Thursday, October 7

Plotting Vs. Pantsing in... food?

Plotting versus Pantsing is discussed quite a bit when it comes to writing. Do you plot out your books or do you write by the seat of your pants? Until recently I've always been more of a pantser who plots only when she needs to (hmmm, maybe all the plotting in my current WIP is what led to this dang writer's block...). It is possible that I do this because the rest of my life is so incredibly plotted out and scheduled that I need one place to cut loose (and again, hmmm, maybe this is why I'm not enjoying writing lately).

When it comes to food, I'm a major plotter. I go on a big grocery shopping trip every other week where I get everything except for the produce I need to be super fresh. This means that right before I go grocery shopping, I plan out a dinner menu for two weeks. I'll usually eat the same meal two nights in a row, my husband and I go out once a week and every other week I am cooking for my writer's group. It's all meticulously planned mainly because my life is so busy that if I don't plan out my meals, I'll rely too much on frozen prepared foods and even the vegan versions of these aren't that good for you. Basically I'm a health nut with an overly crammed schedule, so I do what I have to in order to fit cooking in. I also love to cook!

However something is about to change my meal planning ways this fall. I've joined my very first CSA! What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It means a local farm (and since I'm in Chicago, "local" means southern Wisconsin) will deliver a big box of produce that is organically grown on their farm straight to my door every Monday night. And I pay them directly, meaning no middleman, my money goes directly to the farmer. I love this concept politically on so many levels. For one, I am supporting a small, local business--and believe me small and family-owned farms were hurting *long* before the current recession. Two, it is good for the environment. Two years ago, I decided to eat only organic food whenever possible because I just don't like consuming chemicals. But a lot of the time, I would notice that my organic apples were coming from as far away as Chile!!! What a huge carbon footprint to bring me my food all that way when there are perfectly good organic apples fifty or sixty miles from me. In the summer, I solved this problem by going to farmer's markets to buy my produce. One of the farmers at my local market, Tomato Mountain Farm, had a CSA sign up for fall. I convinced my mom to try it with me. It means for 10 bucks a week, I get to split 5/9 of a bushel of produce with her.

It starts in two weeks and I am so excited! Except that I realized I go shopping on Fridays and I will be getting my food on Mondays, so how am I to plan a menu? I can't rearrange my schedule to go grocery shopping on Tuesdays and I won't know in advance exactly what vegetables I'll be getting (though from their website, I know there will be a lot of winter squash, kale, potatoes and leeks which I've never tried so I'm excited about that). I have a ton of cookbooks and plenty of spices on hand, so my plan is just to keep my pantry and fridge stocked with the vegan staples such as tofu, lentils, chick peas, beans, canned tomatoes, veggie stock, and rice. Then hopefully when I get my box, I can look up the vegetables in my cookbooks, find a recipe, hit the pantry and fly by the seat of my pants. It's somewhat nerve-wracking to this queen of organization, but I'm too excited about fresh local vegetables--some that I have never tried before--to let it get me down.

What about you? Do you plot out meals in advance or can you just whip something together--and if so do you have any advice? And know any good leek recipes?


Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Most of the time, I neither plot not pants. I microwave.

holly cupala said...

Excellent article! We live across from a food co-op, but even then it's easy to get lazy - so we started shopping at a farmer's market over the summer and early fall. I just made my own spicy saurkraut with a head of cabbage and a horseradish root. I'd love to hear how the CSA goes.

Anonymous said...

This is our 2nd year with a CSA, and I love it, even when they give us too much of something, or food we don't like. (We can usually trade or give away what we don't use.) Overall, the sheer variety and quality of the food make it well worth it. And when we have food that we've never made before, it's easy to look it up on the internet and find tons of recipes.
Leeks are great in soup, especially with potatoes!

Amanda Ashby said...

Snap - with writing I'm a panster but with food I'm a definite plotter! I work out our meals for the week so I can figure out what we need from the supermarket. I try and get all of my fruit and vege from a local market gardener (though he does get some of his stuff in). It's actually hard work teaching my kids that just because an apple isn't shiny and polished, doesn't mean it doesn't taste good, but I'm getting there!!!