Sakara Life, Part 2: Now I, Too, Am Eating Like A Supermodel
Remember last week when we ever-so-lovingly discussed the impending launch of the Sakara meal delivery service in Philadelphia? These are the folks who claim to feed a bunch of Victoria’s Secret underpants models, Gwyneth Paltrow and various other famous-ish people that are (or claim to be) very concerned with what they put into their bodies. They want organic, meatless, buzzword-fortified meals but, being very busy and pretty and whatever else, they don’t have time to actually go down to the farmers market or, you know, cook.
So Sakara is there to do all the hard work for them–and for you. They’ll deliver three meals a day, already packaged and on ice. All you have to do is open them and eat (though, occasionally, some re-warming is required).
Oh, and guess what? We arrived at Foobooz World HQ this morning to find that, wisely or unwisely, the folks from Sakara had a package waiting for us. Yes, despite making many jokes at the expense of supermodels, hemp and “Green Goddess Milk,” they decided to send us along a sample. And because we are who we are, we decided to eat it and see how good (or bad) it might be to eat like a model for a day.
That’s breakfast. Toasted coconut granola and Green Goddess Mylk. Yeah, with a Y. Because it ain’t milk, but a strange green slurry of almond milk, spirulina and…some other stuff. Smells like toothpaste. Tastes like mint with a metallic, medicinal aftertaste that lingers a long time on the tongue. You add the one to the other and voila! Milk and cereal just like you remember as a kid.
Provided, of course, you spent your formative years living in some kind of hippie commune as opposed to Fruity Pebbles and cow juice as it was to war. The cereal, dry, is not so bad. Oats, shards of almond, fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and then some more dehydrated fruits for sugar. Compared to those healthy, boxed cereals you find in the grocery store, this stuff is actually better, with a delicate sweetness and a complex texture that’s not at all bad–even if I feel like I’m burning calories just having to chew the stuff fifty times before I can actually swallow it.
But then you add the mylk and everything just kinda goes…green. And mushy. And green.
The minty-medicinal flavor ruins the balance of the dry flavors while, at the same time, seeming to do nothing at all to the texture. It tastes, essentially, like eating a fast bowl of damp granola too soon after brushing your teeth. And even goopy with spirulina-laced almond squeezins, I’m picking it out of my molars for a half hour after I’m done.
That said, if some doctor were to tell me that he GUARANTEED eating a bowl of this every morning would make me live 10 extra years and drop 15 pounds–if he were to come to me with studies showing that mylk-with-a-Y was the secret to bright eyes and a glossy coat–I think I could get accustomed to the taste. I wouldn’t enjoy it, mind you, but a diet like this isn’t exclusively about enjoyment. It’s about mitigating grossness in favor of health. And one assumption I made before ever tasting Sakara’s offerings has already been proven untrue. I assumed (wrongly) that the biggest problem here would be that everything would just kinda taste like nothing. Like chewing air and unseasoned tofu. But this stuff definitely has flavor.
Just not, you know, a good flavor.
Lunch. “Perfect Protein Salad With Creamy Lemon Dressing”
I need you to play a little game with me here. I need you to think back to the last time you just plain hated something. Something you figured would be laughably bad. Something–a restaurant, a TV show, a movie, what-have-you–that you knew, way down deep in your black and cruddy little heart was going to suck before you even tried it. Or saw it. Or whatever.
And then I need you to think about what happened when you actually did try it (or see it, or experience it) for yourself and found, to your odd and selfish horror, that you actually kinda liked it. Kinda almost a lot.
Did you admit that you’d been a dick? Did you come clean and say, “Hey, I totally thought that was going to blow, but now that I have given this potentially blow-worthy thing a chance, I have found, to my surprise, that it is excellent.”?
You’re a coward if you didn’t. And I’m no coward. Sakara’s Protein Blah Blah Blah salad? It’s kind of awesome. The kind of awesome that I would pay actual money for out in the real world. And beyond just being awesome, it is also rather clever, which I respect even more.
The salad, from the ground up, is exactly as you’d guess–field greens, mixed with the perfect amount of arugula, some diced veggies, chickpeas, candied walnuts and some nice, citric dressing. Simple, direct and to the point.
