The first four Alien movies.

I’ve got to be avoiding some sort of deep dark abyss opening inside myself or in the world. That’s the only explanation for how much I’ve been watching television and movies lately.

I guess there’s a way to deal with these existential things bubbling under the surface in a healthy way, or I could try to find answers by watching all four of the original Alien movies over the course of 3 or 4 days.

Alien (1979) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray :

Ridley Scott made this masterpiece of space horror that every other space horror or serious sci-fi action movie has tried to emulate on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. You can see hints of both in the scene when Tom Skeritt is talking to MU-TH-UR (Mother) in a blinky-light room, punching away at a black screen with green letters. Star Wars borrowed from 2001 (I’m assuming) all of those white hallways. Alien borrowed form 2001 and Star Wars the same thing, but added in the freight business. 70s-type dialog where people talk over each other and cut each other off, jump-scares, good special effects. This movie holds up except for a few moments when the alien definitely looks like a puppet. The chest bursting scene is terrifying, but the way the chest burster peeps his head around is a little too sock-puppetty. I watched this movie with my friend who is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, meaning she was sheltered and hasn’t seen the films we all grew up with. But she also hasn’t been under a rock so she new the major plot points. The biggest shock for her was the reveal of Ian Holm being an android. That scene definitely is still so bizarre- who tries to kill someone by stuffing a magazine down their throat? And the weird noise Ian Holm emits while whirling around before Yaphet Kotto smashes his head off is uncanny and freaky. And Yaphet Kotto is the best in this movie. Probably my favorite acting performance in the whole film.

Aliens (1986) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

James Cameron, pre- Terminator 2, and pre- Titanic. This movie goes more for action movie than horror. I think it’s fair to say that it coined a lot of things that are cultural staples. Bill Paxton yelling “Game over, man!” Sigourney Weaver yelling “Get away from her, you bitch!” I was seven years old when this movie came out and my brother and I watched it repeatedly. Of the four original movies, it’s definitely the one that will appeal to 12 year old heterosexual white males the most. It’s still a good romp, but the tone changed drastically from the first movie. The first Alien movie was about claustrophobia and survival. It was about encountering an unknown thing in the midst of your routine life and finding out that the company you work for is actually out to screw you over, royally, and doesn’t give a crap about you. Aliens is about paranoia and the fight of a woman trying to get a bunch of dudes to listen to her. She’s talking sense and is getting condescended to left and right. There are claustrophobic moments, but Aliens is more about guns, sets, space ships, and kicking ass. There’s more humor and mugging for the camera. Sigourney gets into a freight suit thing that I’m pretty sure they made specifically for this movie, and stomps around in it a bit, while the camera follows each movement. “Where do you want it?” She says to the marine dudes. It’s clearly a sly moment for the audience and it felt a little silly. The special effects didn’t hold up as well as the first movie. The flying spaceship moments look kind of like Crayola on cardboard, somehow. The Aliens are frightening, though. The introduction of the queen Xenomorph is genius. Although the getting sucked out into space thing to kill it- that just felt way too familiar. I was surprised at how this one wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being.

Alien 3 (1992) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray: 

David Fincher directs this weirdly paced and overly long movie. It has some really good moments, though. A way younger Charles Dance, before he played the maniac Lannister on Game of Thrones is actually really good. The prison setting worked for me, too. A lot of this movie is Ellen Ripley trying to figure out the prison scenario and also play detective, of sorts. You think Charles Dance is going to be a huge part of the whole movie, until he’s killed by an Alien right after revealing some deep dark secrets of his past to Ripley. And I was with the movie up until around this point. It kind of felt like 12 Monkeys, in a way. Weird British dudes in this run down future, trying to stay alive. Disgusting lice-ridden dead oxen, other bugs clogging up pipes, and molten metal bubbling in the basement. It was pretty cool. But right around the point when Charles Dance gets killed, the movie sort of loses its way. We learn Ripley’s got a chest burster inside of her and she’s suicidal. Dance’s character is gone, so the other heavy lifting for acting goes to Charles S. Dutton, who is really really good, but he can’t quite shoulder the whole burden himself. The scenes of the inmates trying to shut doors and lead the Alien-dog-oxen thing into a piston room goes on way too long. There’s a fisheye shot from the Alien’s perspective that they keep coming back to. It goes on a long time. The wide shots of the Alien are just too phony- the CGI has a weird glow around the Alien against the “real” foreground. It’s just not that great. Overall, this movie was sort of disappointing.

