I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen pantry. Take a moment to let that statement sink in. Now you may commence with the “atta-Pegs,” because I deserve every one.
This strange urge to clean may have something to do with spring, but the immediate prompt was that I couldn’t find the confectioners’ sugar. I found mouse droppings instead. A few don’t faze me – mice are a fact of life out in the country. When you have so many droppings it looks like somebody spilled a box of Uncle Ben’s Brown & Wild Rice Medley, however, it’s time to act.
Our pantry is a 2-foot wide, 6-foot tall closet with pull-out shelves, and cleaning it was a monumental job. I took everything out. All horizontal surfaces in my kitchen were buried in boxes, bottles, jars and cans. I then scrubbed the pantry shelves and walls and took stock while it dried.
I learned some things about myself.
I seem to have Single Food Hoarder Syndrome. I first learned of this disorder years ago when we moved into a house that had belonged to my husband’s great aunts. We unearthed 13 bags of marshmallows while cleaning the kitchen. Most were so fossilized they “thunked” when dropped on the floor.
I can imagine their shopping trips.
“Are you sure we have marshmallows? We can’t have our cocoa without marshmallows.” Aunt Margie asks, worriedly.
“Didn’t we buy some on our last trip, dear?” Aunt Gertrude asks, sweetly.
“Better safe than sorry.” Aunt Ellen says, firmly. Another bag of Jet-Puffed goodness goes into the cart.
Now I’m doing the same thing with:
- baking cocoa – 3 tins
- peanut butter – 5 jars
- vinegar – 6 bottles
- couscous – 8 boxes
My worst problem is with Jell-O gelatin and pudding mixes. I could build a playhouse with all the little, cardboard bricks I had stashed away. If I could sell them back to the Jell-O Company, I’d raise enough money to cover Bill Cosby’s defense fund.
I inspected every container and tossed anything that bulged more than 1 centimeter, had mouse chew marks that went through the packaging or was more than 3 years past the x-date – less than that and it’s probably fine.
If you think this approach is gross, you’re probably younger than I am. Attitudes on expired food seem to be directly related to age. My 20-something kids would automatically dump a carton of milk that expired today. Those who have been around the dairy case a few times, however, know that it’s all about the sniff test.
My 80-something parents take “it’s probably fine” to the extreme. Last time I was at their house I noticed that some stuff in their cupboard was produced the same year I was. I was super sneaky about tossing the worst offenders, but my Dad still caught me in the act.
“Hey, don’t throw that out; it’s fine.” Dad said about a can so misshapen it looked like a modern art sculpture.
“Dad, for goodness sake, this was packaged during the Khrushchev era!” I protested as we engaged in an unbecoming tug-of-war for it.
“Exactly!” He exclaimed triumphantly as he wrenched the can out of my hands. “Something designed to withstand the A- bomb is made to last.” Back on the shelf it went.
I’m currently planning tonight’s dinner menu. We’re having salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing, couscous, and chocolate/peanut butter cookies with milk. Oh, and Jell-O. We’ll be having Jell-O at every meal for the foreseeable future.