Even Mark Bittman Has Trouble Getting A Vegan Start-Up Off The Ground

If anyone can make veganism easy, it should be New York Times writer Mark Bittman. He’s been in and around the food biz for years, he knows how it works, and just as importantly, he knows how people like to eat. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a very smart man, too.

And yet, as Bittman reports, his vegan-in-a-box start-up, Purple Carrot, is having trouble — not just because he’s trying to manage a vast network of suppliers and distributors, but also because of ethical issues.

Going vegan is a “high-road” endeavor. It’s about healthy food, yes, but it’s also about morality. Like religion, veganism is a choice, and its adherents are held to higher standards. (This is why I’m all about casual veganism: I don’t need any more stress in my life. Bittman is clearly cut from different cloth.)

And that’s where many of Purple Carrot’s problems pop up. Bittman’s current trouble spot isn’t finding produce, per se; it’s finding produce that is ideally local, organic, and seasonal. Weeding out the stuff that’s produced using loads of pesticides is pretty easy, but ensuring that consumers will want to eat what’s left isn’t so simple:

To say that we’re using food that’s “local” or even “seasonal” will have to wait. Under the best of circumstances, we may soon be able to source food that’s grown near our distribution centers, which are currently in Boston and Los Angeles. But although the recipes we’re shipping right now focus on what I’d call winter vegetables, we’re not going ask to Purple Carrot customers to eat exclusively purple carrots—or other root vegetables—week after week. Some accommodation has to be made, and by defining “seasonal” as those things traditionally grown throughout the United States in the winter, the palate becomes much broader, including brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli and chard and a variety of other leafy greens. What we do about the increasing supply of hothouse tomatoes—mostly pretty tasteless in my opinion, and quite expensive—is still a question. My personal preference is to use canned tomatoes eight months of the year.

I recommend the full read if you have time.

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