Alien Resurrection (1997) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

This movie had a lot going for it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this- I’m surprised at how many of my friends hadn’t seen City of Lost Children or Micmacs, but they recognized his name from Amelie. The movie was written by a pre-Firefly and pre-Avengers Joss Whedon. You can definitely see the beginnings of Firefly formula in the rag-tag bunch of mercenaries. Winona Rider and Sigourney are great. The Aliens look fantastic. There’s virtually no “ugh, that looks dated” reactions until we get to the final morphed Alien, which is a strange human-Xenomorph hybrid. It has eyes, it has a weird nub of a nose, it’s kinda pasty and jaundiced looking. We’re made to feel bad for it and also despise it. At least Jean-Pierre put a spin on the air-lock death by having it be sucked through a tiny window. It screams pathetically while we watch its guts get deposited into space. Then the ending is also kind of a thud. They land on Earth, Winona and Sigourney exchange a few words, the camera pans out to show a demolished Paris. My friend I was watching this with had never seen it. “Wait, are the humans all dead?” She asked. I have no idea. Ron Perlman is great in this movie. Raymond Cruz, young and way before his role as Tuco on Breaking Bad is great- manic, likable, and just generally calm mixed with bursts of crazy (like Tuco). Dominique Pinon is so damn likable as the wheel-chair bound mercenary. Brad Dourif conjures his creepy doctor vibe yet again. There are so many good things about this movie, it’s a shame the weird Alien baby thing at the end had to happen in it.

I’m sure there are misspellings all over the place. I need to edit more.

I’m sick. So here’s what I’m watching.

I’m working on the second day of being sick- a head cold- the dog’s helping, of course. He’s laying on the couch in front of a space heater, and nudging me to take him out on walks. I’m Google Hangout-ing into my work meetings and keeping my microphone on mute so they can’t hear me hack and they can’t hear me talking to the dog as he’s pestering me.

When you’re sick, it’s the best time to binge watch TV. That’s definitely what I’ve been doing.

Community – Last part of season 1: 

My friend dog-sits for me and lets me use her Hulu account. I log in and see the “Shows You Watch” category. We have clear differences in what we like. You can pick them out: Hers- Kardashian things, Grey’s Anatomy, uh… actually I have no idea what else is on there because they all seem like variations of those two things. Mine: Community, Seinfeld, Adventure Time, Stephen Universe, Samurai Jack.

Community is finally getting good. I’ve heard friends say how they love the show because it plays with the format of the sit com itself, but I hadn’t gotten to that part until now. The first part of season 1 is kind of mood-setting, treating the characters as you would in any sit com: the weird one, the shy one, the cool one, etc etc. But after a certain point in season one they start being self-referential. It’s starting to get good. I dose up and… oh great my ADD or cold meds are kicking in. Here’s what else I’m watching-

Hell On Wheels : 

Cheesy at parts, but then it redeems itself with some beautifully screwed up racial politics and dynamics. It’s like Deadwood-light. With less likable characters.

Batman: Year One : 

I’m sure I watched this before at some point, but I can’t remember. This is the adaptation of the comic that began my love of Batman and gritty comics. It’s a faithful retelling of the comic book story. The best part is Bryan Cranston as Gordon. Oh and you wouldn’t know it from listening to her, but it’s Katee Sackhoff as Ellis. Or is it Ennis? I’m still on cold meds. I can’t wait for The Killing Joke to be released next month, even if Rotten Tomatoes did rate it pretty harshly.

Sleepy Hollow (the Tim Burton movie) : 

I rated this on one of my blogs a couple of years ago and I think I was more disturbed by it back then as opposed to now. It’s a good movie. Bloody as hell but that’s part of the fun. It’s cool to see Christopher Walken have no lines in the movie and yell like a madman. Netflix informed me that Big Eyes was also directed by Tim Burton, and I’ve yet to see that so I suppose that’ll be coming up soon in my sick-watch list.

