The only thing better than a great gift is a recurring great gift. And the only thing better than a recurring great gift is a recurring great gift that you can get paid to write about. That’s what Universal Yums is, for me at least. My best friend bought me a subscription — “snacks from a different country delivered monthly” — for my birthday back in July, which means I’ve since received a handful of installments, each better than the last. The company guarantees “a mix of flavors and textures to appeal to a variety of palates” which is … true! First came a package of delightful Taiwanese treats (pea crackers, seaweed sticks, corn candy), then a box crammed with food both sweet and savory from Great Britain: haggis-flavored chips, custard gummies, Wagon Wheel–branded “jammies.” Then came Thailand, my favorite so far, mostly because of a vacuum-sealed cellophane bag of coconut rice drizzled with mango syrup (it was delicious).
I’ve never seen any of the snacks Universal Yums includes in its boxes out in the New York City wild, which is very impressive to me, a person in constant, casual pursuit of foreign food. The boxes, which come with activity sheets (local games, recipes, trivia quizzes, etc.) and a music playlist (pop and folk, mostly, and uploaded to YouTube) are generously packed — they could include a third of what they do, and I’d still be thrilled. The box is the weight of a dense house cat and about the same size. Besides the day my Culture Crime newsletter arrives in my in-box, the day my Universal Yums box is delivered is far and away the best of the month.
I’ve devised a routine. First, I unpack the box, rip into whatever is most appealing, and then when my husband gets home from work confess that I’ve eaten the weirder, smaller things and then suggest we consume as much of the rest as we can for dinner. Everything left over we rearrange (and there’s always something left over) and bring to the next social gathering we’re invited to, inevitably delighting everyone and also benignly tricking them, since they assume that the box is packed as it was upon arrival. Past Universal Yums boxes that preceded my subscription include ones from Brazil, Turkey, Poland, and Pakistan. I HATE that I missed them. Up next, I’m pleased to report, are Germany, Israel, South Korea, Ukraine, Colombia, and Italy. The boxes start at $16 a month, though they get cheaper the more months you subscribe (they’re less than $15 each if you sign up for a year’s worth). Spare yourself the regret and sign up post-haste, for yourself or someone else, though if it’s someone else, make sure it’s someone geographically close to you and also constitutionally generous.
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