Last year, during the month of January, I made some cooking resolutions. To be quite honest, I wrote them down and then completely forgot about them. Same thing happened the year before...I even posted the resolutions up on the blog. If I actually followed through on any of the cooking resolutions I've made in the last few years, it's probably been by accident, not a conscious effort to keep up with the resolution. So maybe this year, I thought, it's best that I make no New Year cooking promises.
But in looking back on those resolutions (haven't tried Beer Can Chicken yet or made biscuits from scratch) one kind of stuck out for me...Better Use of Leftover Fridge Ingredients. I've actually made a good effort the past couple of years to not let ingredients or leftovers in the fridge become science experiments and end up in the garbage can. We have regular "fridge tapas" nights were we have bits and pieces of what I might find in the fridge. Mr. L and I will split the last four jalapeno olives left in the jar. A portion of lasagna that wouldn't feed one gets divided between us. 3 slices of salami left? Dab some cream cheese on them, add a sliver of pepperocini or jalapeno and yes, that's part of our "tapas" dinner.
Alas, this resolution didn't seem to make it to my pantry (or freezer for that matter). You see, as a "food enthusiast" I kinda collect foods. I can't go on vacation without finding interesting local foods that need to come home with me. Visiting the Liberace Museum in Vegas? Oh, they sell Liberace Lemonade, I must buy! I need a bottle of Kyles Golden Syrup to make a dessert but they only sell them in cases? Well, I can figure out what to do with those extra 5 bottles right? Oh look at that, ostrich jerky, we should so try that! It doesn't help that grocery stores are full of "bright shiny objects" as my husband calls them. To most folks that might mean diamond bracelets or Jimmy Choo shoes. For me bright shiny objects are interesting food products that just need to be bought because someday I'll figure out what to make with them. So my pantry is full of strange shaped pastas, canned pumpkin because there was going to be a shortage (the fact that I rarely use canned pumpkin didn't enter my mind), three different colors of quinoa, gifts of salts of the world received as a Christmas present, strange flower scented honeys, gourmet mustards, boxes of Ina Gartens mixes picked up at Williams Sonoma and I even think there might be a jar of sauce from Targets Giada promotion.
Mr. L tried to put away some items in the pantry recently and I realized after he stood there for a minute that he was probably calculating the amount of time it would take him to pull everything out and rearrange the items just to fit one more in. I countered the exasperated sigh I heard from him with the suggestion that we play a little game with our pantry. Every week, he gets to pull an ingredient out from the pantry and I'll figure out what to cook with it. I saw a light in his eyes. Yes, he could pull something out of the pantry and put in that one little item that he was holding in his hand and escape. Thus began Operation Pantry Project.
I'm going to use "Pantry" here to incorporate more than the jumble of goods you see in the photo here (there is another shelf that isn't pictured by the way, and all those shelves are a good two feet deep). I'm going to include the canned goods shelf and the oil and vinegar shelf under our kitchen island, the freezer in the garage (which is full) and the, ahem, for lack of a better description, overflow pantry shelves also located in the garage. Oh and some of the stuff stuck in the shelves on the refrigerator door. This is going to be a grand undertaking indeed.
I think this project will also help me get out of a bit of the cooking funk I've been in. When you have a gazillion, too many, a lot of cookbooks you are trying to cook from, figuring out which recipe to make can be a bit daunting. Now that I know I'm going to have to cook that 8-pound pork shoulder Mr. L just picked from the freezer or that I will have to make something with that jar of organic flower blossom triple filtered honey, it might be easier to find recipes to coincide in that stack of overflowing cookbooks.
There is of course, a slight problem to this and that is the accumulation of more goods that need to go into the pantry. But, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
So what does this all mean? Well, the first thing I need to do is go through everything and toss any items that have expired. I'll take foods that I know I'll just never get to or at least not before they expire and donate them to the local food bank or homeless shelter. I'm sure my coworkers will be gifted with a few items (will I ever really use that can of Liberace Hot Cocoa Mix?). I'd like to suggest that maybe my readers do the same. Take a bit of time this weekend to clean out your pantry. Get rid of stuff that's old and donate that stuff that you know you'll just never cook with to a place that can put it to good use. And then pick something from that cupboard or freezer that hasn't seen the light of day in a while and make a feast!