Soundbreaking (PBS series): 

It looks like George Martin (Not R.R.) helped fund this cool series about music that’s kind of divided up into weird sections. Voice, electronic music, producers- each episode takes a different facet of each of those and then lets the pros in the field do the talking. There’s no voice over narrator. It’s great zoning-out TV, with a parade of all these people from every musical genre talking about how they make music. It made me plug in my guitar and pedals and start noodling around on it. My dog woke up and gave me the stink eye for a bit so I stopped.


Holy shit, this movie is fantastic. (No pun intended there.) It’s along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein uncovering stuff, but it’s great and if you’re like me and despise organized religion, this will just get your ire up even more. I love watching Michael Keaton act in just about anything (maybe Mr. Mom is an exception). It’s appalling how many priests got away with molesting kids and how the Catholic church covered it up. The movie making is kind of on the dull side, as my friend Bill pointed out when I texted him about how great this movie was. He’s right, but I think it works for this narrative. There’s also only one black guy in the whole movie. Hey if we’re making a movie I think it’s okay to cast against type and race every once in a while. Just try that more, Hollywood. Okay?

I’m sure there’s more but I can’t remember them. Didn’t John Donne keep some kind of diary about when he was surviving the plague? I’m sure if he had Netflix, he’d be much happier. Did he have a dog? He needed one of those, too.

(Forgive all the misspellings in this post. I’m not 100% with it.)

Writer’s block, the election, and When the Emperor was Divine.

I’ve got this paper due tomorrow and I’m not sure where to start. As you can see, I’ve got the necessary elements there – coffee (decaf, yes it’s almost 9pm.), computer, dog, book that I’m supposed to review propped up next to me.

Look, I’m even technically writing SOMETHING. I’ve got to buckle down on this thing.

It’s an essay for class comparing Julie Otsuka’s book When the Emperor was Divine with the current state of affairs. Comparing? That’s not exactly right. It’s about the current election and how Trump was elected president and the xenophobia that he’s been spouting.

Julie Otsuka’s book When the Emperor was Divine is about the Japanese internment camps during World War II. It’s told from the perspective of the mother, then the daughter, then the son, and finishes with the father who was taken away from his family and returns by the end of the novel. It’s not overtly about the politics behind the interment camps. It doesn’t tell the story from a policy perspective. It’s a small book about small things. That’s not a slam against it. It inhabits a small world about specifics and emotions- how the mother needed to put the dog down and get most of their things out of the house before they left for the camp. It’s about the little rituals and magical thinking that the boy does when he’s in the camp, like keeping his father’s shoes and putting his hands in them to see if he can still smell his father who’s been taken away to another camp. It’s about the normalcy the daughter is looking for. She’ll earn a nickel at bingo just to buy her brother a coke. She’ll make friends and disappear with them for a while to hang out as young kids do and come back to their small barrack.

Because Otsuka’s book is about specifics, in some ways it’s hard to link to the election and present state of politics. Big things are happening, not small things. Donald Trump won the election but lost the popular vote. Was it the electoral college is what allowed him to win, or maybe it was that he appealed to poor white voters who didn’t vote in other elections, or maybe it was because the Democratic party splintered their base by having insider tactics to help ensure Hillary Clinton got the nomination?  We’re still too close to when it all happened. Absentee votes were still being tallied a week after the Tuesday of the main election. And I admit to being out of my depth as far as analyzing how and why an election was won. I’m one of the millions of Americans who clicks on stories they see on Facebook, which inherently skews the bias toward whatever the Facebook algorithm thinks will appeal most to the specific reader. What is actually true?

Otsuka deals with this idea of truth with relation to the camps. The final monolog by the father includes him telling his interrogators what they want to hear. Yes, he’s the enemy, the sniper, the saboteur, the houseboy, the cook, and the gardener. They’re all lies, ultimately. And in this part in particular, Otsuka illustrates the fallacy of extracting truth from torture. It’s not said outright but it’s implied in this chapter.

What Otsuka captures through intimate scenes is absurdity and dread. Conversations between characters feel like something out of a Samuel Beckett play where a question is asked but the answer is slightly askew from any sort of normal response. The daughter throws a lemon out the window of a moving train for no reason. The son puts loose strands of his father’s hair in an envelope and places it under the floor boards, pledging not to look at them because if he doesn’t, then his father will be okay.

