First, I’m not in love with the brand name Mouth. The word — if you say it any more than three times in a row —is really unappetizing. Ironically, I guess. Mouth, mouth, mouth. See? But this subscription box service has gone with that moniker because everything they offer is presumably something you can shove in your gob. Cocktails, snacks, pickles. And this, a mixed bag (or box) of food-related stuff that is from a singular state on a monthly basis.
Thing is, you’re not going to get macro grub here. No, you’ll get a package of vegan crackers from a small-batch manufacturer in South Carolina. Or some sort of also-vegan fig bar thing from Minnesota the next. It’s a true grab-bag of weirdness. And by weirdness I mean cookies with aniseed in them. Because everyone knows the best way to flavor cookies is with bitter black-licorice-flavored nonsense. Or perhaps a tiny cardboard tube of unsalted mixed nuts that taste like the cardboard tube.
This is all to say, I wonder if there is any quality control in what Mouth sends you? Does anyone actually taste the food included in their boxes? And, if so, are they lying about having COVID and their ability to taste? Because, while they stick to their local ethos, and some of the packaging is cute, the food inside that packaging is mostly bland or weird. Yay, chocolate! Nope, not chocolate. Some vegan brown bullshit passing itself off as chocolate. In fact there was so much vegan and gluten-free stuff, I had to check with Ms. Hipster to make sure she didn’t intentionally order the no-flavor version of this box. And, no, she did not. But it turns out that most bespoke, local creators of snack foods think that dense and flavorless (aka, vegan and gluten-free) differentiates them from the Lay’s and Planter’s of the world. As if you have to create something “natural” and “healthy” if you’re doing something small and pricey. Because, presumably, “good” ingredients cost more, and people are willing to shell out many more dollars for 27 Brazil nuts in a recycled tube made from hemp or whatever.
But I’m here to tell you that Mouth has it wrong. Or maybe bespoke manufacturers have it wrong. Food is something that we eat to enjoy. Not to make ourselves feel better because the sucrose replacement in your brownie is sustainable. Or that your cheese is “cheese.” Or that you make your stuff feel authentic even though it’s made in Brooklyn. I think it’s a decent idea, this regional food gathering, but food still needs to be stuff that people want to eat. And maybe — just maybe — it’s tough to make good, tasty grub in small batches. Or maybe people’s friends lie to them and tell them their snacks are the bomb. But they ain’t.
Do you notice how many times the word “free” shows up just on these three random items taken from a couple different boxes? The “cheese” crackers are dairy, gluten, nut and soy-free. Great. And the absolutely disgusting-sounding apricot-pumpkin-seed peanut butter bar is dairy, gluten, soy and palm-free. Which, if you’ve ever had anything like this just means it has the density of a slightly chewy brick. Also, I hate stone fruit. But I save the most disdain for these crackers in the middle. They are “zesty” and “herbal.” When, in fact, they are “dry” and “flavorless.” More like what I imagine a dog treat might taste like than something a human might ingest. Truly bad. In fact bad enough to wonder if Mouth sat on these for months before sending them out and they’d turned. So I went to Hayden Mills’ site, and the photo of their crackers really don’t resemble the ones I have. It might be a case of the food-styled Whopper photo not looking like the sad burger you unwrap at the actual restaurant, but I do wonder. Ultimately, good idea, odd execution.