It’s summer and the markets are bursting—filled with corn and berries, greens and stone fruit. It’s hard to steer a straight course and not get distracted. Do you come prepared with a list and check off the items you buy, or do you let fancy sway you and figure you can come up with some recipe to incorporate all your impulsive purchases?

On the Gourmet editors’ blog, Robert Pincus tells the story of meeting his friend at the farmers’ market this spring. “She looked slightly aghast at my enormous haul,” he writes, “and asked what on earth I planned to do with it all. ‘Um, I have no idea. It’s the Greenmarket. I shop first and ask questions later.’”

Robert’s philosophy is that of improvisation, letting the seasons inspire his cooking, and he is slowly winning his friend over. “Ann now sends frequent word of her successes,” he reports. She’s fallen for seasonal frittatas. Robert writes:

Improvisation relies on your ability to trust yourself, to know what you want to eat and how you want it cooked. It requires paying attention to your ingredients and your mistakes and—most importantly—learning to see recipes not as algorithms, but as inspiration.

How do you shop? Do you follow a list or let seasonal inspiration strike?

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