This absurdity rings true for our time in light of the election. America elected a president who has had no political experience whatsoever. He’s been bankrupt several times over. He blatantly flaunted to the media that he didn’t pay taxes. He called Mexicans rapists and murderers. In a time when every politicians’ words are scrutinized, he doubled down on making the worst gaffs in history. But at the same time, Trump contradicted himself at every turn. When journalists held his feet to the fire for something he said, Trump just denied it.

There’s the obvious connection between the current Islamophobia and what happened to the Japanese at the internment camps. My Facebook feed is full of headlines stating that Japanese internment is setting the precedent for deporting Muslims and creating a registry. If that happened, Otsuka’s book can give us a perspective on how a Muslim family might feel going through it all.

But there’s a difference between our time and theirs, during World War II. Julie Otsuka said that there was no public or organized protest at the time, at least judging from the research she did while writing this novel. We don’t see much of the neighbor’s response in the book, but we get a glimpse at the tacit approval of what’s happened to the Japanese family. I don’t see how that situation would occur in our current climate. We are all interconnected through social media, television, and radio. Self-publishing thanks to the internet allows word to get out in a way that wasn’t possible during World War II. The fact that our nation has such a loud voice and is so contentious I think, I hope, would prevent the situation from getting anywhere near as bad as it was for the Japanese Americans in Julie’s book.

Hey this accomplished what I wanted it to- I actually got most of my paper written.

Now to shower and maybe drink the rest of this beer. Golden Monkey.


Review: Music from Mr. Lucky by Henry Mancini (Vinyl, 1959)

Henry Mancini – Music from Mr. Lucky (Vinyl) 1959

When I was a kid, my dad had the cassette for this album somewhere. I must have thought in my adult life that Mancini and Brubeck were the same person, or at least produced the same types of music. Maybe it’s the theme from the Pink Panther that I pictured when I bought this album on vinyl. For that matter, maybe I pictured listening to this cassette when I was younger, and that it had the same sort of moody vibe the Pink Panther did, but there’s no way on earth that was the case. 

The cover for the album is the best part- it’s moody and dark, but with class. The font says “Hey, this is going to be a fun ride”, but the cartoon cat winking out at you through fuzzy white paint splotches and the dice on the bottom say “Hey man, this is going to be very cool. Very, very, cool.”  

What it is, is the soundtrack to some 1960 mod- or Gogo Boots type show. It sounds like light kooky music with flute refrains and jaunty Elephant-walk-type goofy melodies. It’s a mood that I seldom am searching for, and one I dislike for the most part. 

But then again there are some genuinely good trumpet lines in here mixed in with some candy-coated xylophone work. And this might be the best type of music to listen to on a Saturday afternoon, slightly hung over, after getting four hours or less of sleep the night before because you had to scramble around in your kitchen and try to trap or kill a mouse that eventually evaded you, but you still pack your dog up in your car and drive to Walgreens and buy Junior Mints (because you deserve something for dragging your anxiety-riddled ass out of the house at 3:35 a.m. in the fucking morning), some generic Walgreens- brand Brillo pads (because you read that mice hate steel wool but low and behold the next day the unopened box will still be sitting uselessly on the kitchen table) and these white plasticky mouse traps (guaranteed to kill them quick without you having to look at the pathetic thing’s body when the spring loaded mechanism makes a quick death of it), and then you return back home bleary eyed at 3:55 am, and you’re shoving bath towels under the door cracks to your bedroom, bathroom, and guest room so that the arena of war between you and Mickey who decided to invade and make you scream like Wile E. Coyote (mixing Warner Brothers and Disney metaphors) at this early in morning is just limited to kitchen, living room, and tiny hallway. 

So give it a listen. Drink a dirty martini when you do.  

Rating: Okay.

Blue Apron Empanadas de Picadillo as told by a guy who still doesn’t quite know how to cook.

Empanadas de Picadillo with Tomato-Cucumber Salad & Lime Crema

This was the last of my 3 meals that came in my first Blue Apron order. Although something I should say right off the bat: I made this meal probably 10 days after the box arrived. The cucumber was kinda shriveled on part of it, and I had to rummage through my fridge to figure out where I put all of the ingredients.

