Friday, October 23, 2009

True Confessions: My Pantry

When Heather asked me to guest blog last week, I responded with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t think of a topic. So I opened the pantry in search of inspiration – and when a five-pound bag of rice fell off the shelf and exploded at my feet, I realized I had found it.

You see, I suffer from a pantry problem. It’s not that the larder is bare – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most of the time, it’s so stuffed I can’t even close the door.

I did my bi-annual cleanout the other day, which is always a terrifying prospect. And once again, as I stood adrift in mounds of cereal boxes and a veritable rainbow of canned specialty foods (only a third of which had expired), I found myself pledging to keep better track of my pantry’s contents.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit what turned up in there, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Cluttered pantry In addition to fifty-nine assorted spice jars (many of them duplicates), I discovered nine cans of chickpeas and twelve – yes, twelve – bags of spaghetti. I also uncovered five open jars of honey, six tubs of peanut butter (each on a different shelf), thirty-two jars of jam, four varieties of syrup (maple, blackberry, butter pecan, and strawberry) and three half-empty bottles of ketchup – none of which I was able to lay my hands on when making meatloaf the previous week. And I won’t even list the number of bags of dried beans and grains in twist-tied bags near the bottom. I always buy them in a fit of health-conscious enthusiasm (it usually happens when I start reading Indian cookbooks) and then never get around to using them. At least they’re there if the hankering for lentil, bulgur and garbanzo bean soup strikes!

I tell myself that some of it is that I like to cook – and that it’s great to be able to flip through a cookbook and have almost everything I might need, if not at my fingertips, then at least buried somewhere behind the preserved galangal root and the canned salmon. (The problem being, of course, finding it: thyme is one of the most elusive things in my pantry, which perhaps explains why I found two jars and two baggies half-filled with the stuff.)

Unfortunately, however, I’m afraid that my penchant for cooking is not the real root of the problem. As I was searching for a black purse in my closet the other night, I realized that my closet bears a rather striking resemblance to my pantry. I haven’t yet found a jar of peanut butter hidden behind my sandals, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

The hard truth of it? I’m just not an organizer. I know roughly where things are, and often (with the evident exception of thyme and ketchup) even remember whether I still have any; I just can’t seem to take the time to keep things organized. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who never takes the time to line up the spice jars. When it comes time to put up groceries, I am usually in a rush, and have a bad habit of shoving things in wherever they fit, figuring I’ll somehow be able to find them later. And I do – often when they fall on my toe while I’m hunting for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Like nature, I suppose, I abhor a vacuum.

But I make a wicked boeuf bourgignon – if I can find the thyme.