Christmas seems like a long time ago now, but that’s where this story begins. Back in December, as I was assembling my Christmas list (like a NORMAL person–who are these nonchalant gift receivers who say, “Just get me whatever you think I’d like!”?), I had been chatting with my co-workers about the hot new trend of boxes. Yes, boxes. Not plain old boxes, or simple gift boxes, but the kind of subscription boxes that arrive in the mail monthly with special, interesting goodies. You may have heard of examples like Stitch Fix, Birchbox, or The PMS Package (yes, it is what you think it is).
Being a foodie, I knew the one box I wanted to add to my Christmas list: Universal Yums. This box service caters to the culinarily adventurous, sending gift boxes of snacks from a different country each month. Chupa chups from Mexico? Haribo gummies from Germany? Sign me up! (Just nothing with crickets, please.)
When Christmas rolled around, my brother was kind enough to gift me with a month of Universal Yums. My box arrived in January full of edible presents from…drumroll, please…Greece! After taking a moment to give thanks that it wasn’t from somewhere extremely exotic to me, like Vietnam (see cricket aversion above), I sliced open my “Yum Yum Box” with gusto.
Not sure who was more excited, my 6-year-old or me.
The Yum Yum Box includes at least 12 snacks (other Universal Yums packages come with anywhere from 6 to 20+ goodies). Here’s what the haul looked like unboxed:
A variety of sweet and savory, it boasted oregano chips, a sesame-almond bar, cookies flavored with must (a kind of grape juice), olives, chewy fruit candies, something called halva (which my husband, who has a Greek aunt, recognized as a snack, but which looked more like cement to me), bread chips, a cream-filled croissant, and several chocolate candy bars.
For my first snack of choice, I dug into the chocolate (obviously), opting for a Triplo bar.
The Triplo bar needs to hit the U.S., like, immediately. Without a doubt, it would be a huge success. A three-humped chocolate-caramel mixture tops a wafer base, making this some perfect amalgam of Milky Way and Kit Kat. I’ve been scouring the internet for where to buy these in bulk every since. The other chocolate items in the Yum Yum Box were similarly delicious.
The sesame-almond bar I tried next certainly did NOT resemble any snack native to the U.S. Containing just sesame seeds, honey, and almonds, it sure could teach American processed snacks a thing or two about the goodness of simplicity. To this Western lady, its flavor was distinctly foreign–but enjoyably so–especially with the knowledge it was comprised of only three ingredients.
This brings me to another element I appreciated about the Yum Yum Box: with standard FDA-regulated nutrition facts on each food item, I wasn’t left to decipher nutrition information from Greek in kilojoules.
Additionally, a fun little booklet accompanied the box, providing a bit of background on each snack, as well as some games and riddles to solve, indicating where next month’s box would come from. This mini-magazine added to the intrigue and festive feeling of the experience.
Since my box arrived in January, I’ve gradually made my way through the dozen or so items it delivered, loving some, disliking others, feeling indifferent toward a few. Actually, it’s not quite true that I’ve made my way through all of them. I have yet to try the halva (which I still think looks more like a gray brick from some Communist-era demolition site than a desirable on-the-go snack), and I eventually threw out the cream-filled croissant on the grounds that any cream that can survive a trip across the planet and two months in my pantry is a cream I don’t want to eat.
This highlights the primary drawback I see with Universal Yums’ model: every food sent is, by necessity, processed. For obvious reasons, you can’t exactly send fresh fruits and vegetables or home-cooked meals via international mail. Still, as a nutritionist, I can’t help but hesitate to completely embrace a monthly celebration of processed food.
Final word: would I get Universal Yums again? As a gift, yes, any time! But personally, even though I enjoy trying new foods and the feeling that I can travel the globe with my mouth, I’m not quite up to spending $14-39/month to do so. Plus, I honestly don’t think I have the appetite for so many unusual snacks every month. There would always be ones I’m just not adventurous enough to eat (though it could be fun weirding out whoever runs the canned food drive at my kids’ school by donating shrimp chips from Thailand or beet candies from Ukraine). Regardless, my Universal Yums experience was definitely exciting and novel, and I’d be curious to see what a box from another country would look like.
Would you try an international snack box service? Or have you already? Tell me about it!