Cooking from the Pantry

January 5, 2016

Would you like to know about my craziness – well, some of it.

My new year’s resolution is not to lose weight; that’s a year-long, lifelong resolution. Nor is to be a better person; that’s unachievable. My resolution this year is to bring greater order to my home.

That may seem to you so simple as to be unworthy of a new year.  But it’s not.

I am focusing right now on the kitchen and have a bossy friend helping me.

Clearing space there required me to take from the cupboards all of their contents.

IMG_2085            In my defense, I point out that I am a professional and so sometimes I buy ingredients with which I can experiment. They accumulate.

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And in my defense, sometimes people bring to the bakery foods they want us to sell and friends bring to my home gifts of foods they think I will enjoy.

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Those foods pile up a bit but this does not explains some foods that only I could have brought in.

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I will learn what this is only by opening it. (I hope it isn’t durian.)

I suffer from a peculiar pathology, culinary hoarding.

I go to a store to shop for a particular recipe I have in mind, one that requires, say, unsweetened coconut milk and I stand before the store shelf on which it reposes and say to myself, “Do I have any coconut milk at home?”

Well, I say again to myself, “I don’t want to make a special trip if I don’t have it, so I’ll buy a can just in case. Oh, I might as well buy two so I don’t have to wonder the next time.”   But when the next time comes I repeat that litany and the result is:

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I do not want simply to put back into the cabinets what I have removed and so right now I am sleeping each night with dreams of food combinations.

I try to imagine foods composed exclusively of what I have on hand. But how could I combine one of Joyce Goldstein’s superb jams with another ingredient also in the pantry. I stand before the counter and try to imagine combinations. But do hearts of palm really go well with lingonberry?

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So I altered this unrealistic aspiration and tried to think of recipes that might combine an ingredient I have on hand with fresh ingredients I buy. That was easy but I fear the weeding out will take too long.

 

My helpful friend had a better suggestion. Meals composed of several courses each of which uses one jar on hand:

Martinis with pickled corn served with toasts with caper flowers and anchovy paste.

Followed by room temperature pork roast with with mango chutney and a salad of avocado and hearts of palm

And a dessert of shortbread cookies with assorted jams.

I can do this. I can have a series of dinners here with friends who are adventurous eaters. I have a lot of such friends. But with foods like these, how long will I keep them? How many dinner parties must I hold? How long will it take?

Frankly I am praying for a couple of blizzards.

 

 

 

 

  1. Marion Nestle says:

    This is hilarious. Fodder for the new book! Happy new year.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This made me laugh out loud!! Good luck with the process.

  3. Bob Craft says:

    Classic!

  4. Frances Kissling says:

    Throw the stuff away. It will be fun to start again.

  5. Mark, in the 4th photo, you have a can of caviar. It could be roe; it could be vegetable. If it is a small can, it is probably roe caviar.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can relate. My pantry is as bad as yours. Maybe even worse. ( Plius there is the preserving cellar) .But maybe with El Nino I will be forced to stay home and make inroads in the accumlation of jars, boxes, cans and bottles.

  7. Marjorie Share says:

    Very sweet. I can relate. It’s good that you do this with food products only, and that they carry expiration dates! You are a highly creative person so of course, you can always find a way to use whatever whenever.

    It sounds like your friend is a Marie Kondo follower.

  8. steven jenkins says:

    hysterical. our larder, too, was ridiculous. i’m a food importer and retailer. i bring home so much stuff our pantry and refrigerator audibly groan and heave. until lately. we discovered we were victims of a hatch. tiny moths throughout the apartment. even the freezer couldn’t kill ’em. we threw out everything. such a purge, so satisfying. better even than getting rid of natl geos, new yorkers, vanity fairs. good-bye, so long. innumerable stale grains and gassy beans and rice and pasta and polenta, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, vinegars, oils. be gone ye.

  9. Nancy Krcek Allen says:

    The can of Russian stuff is caviar or fish eggs. IKPA or e-kra. That looks pretty funky! I dump much of the edible stuff in my compost pile. The deer browse it or raccoons and squirrels carry it away.

  10. Nancy Krcek Allen says:

    Great post by the way. I thought I was alone in this secret habit. Maybe we need a twelve step program…..

  11. Deborah Sidlin says:

    I have 11 cans of hominy which I bought for a recipe I used to make for large groups in Aspen. I had so much trouble finding it in DC that when I did find it, I stocked up. This was five years ago and I have made the recipe once since. Somehow food that works in Aspen doesn’t appeal here.

  12. Zachary Golper says:

    Mark are you on Instagram?

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  13. Well my friend… I LOVE to cook from the pantry and I would LOVE even miser to help you host a series of such dinners. Time to traverse the country???

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  14. Judith Hedgpeth says:

    Reading this was like looking in MY cupboards sans the culinary creds! I am inspired to add to my NY’s resolutions and clean cabinets and refrigerator!

  15. Carol says:

    Mark, I think you should throw a potluck dinner party for six; assign each attendee one item from your parlor with which to make a dish. A few parties later, you will all have had a lot of fun, made up new recipes, and your cupboards will be nearly bare. Take pics. Publish a cookbook with the results.

  16. What a wonderful idea.

  17. Marsha says:

    Great post, I surely understand, much to my husband’s dismay!

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