Seriously. I attribute the relative strength and welfare of my marital state to Blue Apron. Yes, the food delivery service. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking “I’ve read a few of her posts and this chick clearly has a flair for the dramatic.” And I’m not going to deny that, I certainly do, but in this case I’m only exaggerating a teensy bit. There are a few changes I made in the last few years that I can directly correlate to helping my marriage, and Blue Apron is one of them.
Sit back, relax and enjoy this tale of how even a small change can have a drastic effect on your life.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m half-French. My mother is French and my father is American. This means my brothers and I grew up in a household that blended both cultures and traditions pretty evenly. But one thing that was heavily weighted to our French side was the food culture. When it came to the meals that we ate as a family, we were 100% French. Real butter, real cream, real cheese, real bread and a veritable cornucopia of meats, vegetables and fruits were regular staples on my mother’s kitchen table. Yum. I still crave her boeuf bourguignon (she always puts black olives in it!), her tarte tatin (when people try to compare it to “apple pie”, a small part of me dies) and even the simple things like oeufs à la coque that she would make when my father was out of town.
Her food called us to the table. Her cooking brought the five us together every night, no matter how late we all got home and no matter what we had going on that day. We always sat down at a nicely set table (cloth napkins and all!), and enjoyed a home-cooked meal together. When I was married, I knew I wanted to keep that tradition alive. Having a home cooked meal on the table was something I wanted to do for my family, too.
And for many years I kept that tradition alive. I loved to cook and found joy in preparing a meal after a long day to serve to my growing family.
Until I stopped loving it.
I don’t care what anyone says. Marriage is hard. It’s amazing and fun and special, too, but it’s also really, really hard. And I have determined that the “seven year itch” is a real thing. Years 7&8 of our marriage were rough. We were both crazy busy in our careers, with two little girls at home, living in a house that I hated in a new city. Even with crazy hours and busy schedules, I kept our dinner routine alive. I’d come home and pull together a home-cooked meal and all four of us would sit down to “enjoy” it. But there were days when I’d come home and there was just nothing in the fridge and I’d resort to making salmon for the 4th time that week and feel like a BIG. FAT. FAILURE. I’d be cooking by myself in the kitchen while the girls were off playing somewhere and my husband was picking up the yard and I’d be pissed. The dogs would be barking, the girls screaming and I’d be looking into an empty fridge figuring out how the hell I was going to make dinner out of a half a gallon of milk, some chicken sausages and some weird quinoa I found at whole foods. I wasn’t living in Paris anymore where I could just walk to the market, and the sheer idea of cooking dinner began to stress me out. I forced myself to do it every night, because I wanted my girls to have the same experience I had. I wanted my girls to have a home-cooked meal that was lovingly made each day, because that food would call us to the table. But I’d be chopping a tomato and I’d envision that the tomato was actually my husband’s face (kidding… sort of…) and I began to recognize that I didn’t love this anymore. I didn’t love cooking and I didn’t love the stress of figuring out what I was going to make!
I was annoyed. Annoyed that I couldn’t recreate the table of my youth, annoyed that the husband wasn’t helping with dinner, annoyed that I was always the one trying to think up ideas after a long day at work. Just annoyed with myself as a whole. I’d end up going through the motions but I wasn’t fully present at dinner. I felt like I had failed and began to DREAD the idea of cooking when I got home.
And I recognize it’s such an insignificant, silly thing, but it became something we’d fight about. My husband would call me at work and innocently ask me “What’s for dinner?” and I’d grow horns and breathe fire and want to punch him in the face. I’d complain and whine about how he didn’t help, and he’d volunteer to make dinner but I wouldn’t let him because he had set the smoke detector off multiple times making rice and I didn’t want the house to burn down. And so I’d stress the whole way home from work about what the heck I was going to make for dinner.
And then Blue Apron happened. I don’t even remember why I ordered the first box. I think I got a coupon for a free week with a case of wine I had ordered? (I figured out wine delivery long before meal delivery. Priorities.) I decided that it sounded like a good idea. A box of ALL of the ingredients to make three meals for two adults (or, in our case, one man, one woman who doesn’t eat big portions and two tiny humans) delivered directly to your house? Why not!
The first box arrived and, I kid you not, it changed my life. The ingredients are fresh and generally delicious. The recipes are easy to follow and THE BEST PART? If the recipe calls for two tablespoons of rice vinegar, THEY SEND YOU TWO TABLESPOONS OF RICE VINEGAR!!! No more mad dashes to the store because you forgot something! And NO leftovers! It’s amazing. And as I’d chop away, and prepare dinner, I began to realize that I didn’t hate cooking, I actually liked it. I hated meal planning. I hated having one more thing take up space in my mind. I wanted to focus on work at work, and I wanted to focus on home at home. I didn’t want to focus on “what the hell am I going to make for dinner tonight?” EVER. And Blue Apron took the guess work out of it. Sure, there are a few recipes that I probably won’t have picked if I were at the grocery store, BUT I DIDN’T HAVE TO THINK about what was for dinner. And that was pretty amazing. I would actually get excited about making dinner and seeing what recipes were coming in the next box.
And Blue Apron taught my minute rice fire-starting husband how to cook. And he actually enjoys it. Now, I can sometimes sit back with a glass of wine and chat with him while he prepares our dinner.
And the recipes are GOOD. In the 2.5 years we’ve been doing Blue Apron, there has literally only been one recipe that we hated (and it was foul – something disgusting that included a giant radish.) There have been plenty that were DELICIOUS, many that were good and several that were just fine. But they were all home cooked and they were all enjoyed.
And the fighting stopped. At least the fighting over this particular thing. I began to look forward to our nightly ritual and began to look forward to that special time with my family again.
That’s when I realized that the “cravings” for my youth had less to do with the actual food and everything to do with the time that was spent with my parents and my brothers. The nostalgia I felt was for the ritual and not necessarily for what was on my plate. And you know what? I can give my family that same experience. I can be present and available at dinner time. I can make sure that all of us (now five!) sit at the table and talk every single night. My children have never eaten dinner anywhere but the kitchen table or the dining table. We always set the table properly and we always sit down to talk after a ritual of saying grace in both French and English. We always talk about our days and share what the very best part was.
Three nights a week those conversations are over Blue Apron meals, sometimes they’re recipes lovingly concocted and executed by yours truly, and sometimes, those conversations are taking place over a (surprisingly delicious) Costco take and bake pizza or take out from our favorite Thai place. And you know what? That’s okay. My kids aren’t going to remember the food that was on their plates, but they are going to remember that mommy and daddy sat down with them every single night for a family dinner and conversation.
Work/Life Tip: Reduce stress in your life by taking away a few things that stress you out. For me it was meal planning. Blue Apron saved my marriage. It might be something different for you. But find a way to alleviate that one stress in your life to focus on the things that really matter – and my gut tells me that those “things” are the people living under your roof.
Things that made me happy today:
- I’m back at the same hotel I always go to in Chicago and the bellman remembers me every time. Client service goes a long way with me.
- I walked 24k steps on my treadmill desk while on coaching calls today. This makes me insanely happy. Trust me, you can’t WAIT until I write a post about my love affair with my FitBit and my treadmill desk.
- I got to squeeze in 30 minutes with my babies between the office and the airport tonight.
- I had some excellent coaching calls today. A good reminder of why I do what I do.