I think this points to a problem with Blue Apron and the guys like me: we’re bad at planning meals to the point that even if the ingredients are there and laid out for us, we’ll still be bad about making them. I swear I had to convince myself to get amped up to chop all of these veggies after work. I seriously contemplated ordering a General Tso’s Chicken combo meal from the place right here on my block. (They recognize my voice when I call in. I don’t even have to say what my name is.)

Another thing I should say before we get started is that I’m writing this a day after I cooked it. I know, I know, where’s the urgency? It went completely into watching the remaining two episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix (a fantastic homage to the two Stephens- King and Spielberg. Seriously, go watch it) and the latest episode of Preacher on AMC (Oh man, this show is so good. It’s brutal and horrific and funny).

Okay with all of that said, let’s jump into it. You can follow along here if you want.

Step 1:

This step was mostly easy with the exception of chopping the tomato. I swear I’ve done this before even though it didn’t seem like I had. Tacos were a meal my brother and I, latch-key kids, used to make when our dad was working one of his two jobs. Despite that, I sort of felt the same way about this that I did about cutting chicken. My trusty huge bread knife probably wasn’t suave enough to do this step justice, so I wound up getting a lot of tomato schmutz everywhere.

This step asks you to medium slice one half of the tomato, and small dice one half. Listen, Blue Apron, we are not people who do this regularly. You’ve gotta say things like: “Dice one half of the tomato into 1 inch squares, and the other into half-inch squares.” Give me measurements, not these ambiguous descriptors.

Scallions were easy. I tackled those bad boys in the previous meals.

Why did they ask me to leave alternating strips of cucumber intact when I chopped it up? I don’t get it. I diced it up like it told me to, but it still left me scratching my head. (I washed my hands after.) 

Okay, I really didn’t do what it told me to for creating the lime zest. I had a peeler and tried about two flimsy pieces of it, but then the description they had just totally baffled me. I looked up “how to create lime zest” on Youtube and got this video from someone named Mayet’s Kitchen. I think her method of using this grater tool is way easier than putzing around with chopping things up like a schmuck. My lime was kinda weird colored in some spots. I avoided zestifying those.  Thus there’s no way I had enough zest for two table spoons, but I got by.

My chopped up ingredients. I used lids and containers from my Chinese food take-out because I’m not fancy and don’t have those magic glass bowls.

That crema was super tasty. It was basically some form of sour cream. I’m going to add lime and salt to my sour cream every damn time now.

Step 2:

Every bachelor knows how to do this step. Well, usually I don’t add olive oil before I brown ground beef, but other than that, this was super easy.

Step 3:

This step was pretty straightforward, too. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Again, don’t tell us to cook it until it’s “fragrant”. That’s super unclear.) I added the bits of veggies like they told me to.

Step 4:

Before I jump into step 4, I should say that Blue Apron thinks everyone is a speed demon when it comes to chopping things up and preparing things. They tell you to preheat the oven in step 1. No way, don’t do that. Preheat the oven in this step. I remember how rushed I was in the other meals when I started boiling things way too soon. Nope, just preheat your oven in this step and you’ll be fine.

Filling the empanadas was pretty easy. I was careful not to overstuff them. Again, if you’re a bachelor, then chances are you’ve made yourself soft tacos before. As a kid, I’d shove as much as I could into those shells and wound up eating 70 percent of the filling off of my plate. So I was pretty conscious about making a pretty looking empanada. I think they came out as they should have. Even the one that looked wonky before it went into the oven came out looking great.

Step 5:

You do exactly what it says. This is a step even I can follow.

See? Not bad, huh?
Step 6:

I combined my salad just like it said. Actually I left out the olive oil. The veggies alone were tasty enough. (Why do cooking shows and recipes like the word “drizzle” so much? “Drip” works fine. So does “put”. It’s just one of those words I hate. “Drizzle.” Yech.)

There was not nearly enough of that lime crema stuff to go around. I ate leftovers today and ad-hoc’d some greek yogurt and pickle juice. So many of you are going to scoff at this, but I’m telling you it was pretty damn good.

Okay, so here’s my end result:

Compare to theirs:

Final thoughts about Blue Apron after a week:

I still can’t get over how much packaging is involved in this. I know that you can send the stuff back to them to get it recycled, but that would mean an extra trip to the post office for me. I live in an apartment and can’t easily leave large packages like that for my mailman.

