not smell like garlic, that's when it really dawns on you what a demonstration of love the act of cooking can be. I'm not just making a salad, I'm creating physical, edible form of my affection. Cooking isn't something I love to do but loving on my favorite people is, and so... Duh. This is obvious to the entire world and I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before, but now that it has, I'd especially like for cooking for my family to become a daily habit, because of course loving your people should be a daily habit! Meanwhile, here was my other good idea: a recurring Blue Apron delivery just for parties. Right? I love the idea of a few refrigerated boxes arriving on my doorstep every now and then, filled with enough food to feed my small army, a physical reminder to get outside my immediate self, reach out to my peoples, get into that kitchen, and celebrate the most delicious parts of life.


Thank you Blue Apron for partnering with such a slow learner, and thank you to my readers who often introduce themselves on the street, sometimes become close friends, but always turn out to be the raddest people on the planet. It is so humbling to me to have such rad, smart, cool people reading this dorky blog. Way cool, it makes me feel pretty great. The first 100 of you who'd like to can sign up HERE to receive two free meals on your Blue Apron order. I hope you cook them in good health for all the people you love who love you back. Heart eye emojis and stuff.

35 comments :

  1. Someone at Say Media needs to put a moratorium on Blue Apron posts, or perhaps stagger them out. We all read overlapping blogs and I just can't with another post about needing a food delivery service. If anything, it had had the opposite effect on me, something I maybe would have tried before has annoyed me to no end. You do look cute holding that knife though, nothing personal.

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    1. no offense taken, this is something I raised with the team beforehand. it's a hard balance to strike on all ends. thank you for this comment! you were very kind about it.

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    2. HOWEVERRRR, thank you for doing the first interesting, real-feeling blue apron post! i love the service (minus the lots-of-plastic + the giant freezer packs that i can't figure out what to do with), but totes relate to the "i know i should make this fancy food but i reallllllly want pizza" feeling.

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    3. I have to second sweatpantsandrubies, I think you've actually talked me into it. I don't want to be catty, but Taza/EmilyHenderson/othermomblogger, etc posts weren't really doing it for me. Actually signing up this week, based on this post! Plus, I have a 3 month old and have been REALLY slacking on the dinner making lately.

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    4. I think you've done a great job with the post, and to tell the truth it's my favorite blue apron one. -Hanna Lei

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  2. Looks like so much fun. And now I'm hungry!

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  3. Well, well. A Blue Apron post that I ENJOYED reading?! Looks like it was a swell party. Best to you!

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  4. Famous party planner: Pippa Middleton (and the rest of the female Middletons!)

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  5. I have read a few Blue Apron blog posts and I have to say that yours is my favorite! Maybe because you're my favorite blogger? I feel for ya though... I'm not always the best meal planner. Sometimes it's just.... too much. Popcorn is a good food staple to have in the house. Love this post and your dinner party looked lovely!

    xo
    Rachel

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  6. love this. you are the cutest.

    www.amoderngypsy.blogspot.com

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  7. Excellent spin on this Blue Apron biz Natalie! I've read about several other blogger's experiences and while they were lovely, they didn't resonate with me. I'm a married gal with no kids, so while I appreciate a mom's desire to get dinner on the table for a family, that's not my personal priority. You totally succeeded in making me see another Blue Apron perspective with your post today. Well done!

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  8. Loved the honesty in this post! Cooking regularly is something I am trying to improve as well. Looks like it was a lovely night. Also, where is that apron from??

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  9. I don't live in a city that has Blue Apron, but if I did I'm sure it would be lovely.

    Annoyingly off topic question... where are your glasses from? I'm on the hunt for perfect frames and yours seem to be it. Thanks!

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  10. What meals did you end up making?

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  11. It looks like the letters on your fridge say "shit". LOL!

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  12. This was a refreshing blue apron post! Hope you can continue to embrace your inner domestic engineer :-)

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  13. Definitely my favorite blue apron post. That last photo is fantastic.

