Fondue Night! (Yes, my child’s feet are on the table. We are barbarians!)
There are two things you should know, and maybe already know, about our eating habits:
1. We are diehard meal planners. I started meal planning in late 2003, when I realized that in order to successfully feed one graduate student and her then-unemployed partner, you have to get organized. Like seriously organized. As in, set a budget, plan a menu around that budget, go shopping only with a list, and never deviate from set list. And I’ve been meal planning ever since. Truly, I am not sure how one (especially if one has a family) even approaches dinnertime without a set list of meals to choose from. This fact probably betrays my lack of imagination and ability to think on my feet, but just the thought sends me into my own truly spooky witching hour. Indeed, our meal planning and grocery shopping has reached such a compulsive level that we have a print-out grocery list, organized by aisle, wherein I can just check off what we need and so Andy (who is the designated shopper) can get in and out in 1/2 hour flat.
Sometimes I like meal planning and sometimes I don’t. I really enjoyed it pre-kids, when I could sit down with a cup of tea and a stack of cookbooks, and do it in a leisurely way. Now I often resent it for eating up all too much of my kid-free time (generally after they go to bed on Tuesday nights, when all I want to do is curl up with some hot chocolate, knitting, and “Six Feet Under”). But I must admit it is entirely indispensable.
2. As of Spring 2009, we eat according to the seasons and what’s available locally in terms of produce. This was motivated by a combination of environmental beliefs as well as gut feelings (backed up by some research) about wellness, paired with my own propensity to make things hard on myself. (That last part is — mostly — a joke.) We have been aided in this plan by our membership at the truly amazing Park Slope Food Coop, which updates its in-stock produce every morning as well as the produce’s point of origin. (The PSFC defines “local” more broadly than we do but since they generally give more specifics than “locally grown” we pick and choose according to our own definitions.)
A brief rundown of the way it works is this: On meal planning night, I look at the PSFC website and see what’s around. I plan meals around those vegetables. Over the summer, I preserve a good amount of vegetables as well as some fruit (particularly berries, which freeze well, and a few bags of peaches for smoothies or pie) to supplement the cruelest winter months (February and March being the only months where basically *nothing* is in season). Our meals thus follow a certain natural rhythm not only according to what’s available but also according to the season itself: heavier, starchier foods in winter and lighter food that can be prepared without turning on the oven in the summer. While I miss salad in the winter, fruit has never tasted as good as when I have had to wait for it, and there is a certain mammalian pleasure to letting the time of year naturally determine what I am eating and how it is prepared. It was very interesting to me to notice that contrary to when I was pregnant with Jaya over the summer and wanted only to eat salad and fruit, my pregnancy with Alder (which took me through the winter months) centered around soup and an alarming amount of collard greens.
We are not purists, however, and we do buy certain non-local produce: for example, while we are lucky to have local onions and garlic for most of the year we don’t always, and ginger is not something this Pakistani girl will do without. Likewise, we do buy dried fruit for Jaya to snack on as well as lemons and limes for cooking, which are of course never local. And we do allow ourselves the occasional non-local fruit, particularly during winter months (I won’t ever buy, say, a banana when the coop is overrun with local peaches and plums and melon, but I will allow Jaya clementines here and there, particularly in the winter months when we are eating our 28982978297298728927th apple of the year. And I don’t think I could ever wean myself off pineapple and mango entirely, even if the mangoes here leave much to be desired, especially because pineapple in a savory dish is one of my true joys!).
Now why do I bring this all up now?
At various iterations of my blogging “career,” I’ve attempted to record my weekly meal plans on my blog. And I have failed, every time, recording them for a few weeks and then forgetting. Generally, my (failing) efforts have been motivated by friends repeatedly asking me to do so. Occasionally it occurs to me that maybe it would be useful to have a “meal planning” tag and to be able to quickly see what I was cooking at a specific time in years previous, but yet here I am, still flipping through my old datebooks for ideas instead. They take up space, sure, but I must admit it always makes me smile to look at old datebooks and find the various notes to myself or to remember what I did on the 21st of December in 2005 (had dinner with my Intro to Africana Studies class at the now-out-of-business Zen Palette).
Yet recently it’s been requested of me to share my meal plans again, by more than a few people, and so I am attempting to comply, AGAIN, with the disclaimer that if I fail, AGAIN, you’ve been warned. That being said, I’ve also realized in the past year that our meal plans might actually be useful because of the seasonal element. Now, I don’t purport to be any kind of food blog expert, but I can say that I subscribe to what might rightly be called a ridiculous amount and have been generally amazed at how few are seasonally inspired. Sure, you’ll see people mention their CSA boxes during the growing season, but you will also see more than your fair share of asparagus from Chile in the middle of December. Which is fine, of course, but not helpful if you are attempting to avoid doing this. I am sure there are foodblogs that are locally-themed and that, because it is not physically possible to read everything on the vast interwebs, I don’t know about them, so please don’t read this is as my claiming some kind of innovation on my part. I did, however, think that it might be helpful for others to see what’s cookin’ over here in Brooklyn throughout the year.
So, with that disclaimer, here’s what we are eating this week. I have linked recipes wherever possible but am happy to provide more detail to ones that are not online — just ask!
W: Creamy Vegetable Millet Casserole, corn on the cob (we are attempting to eat a metric ton of this before it goes out of season!), baked potatoes
Th: Homemade whole-wheat Pizza with various toppings according to whose slice it is (broccoli rabe, olives, roasted butternut squash), salad
F: Poached Eggs over black rice
Sat: Pierogies, Cabbage, Applesauce
Sun: African Pineapple Peanut Stew (see, there’s a pesky pineapple! We haven’t had this dish in 2 years and of course it would appear on the plan this week, by special request.)
M:Korma (with Cauliflower, Potatoes, Carrots), Roti
Let’s see if I remember to do this next Wednesday! If I do, I’ll review any dishes here that I hadn’t tried before (which I think in this case is only the poached egg dish) and then write out the plan for next week.