I really like their instructions despite my kind of making fun of them here. They do a good job of explaining things to people who don’t cook and I like that each meal has a corresponding web page with a few videos for things that are tricky.

I dislike having to subscribe at all to this service. If I could just perpetually put this on hold, and then select one or two meals whenever I want it, then this might work. As it is, I’m finding it difficult to do this level of cooking for one person three times a week.

The price point is a little steep, also. It’s 20 bucks per meal. I liked the meals okay, but I think I’d be willing to pay more like $15 per meal.

This would probably be way more beneficial for a cohabiting couple. Then you wouldn’t have to worry so much about planning things or getting your personal food plans derailed by dates and outings to go hang out with your friends. I’d recommend you try it. You’re probably less stingy than I am.

I think I’ll hunt down some other free meal trials and review those. There were a couple of you weirdos out there who said you actually read these things, so I’ll try to do more.

Blue Apron Sweet Chili Chicken as told by a guy who still doesn’t know how to cook.

Sweet Chili Chicken with Tinkerbell Peppers, Green Beans & Coconut Rice 
(The second Blue Apron meal I’ve ever cooked.)

Okay, I came into this meal armed with a little more information from last time, namely: It takes me a long time to chop things up, and I need to plan ahead for what I’m going to do with all of the things I chop up. (Answer: use that big ol’ pot again and dump everything into it.)

But there’s an added wrinkle with this one, and it’s something that’s disturbed me all 37 years of my life: RAW CHICKEN. (More on that later.)

Okay here we go.

Step 1:

I’m not going to say I went in cocky with this step, but I feel like I knew a little bit more about how to chop up these veggies. I still just have the one huge chopping knife (one of my friends told me it was actually a big bread knife, I guess?) and I also have a couple of sharp steak knives.

So I was feeling pretty good about chopping the peppers and onions. But how does one “peel and mince” garlic and ginger? I had no idea. But, thanks to some insider information last time  from a friend who also has Blue Apron – she said you can recycle the packaging by going to the Blue Apron website and printing out a form. With that intel, I deduced that maybe the page that references this recipe would help me out with some extra stuff. And it did… only partially. They’ve got a video there that explains how to peel and mince ginger, but not garlic.

Here’s my chopping station. I grabbed another plastic cutting board so I had a little more surface area. I put that big pot in the sink and dumped my chopped items in that.

I kind of just chopped the whole garlic thing in half, which was surprisingly difficult. The recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic. It was only thanks to the ingredients picture that I learned cloves are what come in the whole (bloom? blossom?) thingy of garlic. Otherwise I’d think “clove” was the unit of garlic (a whole clump?) that I received. Anyway, chopping the garlic in half was not the way to go. I wound up picking the cloves out and peeling the top part off. It was work for tiny fingers, not big meat hooks like I have.

I dumped all of the chopped veggies with the exception of the ginger into my big ol’ pot because I don’t have little fancy glass dishes, like I talked about last time. 

(I learned that Blue Apron sells these things to you on their website. They must’ve heard clueless non-cookers like me complain about it and saw an imminent cash grab.)

Stay with me on step 1, here. It’s the longest part. Coming up next: RAW CHICKEN.

Oh god, do I hate raw chicken. I hate it so much. Maybe it’s because of some conversations I had with my dad as a kid? However it came to be, I hear the word “salmonella” and the first things I think of are raw chicken and turtles (thanks, microbiology class at Santa Fe Community College [Seriously, if you rescue a turtle from the side of the road, you should sure as hell wash your goddamn hands or you could wind up in an observation room with a bunch of doctors scratching their heads until Dr. House comes in and figures it all out.]).

So, this part of Step 1 told me I have to pat this raw chicken dry with paper towels and chop it into bite-sized portions. What they don’t tell you is that you have to get the damn thing out of the packaging which I tugged at for a bit, to no avail. I eventually had to use my own knife to chop it open and slide out these slimy pieces of chicken onto my plastic cutting board.

I patted them dry with a metric fuckton of paper towels. Then I had to hold the chicken on the cutting board with one hand and saw at it with my huge bread knife thingy until I’ve got it chopped into pieces and then I put it into a cereal bowl. (I was making gross-out noises the whole time.)