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  14. I, like everyone, have read about three hundred (slight exaggeration) blue apron posts and I, like everyone else so far, have absolutely connected with yours unlike others that have at times perhaps not seemed genuine. I'm not the greatest cook at the best of times and am always relying on my man to cook (he is an excellent cook!) so something like this would be perfect for me so as to not feel like a complete failure of an adult human ;) But seriously I would really like to bump up my kitchen skills and something like this would be the perfect way to do so - somewhat controlled but still allowing you to make a mistake (or dare I say even an improvement #inmydreams) along the way. I also love that everything seems so fresh and yummy. Blue Apron, do you exist in London? If not, you should do so ;)

    Jemima Jane x x
    http://jemimajaneblog.com

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  15. What on earth is up with that aubergine??

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  16. natalie, this made me tear up and get super emotional. i'm not a great cook (i'm totally killer at salads, though). but hosting is my jam and, as you so perfectly said, loving my people is really what i am all about. from my perspective, it is a privilege to nourish another person's body. because when you nourish a body, you nourish a soul. and for nesters like you and me, that's the Great Point of it All, isn't it? whenever i host a party, i am certain i must be the luckiest girl around. thank you for the read.

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    1. Oooooh, I love that line "it is a privilege to nourish another person's body!" YES! You nailed it.

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  17. You're so cute in the kitchen! And I totally agree with your sentiments. It's such a wonderful thing to create and prepare food and share it with loved ones. One of the best things in life, hands down.

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  18. So does this post give me permission to say hello? I moved to New York in July and every time I'm in Brooklyn I sort of, in the most non-creepy way sort of look for you. uuuuuugh just typing that is mortifying. So much so that I've decided I would not say a word because that would just be way too creepy and weird for everyone involved. But maybe you wouldn't hate that? Maybe I'll say hello. I promise that even though I'm coming off as terribly insecure in bizarre via this comment I do present quite well as a normal human being IRL.

    Also, agreed with all those above that this was a cute post. And now we can all quit with the Blue Apron.

    Thanks for being honest, per usual.

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  19. Great post! But by far my favorite part is the ever so subtle "shit" on the fridge. Thumbs up, Natalie!

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  20. I must be behind the times bc I have never heard of Blue Apron. But I live in a podunk country town in Mississippi. I like the word on the fridge : ) What I love most is there are bikes on one side of the dining area, and a clothes rack on the other. It looks really homey. I have three kids and a hubby I have to cook for, pretty much everyday. Sometimes it is very monotonous and I lose that sense of importance and love. Thanks for reminding me of that!

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  21. I always love your posts...and I've never heard of Blue Apron, but then I am in London, England!

    I wish I could cook better & more confidently & wish I hosted dinner parties....and I am much older than you!! There is always room for improvement....I did a couple of cookery courses at a local college about 2 years ago, proper everyday stuff & that was a big step forward for me.

    I think you did really well, I love the photos, everything looks great - and I love your honesty, it made this post very "real"....well done you!!

    PS Love Huck's tee shirts :)

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  22. I've never heard of Blue Apron either but it was great to hear about them. I'm so glad you have the confidence to host dinner parties - I don't at all :*

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

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  23. Such a cute place you have! Love the style.

    Ripped Jeans

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  24. https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/12851663 please follow me! :)))

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  25. Agreed. Cooking can definitely be a chore, but it is a great feeling to prepare a meal for the ones you love and satisfy them. I considered trying Blue Apron, after reading this I might have to do it. If for nothing other than to just try some new recipes I wouldn't normally make. I often get stuck in a rut making the same thing... Great post!

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  26. Well, there are several aspects of wedding and making it perfect. Wedding invitation card is one the important aspect of making any marriage special.


    wedding celebrations

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  27. I get my groceries delivered in Scotland but none of it is portioned out and comes with a recipe! I love this idea of using it for party prep. It feels unrealistic to use it on a regular basis but this makes perfect sense. I'm no June Cleaver either.... but this is a great way to take the stress out of having friends over.

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  28. Hi Natalie. Love your writing, your capsule, your apartment. Dude. Is this the youth AA sweatshirt? I'm petite too and am searching desperately for THAT heather gray sweatshirt, you know what I mean? Thank you gobs. Also thank you for writing the only tolerable (and good!) post about Blue Apron ever ever ever.

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  29. I just signed up! I'm excited to try it.

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