4.03.2011

Meal Planning Inspired by Lunch in Paris

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Lunch in Paris: A Love story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. This post is inspired by that book.
I read this book at the right time in a lot of ways. If I'd read it a couple of years ago, I may have been dragged down into a self-pity stupor, lamenting about my ordinary life, my fear of taking risks, chugging along down the road well-traveled. But, that was then. And now I can say that I'm pretty damn happy. I have a great husband, an amazing kid, funny & supportive friends, a challenging job that I actually like, and a really loving family. Sure, I dream of a big house with a wrap-around porch, rocking chairs, and an expansive kitchen with a fireplace. (Details, details...) But, all in all, I'm content. I feel like I'm where I should be now (or pretty close).

Before, I would have internalized my frustration of missed opportunities, of never taking some leap that could have meant a totally different life. It's a trait Matt and I share, that I hope we don't pass onto our children. We both expected big things for ourselves and have talents that would have demanded risk, but played life safe for the most part. Neither of us expected to have the life we have now. It's probably what we love and hate in each other the most.

Anyway, here I am... Feeling OK with life, but dealing with pregnancy exhaustion, which has made cooking dinners tough. The recipes in the book, tales of daily trips to the market, and focus on drool-inducing meals were a little kick in the pants. I don't have the time for daily trips to special markets, to spend hours creating dinner, but I was inspired and for the first time in a while I meal planned using this book for the majority of this week's meals.

I sat down on Saturday morning to read through the recipes that I had flagged, made out the shopping list and six hours and eight stores later I realized I may have gone a bit too far. To get all the ingredients, I spent most of Saturday running from store to store... Trader Joe's, Costco, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Williams Sonoma, two local butchers, Treasure Island, and The Spice House. Trader Joe's and Costco didn't have whole canned tomatoes or fresh eggplant. I couldn't find piment d'Esplette anywhere (but The Spice House recommended a substitute). The first butcher didn't have any fresh chickens or pancetta. And I really needed a new dutch oven and a cake pan.

By the time I got home I was beyond tired and my knack for not thoroughly reading recipes and underestimating time meant that starting the braised beef at 6:00 meant eating at 9:30. But, Matt and I had an unexpected private dining experience. It felt really good to take the time to create a special meal, enjoy something so simple.

This morning I made chouquettes for a late breakfast and then started our Chicken and Sweet Pepper Stew at 4:00 to ensure W could have dinner with us. It took more time than I usually spend cooking on a Sunday, but the little guy's enjoyment and the opportunity for us to sit down together to enjoy such great meals was worth it. And, honestly, so is the quiet time I get to spend in the kitchen, clearing my head and just focusing on something I really like to do.

In the end all that meal planning and running around was a bit in vain... We have another meal's worth of Braised Beef, so it will be making a return on Monday. And I turned the leftover sauce from the chicken stew into a quick pasta sauce for Tuesday with some browned ground beef, fresh herbs, and crushed tomatoes. I didn't pre-prepare the Eggplant Stuffed With Quinoa or Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes as I had planned. I never did get around to making that yogurt cake... But I have a refrigerator full of their ingredients and hope I'll get to it on Wednesday and Thursday -- If I have the energy.

Hopefully photos like this will continue to inspire me even when I'm feeling exhausted and pregnant and sorry for myself for living in the suburbs:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a member of the From Left to Write Book Club. You can read how this book inspired other bloggers here.

5 comments:

Michele Spring Fajeau said...

You deserve a medal of honor for giving up a Saturday nap in lieu of how many stores?? I am very impressed and inspired by your commitment! Enjoy all your fabulous meals this week!!

Emily said...

The yogurt cake is way easier than the other recipes! I'm amazed that you tried so many of them and all in one week!

Lunch in Paris said...

Wow! This is exactly how I hoped people would use the book - turning down the corners of pages and turning leftovers into next meals. I do pasta sauce with the leftover Poulet Basquaise as well!

You have the cutest choquette eater I've ever seen. With your blessing, I'm tempted to post this to the Lunch in Paris facebook page, to inspire other busy cooks!

Bravo et merci! EB

Melissa said...

Very ambitious of you. The private dinner with you and your husband sounded lovely--an unexpected gift, but I can't help but wonder what inspired you to do so much all at once? Nesting instinct?

Lisa Hanneman said...

I tend to adopt the "go big or go home" mentality in just about everything I do, which works 50% of the time. (The other 50% of the time are disastrous.) I figure that with a hint of nesting and my tendency to procrastinate on everything set me up to go a little crazy. Won't be the first or last time I've gone a little crazy with something.