At this point, I washed my hands like 10 times, and used 5 of those Lysol wipes on my counter. I’m not a super clean person, but as I said I just don’t want to be the basis for a bad TV medical drama.

Whew, that was the bulk of it. On to step 2!

Step 2:

The coconut rice was straight forward. I trudged onward and mixed the stuff and put it in a pot, this was before I started in with the gross raw chicken. It said cook the rice for 14 minutes, which I did, but it was really crunchy and all the water had gone. I put more water in and cooked it on a higher heat for like 5 minutes and it turned out okay at the end.

Step 3:

I have those black measuring spoon things, so I figured out how much 2 teaspoons of olive oil was that way. It says to cook the olive oil until hot. How do I know when it’s hot? Steam? I just left it in there for like a minute or so and figured that was good. It says to cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes- I cooked it for like 10 minutes and kept breaking the bite sized chunks open to make sure they weren’t pink on the inside. (Again with the salmonella nightmares. I don’t care if the chicken was overcooked or a little dry.) They were decently brown so I figured I was okay.

(Sidenote: I somehow don’t have pepper in the apartment. I just have salt. So every place it’s been saying to put salt and pepper on, I’m just salting.)

Step 4:

I dumped all the veggies in like it says. I set a timer for 2 minutes because I don’t really know how “soft and fragrant” should be measured. Just give me the minutes I need to set on my timer.

Step 5 and 6:

Easy peasy. Just do exactly what it says. They say to cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until “liquid is slightly reduced in volume”. That’s fine. 2 minutes.

Okay, so here’s my meal:

I didn’t have a big fancy looking bowl to put the stuff in. I think it looks okay on a plate, though.
Compare to their meal:

I don’t know, food photographers- I think my blue plate looks better than your lame brown bowl.
What’s great about this: Blue Apron gives you these ingredients that I would never in a million years buy for myself and they give you a good amount of confidence in working with them. I hate cutting raw chicken, but at least I know how to fry it up with a little olive oil. I also now know what people do with garlic cloves and ginger.

What’s not so great about this: Still, the biggest downside appears to be packaging. A friend of mine said that it’s cool that Blue Apron saves you the trouble of wandering around the aisles with this recipe trying to find ingredients you’d never buy. That’s super stressful. I agree, but I think now that I’m armed with this recipe card I can find this stuff with reasonable ease. Maybe not ponzu sauce. What aisle is that on?

How it tasted: It was tastier than the gnocchi I made last time. The ponzu and chili sauce were great and the peppers and scallions added a lot of flavor. It was good. It made my house smell good according to my friend who came over right after.

Blue Apron Gnocchi as told by a guy who doesn’t know how to cook.

Blue Apron- Brown Butter Gnocchi with Summer Squash, Almonds, & Soft-Boiled Eggs.

I’m not a guy who cooks much at all. I’m not a guy who owns much in the way of cooking implements, either. I’ve got one big sharp knife I use for everything- it slices my bagels, it cuts up whatever vegetables I actually wind up cutting (I mostly buy frozen stuff). I’ve got a couple of medium sized pots, one big pot, a couple of frying pans, a colander (I had to look up how to spell that. Strainer? Drainer?)

So I signed up for Blue Apron. I don’t like eating out all the time and the limited number of things I cook needs to be expanded. But I’ve never cooked seriously before, and I have no idea where to start. This seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Anyway, the box came today, Saturday. The thing is huge. It’s heavier than you’d think. There’s enough stuff for three meals inside, but even considering that I didn’t expect it to be so heavy. I opened it up, and the first thing I said (my friend was there for moral support and audience) was: “Wow, that’s a lot of packaging.” 

Huge box. Bike in there for scale.
I should’ve taken a pic of the box with all the stuff in there. A bunch of things are now randomly floating around in my fridge in these very specifically made cardboard containers. 

Why is the thing so heavy? There are little cardboard holders for just two eggs. Little paper sacks that contain “knick knacks” for each meal. In the paper sacks are tiny plastic bags with stuff like the exact right amount of parmesan cheese for the Gnocchi and a little plastic ramekin with the exact right amount of butter that you’re supposed to brown. It comes with two huge reusable ice packs. (I play roller derby so these are actually going to come in handy.) On the packaging it says it’s made from recycled and recyclable material, but how many people are actually going to recycle this stuff? 

