Last winter, I upgraded my lifestyle. I decided I was going to make more of an effort to eat whole, organic, antibiotic-free, hormone-free and primarily plant-based food to boost my immune system and feel better overall. As a result, I ended up spending a lot of time grocery shopping and cooking. In the spring, I knew I would be very busy with apartment hunting, packing and moving, so to make dinnertime easier on myself, I decided to purchase a few weeks of the ingredient-delivery service Purple Carrot. I could continue to eat homemade meals but hopefully save some prep time.
Purple Carrot is a subscription delivery service that delivers pre-measured ingredients needed for their propriety recipes. They send 3 meal-kits with two servings each twice per week. The subscription is similar to more popular services like Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh with one difference: it’s all vegan. And it had a well-known backer up until recently: Mark Bittman, former New York Times food journalist.
Unfortunately, Purple Carrot did not meet my expectations. For weeks on end, I had bags of perfectly measured food haunting me from the fridge because I could never carve out the time, much less the energy, to invest in its intricate recipes. Some of the ingredients went bad before I got around to cooking them.
Purple Carrot says they’ll help their customers learn to cook. Although I am by no means a great cook, I have basic cooking skills and didn’t learn anything new. However, I was exposed to some new foods: jackfruit, as a meat substitute, being one of the most unique. And the 45 minutes listed as cooking time for most of the meals turned out to be for experienced chefs only; I usually spent at least an hour preparing and cooking the meals.
A lot of the recipes felt like they could be made simpler. For example, multiple steps were outlined for cooking simple grains like couscous that usually don’t require much more than a pot of boiling water and a pinch of salt. I often had to use nearly every pot, pan and knife I own to cook just one meal.
However, although the meal-kits said they served two, I usually stretched the dinners to at least 3-4 meals. Only one struck me as being something I might want to make again: Indian coconut chutney pancakes. It was one of the few meals that felt substantial and not like eating sand – the way eating quinoa-like grains sometimes does - over and over again.
I cancelled the subscription service after about six weeks, at least four weeks too late, when freezer-wrapped ingredients had invaded the bulk of my refrigerator. I won’t be ordering from any meal-kit subscription services again, but I will be sticking to one-pot wonder meals for the foreseeable future.