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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pantry 101

My bum knee is preventing me from doing any actual work. Tragically, even sitting is painful--othewise I'd be novel writing. Keeping my knee bent hurts it more than anything else.

I've been doing menial chores that don't require a lot of walking or knee bending. This week, I concentrated on my pantry. When Greg and I lived together in SE Texas he built me cabinets, floor to ceiling since I was lacking a pantry.

I put a lot of pride in my pantry. Now that I live out in the middle of nowhere it's more important than ever not to run out of things because I sure as heck don't want to drive 20 miles for a cup of flour.

For some reason I am surrounded by people who know how to cook well. Many of my friends are true-life gourmands. My dad, who learned to cook at 5-star restaurants never prepared anything less than epicurean perfection if he chose to cook for the family. My mom usually cooked, but when dad cooked, it was like eating at a royal table.

Sadly, those cooking genes skipped me completely. I call my brand of feeding people, guerrilla cooking. It's simple, it's filling and you never leave my table hungry. But I think you'll find that there isn't a lot of difference between my pantry and one my father would have stocked.

A good pantry has the basics: flour, sugar, salt, and oil. But a true pantry caters to the diet of whoever lives in that house.

Below is my arsenal. Even a small kitchen can afford one cabinet toward all these items.

Flour: all purpose, Bisquick
Sugar: granulated, powdered and brown
Salt: table and coarse sea salt
Oil: olive, canola, and occasionally peanut oil if we decide to fry a turkey

Baking supplies: shortening, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, powdered milk and sweetened condensed milk.

Jellies: apricot, blackberry. Good as fillings for baked goods, including cakes


Spices/Herbs: I go all out here. I experiment a lot with spices so my spice rack is usually bigger than most. Must haves are: garlic, rosemary, peppercorns, thyme, cumin, and dill. Next year I hope to start an herb garden so I can have many of these items fresh.

Condiments: I never let my pantry run out of condiments. Mustard, yellow and dark, light mayonnaise, and horseradish sauce.

Vinegars: This is another area I stock a lot. Plain white vinegar comes in gallon containers, but I also keep red wine, balsamic, and rice vinegars.

Soy sauce. Worcestershire sauce used to be my stock sauce, but soy replaced it years ago.

Pasta: spaghetti and lasagna noodles are stock items. Occasionally I will buy manicotti.

Rice: I love rice. Basmati, long grain, or Jasmine.

Beans: We aren't big bean eaters, but I will stock canned beans for Mexican dishes and chili.

Tuna, salmon, sardines, canned chicken (and spam--only because Greg likes it).

Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are my base for a lot of my dishes. I buy them whole and crushed. Rotel is another staple in the tomato clan.

Vegetables: Corn, sauerkraut, okra, spinach, squash and potatoes are canned items I store in case I can't get them fresh.

Entertainment supplies: This is my secret stash. Hopefully, I always know when guests are coming so I can prepare, but in case of drop-ins, I always stock these things for impromptu party appetizers.

• olives
• pickles
• nuts
• crackers
• cheese and assorted premade dips
• cookies

Alcohol. A few of my friends don't drink, but they are outnumbered by friends that do. We always try to keep a bar of the usual suspects, rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila and a couple of wines.

For those who don't drink, there is also an endless supply of soft drinks, tea and lemonade.

That's my basic list. Anyone else keep a pantry? What kind of supplies do you like to stock? I'm always on the lookout for items that are quick to prepare for unexpected guests. Any suggestions?

Do tell.

We'll get back to writing related topics next week.


Mike Keyton said...


Bloody hell.

I'd add curry-powder, chilli and tabasco sauce to that list - and with your space some chickens in the yard...for the lions.

Ref spam, I still have stomach turning memories of fried spam sandwiches as a student. They're trying to relaunch spam in the UK. One TV advert shows an intimate anniversary dinner at home - with spam, set off by some candles.
An idea for Greg.

Maria Zannini said...

LOL. We leave Spam for very special occasions, like hurricanes and power outages.

Ref: curry
I love Indian food, but I've never made it. I need to add curry. Maybe I can find a few easy recipes.

Ref: chickens
Believe me, I plan to get chickens next year. Not for the lions--but the scorpions. It seems scorpions are a favorite food of free range chickens.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; you are well-equipped. Much more well-equipped than I. I enjoy baking, but not cooking. I learned the difference once (stuff you bake rises, as in bread or cakes), and I decided that I am a baker. I'm even a baking snob; I make everything from scratch. Even pancakes.

But I'm just not into cooking. My husband enjoys it much more, and is better at it than I. He also leaves the baking to me.

Maria Zannini said...

Oh, I'm jealous. I am not a baker, but wish I were. It's a true gift.

A neighbor once taught me the secret to perfect pie crusts, but mine never came out as good as hers. --hence all my pies look like country cobblers.