This past Saturday morning I woke up to the sun streaming through the window, quickly laced up my running shoes and ran straight to the Farmer’s Market. I bought my fair share of fall produce – brussels sprouts, parsnips & carrots, acorn squash, honey crisp apples. Produce in hand, I walked home slowly, enjoying the beautiful fall morning, stopping every now and then to take a quick picture. Seriously, could that sky be more blue? Or those leaves more lovely? I think not.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, recently, about what it is I do here in this space I share with you. I enjoy taking pictures of food and sharing good recipes with you. But it’s more than that. I believe in food because I believe in sustainability. I believe that what we eat and how we eat and who we share our food with is so much more than a pretty picture. So much more than a list of ingredients and instructions. Listening to the radio the other day, I heard a story about a woman who asked Escoffier for a recipe for a dish she enjoyed at his restaurant. She came back days later and said “The dish tasted nothing like yours!” He said to her, “Ma’am, I gave you a recipe, I did not teach you to cook.”
I have been so inspired recently – by local farmer’s I’ve gotten to know at our market, by the work of people like Ron Finley, by my favorite America’s Test Kitchen Podcasts and by fellow food-bloggers out there who bring so much more to this shared internet space that just pretty pictures and recipes. As the holidays near and Thanksgiving madness ensues, my hope is that I can remain grounded in simplicity and enjoy cooking as a lesson in sustainability and gratitude, not as a means to a picture-perfect ending.
Happy Fall, friends. And as always, thanks for reading.
In the forward to Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal, Alice Waters describes the joy of harvesting a head of lettuce out of the ground to make a fresh salad. Out of all the books, essays and stories I’ve read about sustainable gardening and cooking, the image of the fresh harvested lettuce is one that has stuck with me. Perhaps it did so because I had never thought about where lettuce came from, what it looked like when it grew bursting out of the ground, or what it might taste like without being packaged in plastic and shipped across the country. And as soon as tonight, we will find out.
Our garden project started a few weeks ago when I picked up a few starter plants at our local farmer’s market. Herbs worked well for us last year, but I was eager to explained our little balcony garden to include more edible foods such as lettuce, spinach, peppers & tomatoes. I purchased two books online – The Bountiful Container and Grow Great Grub. These books, in addition to conversations with farmer’s, neighbors and successful balcony-gardening-friends, have provided me with enough knowledge to get started. Welcome to our balcony beginnings.
Just a quick update on the newest addition to our meal-planning: our menu board. I couldn’t find a good place for something on display in the kitchen, so I just bought a little white board to mount inside our kitchen cabinet. It works perfectly.
And, in case you’re wondering what we’re eating this week, here’s links:
– broccoli pesto
– red pepper pesto & turkey paninis
– pork shoulder ragu (will post soon!)
– spring asparagus pancetta hash
– red curry with veggies
Do you have a menu board in your kitchen?
I’ve always been a planner and a list-maker. For periods of time, I’ve meal-planned on a weekly basis, and recently even convinced Jon to participate a few times. Unfortunately, the weekly meal-planning hasn’t become a routine habit for us quite yet. There are a million excuses I could make – I have an unpredictable schedule that makes doing anything weekly difficult, we have little time together as is and meal-planning is not the most fun way to spend that time, etc. I can say that the few times we have successfully planned a week of meals, it’s been great. I look forward to getting home to start cooking because we know what’s on the menu, the ingredients are there waiting for us and it’s something we’re excited to make.
It’s been a constant goal of our to waste less in the kitchen, and I’m convinced that meal-planning has to be one of the best ways to do this. But, it’s been hard to do, so I thought posting about it on here would be good motivation for me to commit to it, and offer a forum for any others of you out there to hop on board.
As with most things in life, I think the most difficult part is knowing where and how to start. Our two biggest challenges are finding the time to sit down together to plan and then deciding on what we will make. With so many food blogs out there, so many magazines, cookbooks and my own ever-growing list of ideas of recipes to make, it’s hard not to feel totally overwhelmed. So, for now, I’ll be adopting a few rules to structure the planning:
- I will start with planning just 4 nights per week, leaving Friday, Saturday & one weeknight as either “catch-up” days for any meals that didn’t get made, as a night to finish up leftovers or a night out.
- I will pick my meals from the following four categories:
- I will also plan for at least one baked good or snack (a new bread, some good old granola or perhaps a homemade version of something I eat almost every day)
It’s a busy week coming up with a few nights out and guests coming this weekend. I’ll be keeping track of things the old-fashioned way and will let you know how things go next week.
Do you meal plan? What are your strategies?
other helpful links on meal shopping:
– meal planning 101 by natalie
– Menu Planning from Annie’s Eats
– Seven Days Challenge: Your 5-Step Plan from DALS
– This Week for Dinner – a blog all about weekly meal planning