Okay, so I started cooking it. Here I go, following the directions:

Step 1 and 2-

As a guy who really doesn’t chop things, ever, I couldn’t do step 1 and 2 at the same time and be okay on time. If I were to do this again, I’d chop the things ahead of time because I’m slow at it. Also, what does “medium dice” mean? I cut the squash up, but they weren’t perfect cubes or anything. It didn’t seem to matter at the end.  Roughly chopping almonds was both harder and easier than I imagined. Little pieces got everywhere on my tiny plastic cutting board, but my big dumb knife was able to actually chop through the things.

Here are my chopped items. Well, some of them. I didn’t have a little bowl for the almonds so I threw them into a plastic container I had from Chinese food takeout. 

Actually, after cutting the squash – the first thing I chopped up- I realized I didn’t have anything to put chopped stuff in. You go over to someone’s house and they have all of these little glass bowls and things in their cupboards, right? I’d always think, “What the hell are all these little dishes for? Why would you need something other than just plates and bowls?” Turns out little glass bowls are good for putting chopped up things in.

All my bowls were in the dishwasher, and besides I didn’t have any regular bowls big enough to hold all the chopped up squash, so I had to throw it into my big pot. It’s like a big chili cooking pot. I rested it on the dish dryer because I have no counter space.

Meanwhile, my two eggs were cooking. I got them out at the appropriate time, used that colander I mentioned before to hold the eggs while I ran cold water over them, and then carried on with cooking the rest of the meal while the eggs just sat there. I eventually moved them out of the colander when I needed to use it for the gnocchi. (More on the eggs later.)

Anyway, the rest of step one and two was pretty easy. On to step 3. 

Step 3 –

Browning butter. I don’t think I have ever purposefully done this in my life. I think I did it right this time? I was iffy on the whole thing. They said be careful not to burn the butter, so I definitely didn’t do that, but I think when I was eating it, it tasted way too slick and buttery.

Step 4-

This was straight-forward. Add squash and almonds. Squeeze the lemons in. Okay, that’s easy enough. Stir for a couple of minutes, sure. I got that. I like that Blue Apron gives you the time and some other cues like “until the almonds are fragrant”. That cue is great, but how do I know what a fragrant almond is? I just relied on the time.

Step 5 –

The gnocchi(s) weren’t (wasn’t?) floating at the end of 3 minutes, so I left them in there until they started floating. Thanks for telling me about the floating thing, Blue Apron. I’ve never boiled gnocchi before so I had no idea what I was doing. When I got around to eating the meal they seemed doughy, but not awful I guess.

Step 6-

So the combining of things was actually pretty easy with the exception of (and here we have to go back to step 1) peeling soft boiled eggs. Guess what, it’s not easy. I mean, you can get the shell off if you want to, but I found that big chunks of the egg whites were coming off with it. My egg came out all misshapen.

Here’s the end result of my meal:

I’m surprised a stray dog hair didn’t wind up on my dish. They’re everywhere. Thanks, Zobie.

It doesn’t look so bad, but go ahead and compare it to their pic:

Professional food photographers earn their living.

The whole thing tasted okay. The gnocchi was kinda doughy, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. And it was pretty damn buttery. I’m a guy who likes to eat buttery food and I feel like this was a little over the top for me. I think maybe I should’ve added some oregano, also. It needed some type of extra seasoning. 

What’s good about it: I think the convenience lies in the fact that all the stuff is portioned out for you and you don’t have to make a decision as to what to cook that week. Also the easy to follow steps are written so that a person like me who’s never cooked that much at all before can follow it.

What they don’t tell you: you might need more than one knife. You’ll need a big cutting board and things to hold the chopped up food in. Also, you’ll have a bunch of random things in your fridge. There’s a ton of random packets with names of the other meals in there. I had to also put some left overs in the fridge and find ways to do things that I never do, like store small amounts of chopped parsley. And don’t forget: a HUGE box. Seriously, if people freak out about k-cups, this is going to quickly get out of hand. 

This meal was okay. I’ll see if the other ones are any good.