Except not. The greens, for starters, are chopped better than in most any commercial salad mix. As are the fresh veggies–carrots, bell peppers, red onion. As a matter of fact, one of the three most impressive things about this salad is the restaurant-quality knife work that went into its prep. And if you’re laughing right now because you don’t think that matters, say the same thing to me the next time you’re sitting there eating your less-than-excellent garden salad and have to pull a big, bitter mizuna stem out of your mouth or chomp down on a mouthful of nothing but romaine hearts. Details matter, and Sakara, apparently, gets that.
Second impressive thing? Chia. These little seeds suck up water and swell, forming a goo in your belly that makes you feel full for a long time and, even better, slow down digestion of all the other good stuff you’ve just eaten. Lotsa bang for your salad buck with chia. And neither the flavor nor the texture are bothersome.
All of which leads to the third impressive thing that I wasn’t expecting: Portion size. These are not small portions. They feel, if anything, extravagant. If you managed to get through all that granola, fruit and imaginary nut milk at breakfast, you’d be full (and, probably, still chewing) by the time lunch came around. And then the salad itself is large enough to feel like a full meal all on its own (and comes with enough dressing so that you don’t feel cheated in the flavor and lettuce-lubrication department). One of the things I assumed from the start was that, in hanging their marketing hat on feeding lingerie models who get paid for being pretty and mostly naked, Sakara would go the obvious route and simply provide tiny little amounts of food fit only for 105-pound girls. But I am not a 105-pound girl. And that salad filled me up right nicely.
I mean, you know. For a salad.
Dinner means tikka masala. Turmeric tikka masala with purple cabbage. Though, from looking at it, it doesn’t really look like tikka masala at all, does it? What it looks like is another salad.
And lo and behold, it IS another salad. So how was it? Basically, take everything I said above about the lunch salad and reverse it for this one. Unbalanced flavors which lean in the direction of every dull and dusty stereotype of vegetarian food that I copped to assuming up top. A texture that can be generously described as ‘distressingly flaccid’. And weirdly chunky. Unstemmed spinach greens. A thin and bland dressing. Ugly little broccoli florest that look like something plucked out of a tired salad bar at the end of the night.
When you’re going for a vegetable-based approach to cuisine, Indian (with a counterargument to be made for Vietnamese) is the best possible cuisine to steal from. The spice architecture is both broad and deep, and lends itself phenomenally well to pairing with virtually any kind of vegetable imaginable. Further, with a hugely historic vegetable-centric canon already in place, you barely even have to think about translation.
And yet, here comes Sakara, somehow deciding that a dry and basically tasteless lentil masala served on cold leaves of purple cabbage like some kind of half-assed lettuce roll is a good idea. It’s not. This stuff was awful. The spinach was just filler. The dressing was watery and sour and weird and inedible. I ate three bites of the turmeric-spiced lentil-and-broccoli nightmare and just tossed it–pissed because the mere fact of its existence was now ruining my memory of the very good lunch salad. If this was my actual dinner–the meal I’d been looking forward to all day after many hard hours of sitting very still and looking vacant (yes, I know models probably do more than that, but come on…), I would’ve been furious. In my fury, I would’ve immediately gone out and eaten two enormous cheeseburgers, thereby ruining my meticulously maintained panty-model body, losing my lucrative Victoria’s Secret gig and being forced to fall back on my doctorate in particle physics just to make ends meet.
And it would be all Sakara’s fault.
In all, though, I was actually somewhat surprised by my day of eating like a supermodel. Surprised mostly because I didn’t immediately die from ingesting healthy food. Surprised partly because I wasn’t driven mad by hunger and fired for taking a bite out of one of my coworkers. But also surprised by Sakara which, magical mystery mylk and that shitty lentil masala aside, provided a decent feed for a normal adult human. The portions were good, the attention to small culinary details was, for the most part, on par with most professional kitchens (again, absent that dinner fiasco), and, on the health-vs-deliciousness scale, the slider wasn’t shoved all the way over to the health side. There was some consideration given to the actual people who have to eat this stuff and to their enjoyment of it. It wasn’t all about the calories, superfoods and buzzwords.
But I am SO having a fat stack of waffles for breakfast tomorrow. And probably a big fat burger for lunch, too.