My second grader has a deep aversion to foods that aren’t encased meats, nuggets, baby carrots, or apples. Which is to say that he has an aversion to most foods. So it was with great surprise that I watched as he slowly bit into a Korean Green Tea Choco Pie. As the chocolate-y layer gave way to the matcha-flavored cake and finally the gooey marshmallow center, his eyes lit up. He chewed thoughtfully and nodded.
If I’d known that my kids would eat treats from Korea, this would’ve changed my entire game plan. Luckily, I didn’t have to. Korea was flown to me by the Universal Yums snack subscription service that sends you treats from all over the world to introduce new, interesting flavors and, maybe, entice a picky eater into trying something different. It’s great. Now, during the Covid-19 lockdown, this trip around the world may be more useful for parents.
The premise of the Universal Yums box is pretty simple. After you sign up, you receive a box every month stuffed with treats from a foreign country. That might be Germany, Thailand, or in the case of the box I received, South Korea.
Now, it should be noted the foods in the box are snacks. Don’t expect a jar of sauerkraut or ingredients for Pad Thai. It’s more likely you’ll receive kraut-flavored candy or Pad Thai flavored crisps. That’s perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much based on the Hot Gangjung Chicken Snack included in my box.
Notably, a culture’s snacks can say just as much about its people as its traditional foods. And Universal Yums doesn’t skimp on cultural information. Each box comes with a map and a booklet that acts as a tour guide to the country you’re snacking with. Through that booklet, we learned that the Choco Pie my kid enjoyed had once been used as currency in North Korea until the treat was banned. But even then, South Koreans took it upon themselves to float the treats over the border via helium balloon.
In the trivia section of the book, my kids were particularly thrilled to learn that In Seoul one can find a nap cafe, a raccoon cafe, and a toilet cafe. My curious 8-year-old poured over facts about Jeju island (while enjoying candy flavored like their famous tangerines) and my Kindergartner demanded he take the map into school to show his Kindergarten class.
The snack themselves filled an afternoon of exploration. The kindergartner was particularly fond of the hot chicken snacks, as was I. He was not as fond of the strange flavor and texture of the Chamssal Sengua rice crackers. But that’s the thing about an adventure, if there wasn’t a bit of unpleasant weirdness could you really call it an adventure?
The only downside about the snacks in a Universal Yums box is that the amount is finite and stocking back up is difficult. I couldn’t even find my beloved chicken snacks on Amazon. But that’s another lesson — one of savoring the moments you have. Through Universal Yums, my kids were able to explore flavors that were new and interesting to them while learning about the culture that loves those flavors.
That’s education and snacking rolled into one, which is kind of the perfect combination.