Larder Note:
Cleanout
30 July 2019

¶ Often, these days, I think that all of my problems in the kitchen go back to my not having had to deal with supply and demand until I was in my twenties. Actually, until my thirties, because I was too poor in my twenties to afford supplies that were not in immediate demand. Only when Kathleen and I settled here in New York, in relative prosperity, did I have to think about the larder, or the pantry, or whatever word you want to use for the stuff that you “have on hand,” “just in case.” Then we had the house by the lake in Connecticut, where, first thing, I rebuilt the kitchen from the floor up, and storage was no longer a problem. Halcyon days came to an end a little over twenty years ago, and by then — I wonder — it was too late to learn. I still don’t know what I’m doing when I buy a can of beans. 

Another thing: I grew up thinking that canned goods are eternal. Maybe they were, back then — maybe, that is, nobody knew any better. We were taught to avoid dented or otherwise misshapen cans — c’était tout. So, when we moved down here from the upstairs apartment (nearly five years ago), I brought along a couple of cans that looked okay, so they must be okay, and you can’t throw away perfectly good food. It might “come in handy” — another fatal phrase. 

This week, I resolved to cull the kitchen (drawers and all), and I began with the deep cabinet that held foodstuffs. Some of the food represented was in heavy rotation: cans of chopped tomatoes, backup mayonnaise and mustard bottles (which I replace as soon as they’re taken out and opened), a bottle or two of clam juice and a box or two of broth. Cans of anchovy-stuffed olives. There was an array of sugars: superfine, confectioner’s, and even a pound of plain sugar that I keep on hand for the same reason that I stock the two condiments I mentioned. Running out is both unthinkable and not at all unlikely, given that the lemonade that I make for Kathleen’s Arnold Palmers goes through sugar at terrifying speed.) These necessities, I could see, would fill about half the space available — perfect!

Also, there was a box of Ronzoni elbow macaroni. I prefer Barilla, and don’t run out of it. There was a box of no-cook lasagna pasta, an aspirational item. There were three boxes of hearty soup, a bottle of vodka sauce, and an unopened cylinder of Morton’s table salt. Plus a few other things that I ended up keeping; it wasn’t much. What I didn’t keep were the cans. I probably wouldn’t have kept them anyway, but as it happened their best-used-by date was in every case long in the past, even on the cans that I’d bought while living here. With what guilt-free relish did I toss them!

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