Friday, September 16, 2011

Past Due Notices

We went to Costco last weekend which, in itself, is not necessarily noteworthy. We took Jack along which insures that it will be a practical trip with few frivolities finding their way to our large cart; no books to add to the collection, nary a cd or movie and not one box of 36 lemon flavored madelines. We stocked up on beginning of the school year lunchbox supplies: yogurt, grapes, blueberries, pasta, cheese and falafel (it’s a new year). We came home.

When we remodeled our kitchen a few years ago we built, into a corner of formerly unused space, a pantry. It’s a wonderful addition to a somewhat small kitchen and we welcome the storage space. But a pantry built into a corner has a deep dark secret, a corner. In fact it has six corners, one on every shelf. If you make a habit of not reaching into the depths of the space you can successfully avoid those corners for years, until your husband decides to help put away the groceries from Costco.

He opened the pantry door. “Where do you keep broth?”, the very first question, like a missile aimed straight at my unorganized heart. Broth is often found as close to the back as possible, “anywhere is fine, thank you!”. Jack is not an “anywhere is fine” kind of guy, his pantry would have a spreadsheet on the inside door with grid locations for every possible item contained. My pantry does not.

He reached in. Out came a box of smoked salmon. “Where did we…Allyson, this came in a gift basket from one of my clients, before the girls were born”. He’s right, it did. He went back for more, “matzo ball mix? Have you ever made matzo ball soup?”. In fact I have not, but five years ago, when I bought the box of easy to make soup mix, I thought I might. “This is fruity tea, blueberry fruity tea, why do we have this?” I drink an enormous amount of tea, all of it black, none of it fruit, “it was a gift”.

The gauntlet was now thrown down, the challenge was on. Get a garbage bag and bless yourself, Jack was going to clean out the pantry. Four bags of butterscotch chips, all with rolling expiration dates, because each September, when I think that maybe this year I might be that kind of mom, I buy a new bag, for when I make Oatmeal Scotchies. We found oatmeal, because we actually eat that, but no sugar. There were peanut butter chips, two years past the best by date. Frosting, cookie decorations, assorted half full bottles of food coloring and cream of tartar, all ready to go for the holiday cookies that rarely get made.

A partial list of the food, with expiration dates, that Pantry Cleaner Jack deemed unfit for human consumption:
  • Vegetable glace, (2/10), now a hard chunk
  • Pork bouillon (I don't eat pork) given to me by his mother when we married (3/01)
  • Cornstarch, no known date or purpose
  • Cornmeal, (4/11), unopened
  • Tiny jars, many tiny jars, of jam
  • Three boxes of chicken broth, (1/11)
  • Asian salad dressing (3/11)
  • Marshmallows, and
  • Hershey Bars, because I bring home leftover s'more stuff every summer from Michigan, and the next summer I forget and buy new.
Everything with a soon to expire date was moved to the front and thus, our meal planning for this week was complete: cous cous with toasted pine nuts, lime cilantro rice, wild rice, Irish oatmeal cakes, rosemary flecked sea salt, Kansas City barbeque sauce, dried cranberries, smoked salmon and for dessert, butterscotch chips with a tablespoon or so of hard brown sugar.

We've never been more popular. Friends called, they were going to an Oktoberfest, did we want to come? Our next door neighbors asked us to join them at the beach for dinner. Are you kidding? There was a pantry half naked, vulnerable, doors open, it's contents covering every surface of our once neat kitchen; we couldn't leave, not when there was this much fun to be had at home. And certainly not when there was this much delicious food to be eaten. Next up, Pantry Jack learns to cook.

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