We’re eating out of the pantry these days — trying to work our way through what we already have in the house before finally, grudgingly, giving and going grocery shopping. Partly, we’re doing it to try to make a dent in our ghastly grocery bills. Partly, we’re doing it because nobody in this house likes going grocery shopping and so the longer we can wait between trips, the better. Partly, we’re doing it for the perverse thrill of seeing the back of the fridge. Who knew? But mostly, we’re doing it because we are awash in food, because our freezers and our cupboards and our refrigerator floweth over, bursting at the seams with our plenty. We have so much food that we don’t eat, and so we’re trying to eat it rather than ignoring it and going for the obvious, for the fresh pack of chicken and the baby carrots and English cucumbers.
Seriously, we’re pretty good for food. We bought (with apologies to the vegetarians) an eighth of a cow in September. I let my friend Karen talk me into buying not one but two cases of organic Spartan apples in December (okay, it's my own fault), and now a half-dozen crisps lie in wait downstairs in the freezer while I ponder whether the remaining dozen or so in the fridge will last or if I should make them into yet another batch of sauce.
(I love the Thunder Bay economy: Stephanie orders organic peaches and teaches me how to can; I show up with piecrust and we each end up with stuff for the pantry. Karen organizes the organic apple order and I drop off a communal cheque from her and me and Derek to the organic apple order people, whose house I can tell from the others on the street because of the hand-lettered “no pesticides” sign on the lawn. Karen pays me back from her till at her stand at the farmer’s market on Saturday, and Derek gets me with a bunch of fives in an ATM envelope at Pokémon club on Saturday, where we all take turns keeping track of each other’s kids. And then Karen and I spend an afternoon making apple crisps while our children run around us like maniacs (we get so obsessed that we lose track of time and end up ordering pizza in for dinner for everyone, which is kind of the opposite of what we wanted), while Stephanie texts me to show off her husband, Carlo’s, recent loaves of bread — he’s become obsessed with breadmaking and I sweet-talk him about it at every opportunity because, well, fresh bread made by someone who's obsessed . I need to take an apple crisp over there.)
We’ve still got beets from the garden in the fridge, despite my first pickling efforts and having made a couple of rounds of my friend Nat’s infamous beet hummus (also in the freezer). I think we’ve very nearly got through all the frozen ends of bread in the freezer — but we still have flour, and yeast, and a bread maker (and two loaves of challah, which I make in batches of three) and so there’s no point in buying more: I’ll just whip up a loaf with what we already have.
Tonight’s dinner will be steak and quinoa salad: why is it that we have a gallon-jar full of quinoa and yet I never remember it? Toss it with a can of corn, one of chick peas, the rest of the marinated artichoke hearts, a jar of roasted red peppers and the last of the first of the two containers of feta. I get a wee thrill, a perverse sense of accomplishment, every time I throw a jar into the recycling, run a spatula around the inside of another container. The kids could use muffins in their lunches, so I’ll unearth a couple of the dozen or so containers of pumpkin from October’s jack-o’-lanterns and experiment with a batch of pumpkin muffins — if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat them, right? Too bad we just ran out of chocolate chips, but maybe some candied pecans, because we have pecans and sugar … or I could chop up the last of the Chanukah gelt that the kids forgot about and throw that in.
We have three jars of olive oil, because we keep going to the store and buying more, thinking, Don't we always need olive oil? No, apparently not.
When we ran out of our regular tea, we went through all the fancy (caffeinated — we’re not that committed) teas in the cupboard that we’ve received as gifts over the years and have forgotten about. And they were good. We have chicken stock, and lentils, and pounds of carrots, and frozen pesto, and diced tomatoes, and brown rice vermicelli, pasta fagiole in lunch-size containers, canned peaches, half a cauliflower (oh, and on Friday night I danced such a parental dance around getting Rowan to try just one bite because I think you’ll like it but it’s really up to you because I don’t care that much of roasted cauliflower and he finally did and then ate a small mountain of it and I died happy), some broccoli that will perk up just fine once I stick it in water. We can make popcorn. We have peanut butter and couscous (the kids hate couscous, they tell us, but we’ll keep trying, like with the cauliflower) and 11 different kinds of vinegar and beans, beans, so many beans.
We have garlic.
We are bursting.
It doesn’t feel like restraint. It feels exhilarating, like every mealtime is a game of (no pun intended) chicken with the universe and the gods of plenty always side with us. Like some home ec exercise and we’re getting an A. Like we’re on some cooking show for earnest/foodie homemakers challenged with making a passable dinner out of an aubergine and some capers. And we are so totally on. We are potluck-ready: we’re bringing apple crisp and beet dip and we will feast and shun the store for as long as we can.
What's in your pantry? How long could you go?