I have been catching up on my backlog of podcasts and enjoyed listening to a recent episode of Jeremy Cherfas's Eat This Podcast where he talks about the proliferation of acculumated items in his fridge and pantry.
I have found myself in the exact opposite situation: my cupboards are completely bare.
Our recent move across country has meant starting from scratch in so many ways. With the exception of a few precious packets and jars of spices, we moved no food at all. And as we have no car, any particular shopping trip is limited to what I can fit into my (albeit spacious) fancy granny cart. How to balance acquiring, carrying and storing paper towels and fresh foods and bottles of wine and everything else under the sun is a skill that my giant midwestern kitchen and mom-mobile did not prepare me for. I have so much less space, in all respects, and little idea yet how to manage that situation.
There is something about having a proper kitchen that makes a place feel like home. I had an existential crisis a week or two ago, here in this nearly empty space, alone in the apartment while the mister was off on some lark, when I realized I didn't even have the means to make a peanut butter sandwich. It just didn't feel like my kitchen at all. And how can it be my home if it isn't my kitchen?
So where to start? The acquisition of fresh foods here has largely been a joy - we have a wonderful weekly farmer's market just a block away, and the local supermarket has quite a reasonable meat and fish counter. A few staples like salt and pepper and butter did just fine for the first few weeks as we found our feet and I found my frying pans.
But the itch for something more has been growing. Sure, I can buy the veggies that look good at the market, or the salmon that's on sale, but when I get them home, all I can do is broil, steam and sauté. Boring. I realized that not being able to whip up a supper or hot lunch has really depressed me, not to mention sapped my will to cook. I need a proper pantry.
I've been adding things one by one, as I've remembered the essentials I use to 'throw something together'. At this point, here is the extent of my pantry staples (not counting spices):
- red wine vinegar
- soy sauce (okay, tamari)
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- peanut butter
- tomato paste
- dried pasta (rotini & spaghetti)
I can get surprisingly far on these! For example, I can make a white sauce now, which means I can make a cheese sauce. Insta-dinner. I can take some leftover meat and toss it with lentils or quinoa. Insta-lunch.
But there is one other thing I added that has made nearly as much difference as all of the above combined: chicken stock. I was itching for spaghetti a week or two ago, but for that I needed some of my homemade tomato sauce. And for the tomato sauce, I needed chicken stock. And for the chicken stock, I needed to roast a chicken.
All those dependencies have now been satisfied. The chicken was roasted, the stock was made, the tomato sauce was put together. There are a couple pints of stock and portions of sauce in the freezer.
And now it's my kitchen, and now it's home.