The odd things you can find in your pantry

Unlike many friends, we haven’t yet felt the pull to clean out closets, the garage, or bookshelves — all of which need attention — during this period of semi-quarantine. But recently, shelves of canned and dried foods — piled, stacked, and stuffed into the pantry — got my husband’s attention. His exercise in culling led to many difficult questions.

Why do we have two containers of powdered sugars, one of baker’s sugar, one of turbinado sugar, one of brown sugar, one of raw sugar, and one bag, and one box of granulated sugar?

What drove us to collect short-grain white rice, long-grain brown rice, regular black rice, glutinous black rice, red rice, and basmati rice? Other questions that arose in the process of cleaning out cupboards were more esoteric. How do you judge the shelf life of unopened catsup, salad dressing, and exotic vinegars if you can’t find any “Use by…” information on their containers?

In today’s local paper, I found the answers from a Washington Post article titled, “How long are condiments supposed to last in pantry/fridge?” The writer followed the recommendations of various university extension services in compiling a list. Here are a few examples of items I chose because they matched those breeding in my fridge: chutney (unopened), one year, (opened and refrigerated) 1-2 months; hoisin, 18-24 months, 3-6 months; and barbecue sauce, two years, 6-12 months.

The best news for me is that vinegar can last indefinitely. This means I don’t have to throw away my white balsamic, red wine, rice, black fig, apple cider, dark chocolate balsamic, white vinegar, and fig balsamic vinegars any time soon. After giving the official line, the writer admitted that these rules could be difficult to enforce. She must know that most people can find food lying around at the back of the cupboard that is ten years older than their children. The key is if a food item has a blue-green tint and/or stinks, it’s time to kiss it goodbye, metaphorically speaking.

I enjoyed the appearance of the peas, also the taste.

Among my husband’s other finds were black-eyed peas and two kits of ingredients to make okonomiyaki, which Wikipedia describes as “a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients in a wheat-flour-based batter.”

During this period, when going to the grocery store can be dangerous, we eat whatever we find in our kitchen. I have no idea why a bag of black-eyed peas (really beans) has been lurking undetected in the pantry for years. But I managed to locate a couple of recipes, we dug out our rarely-used pressure cooker and created a tasty stew. I would even buy the pea/beans again.

Japanese pancake from kit

If there were pull dates on the okonomiyaki kits, I wouldn’t know because I don’t read Japanese. However, there were pictures and directions inside. “Hello people of the world! Everyone can enjoy an “Okonomiyaki Party” at home.” Given the coronavirus restrictions, we enjoyed a party for two. The kit consisted of wheat flour, yam flour, crunchy “tempura crisps,” and seaweed flakes. To this we were to add cabbage and pork. I’d eaten the pancakes before in Japan, and they were delicious. These results didn’t live up to my memories. Still, we used up one of the kits. One package gone, and I know someone who might like the other one, leaving more room in the pantry for rices and vinegars in the future.









About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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3 Responses to The odd things you can find in your pantry

  1. Eleanor Owen says:

    Of course, anyone with all those exotic foods, would eventually find out how delicious black eyed peas can be, especially if you have a left over ham bone to add to the pot. Then, depending on how you like your greens (kale, mustard greens, collards, escarole, chicory,,turnip tops), add them whenever you choose. Don’t forget the hot pepper flakes. Great with your home made bread.

  2. stillalife says:

    I made corn bread and a salad to go with the peas.

  3. Evelyn says:

    Impressive noble effort! I finally made split pea soup this week from a very old bag of split peas. It was really quite good. I read that article from the Post too and then I remembered another older one that said “If you want to cook like your mother, use well aged spices.

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