The Suitcase Lady


January 29, 2019, 9:36 pm

Last week, the New York Times’ food section ran a feature on the well-stocked pantry. The writers offered three lists of must-have items for the essential, expanded and expert levels of home cooking. Even before reading the article, I feared I would miss the mark on every level. And I also knew it would be my father’s fault.

Deeply embedded in my psyche is the belief that wasting food in a world where so many go hungry is very, very wrong. My father always asked my mother to cook only what our family needed for dinner, not extra food “in case someone drops over at dinner time”.

We never stockpiled food, either. Our cupboards and fridge were never crammed to overflowing. Tons of food was wasted in the 1950’s, however, as it was piled into bomb shelters so that nuclear families could survive a nuclear holocaust. (Our species does love magical thinking.)

Reading the foodstuffs required for “perfect pantries”, I was surprised that I had most of the items deemed necessary for the essential level of cooking. In fact, I excelled in the essential baking ingredients. But I will never have the right stuff on hand to reach the exalted levels of expanded or expert cook.

Here are but a few of the many items I am lacking:

  • red curry paste
  • harissa
  • verjus
  • olio santo
  • verjus
  • mirin
  • caperberries
  • dukkah
  • shichimi
  • gochujan
  • thai bird chilies
  • makrut lime leaves

I would bet a big pile of money that these items sold out last week at upscale urban markets such as Whole Paycheck.

Acknowledging that the pantry items won’t be the same for every cook, the article did provide some solid advice on managing the food we buy. My favorite was F.I.F.O. , or first in, first out. In other words, “cook in order of freshness”.

Other wise words were, “If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. Then restock with an eye to the things you are confident using and what you love to eat.

Now those are words I will be happy to cook by.

My cupboards aren’t bare.

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