Filling the Pantry

Homemade pizza – delicious.

I’ve never been much of a cook and I have trained family and friends to call me a “Functional Cook”, in other words, I am able to do enough to get by. No one has gone to the hospital with food poisoning, but absolutely no one would call me a good cook.  

Mercifully, my adult son Liam, was gifted with enough empathy to spare me humiliation when discussing my cooking skills, however we both remember the “Grill cheese welded to the frying pan” episode, even though two decades have passed since the smoke alarm went off, resulting in a rising cacophony of screams, yells, dog barks and that sizzling sound a frypan makes when it lands in the snowbank outside.

Previous excuses to my non- culinary skill:

  1. I don’t like cooking, (read as: I lacked confidence in my own skills. )
  2. A small pantry meant there wasn’t much in it.
  3. Only so much fit into the freezer on the bottom of the fridge.
  4. I was very busy, and we ate out a lot.
  5. We did not have an extra freezer, because we didn’t need one.

We never kept a lot of food or supplies in the house because the grocery store was just down the street. If I needed something, then I just went out and got it.

Then Covid arrived and I quickly discovered the flaw in my lack of planning. A trip to the grocery store in March, April or May of 2020 was met with shelves that were empty of the most basic supplies – flour, sugar, pasta, fresh vegetables, meat, dairy and bread.  We quickly went through the items in our pantry and small freezer. Fewer trips to the grocery store meant a dwindling supply at home.   

Sitting at home during the lock-down gave us time to plan and cook. My standard slate of go-to recipes was boring and repetitive. Things needed to change. I needed to learn to cook and that required some updating in the kitchen:

Changes we made:

  1. Upright freezer. Due to space limitations, we bought a 13 cu.ft. stainless upright freezer. I spent $800 to make sure I have ready access to a two-dollar loaf of bread.  Just kidding. There’s more in there than bread, but we don’t drive to the store just to get bread anymore. That’s good.
  2. Spices – we refreshed and updated our spice collection. I threw out at least a dozen that had been in the cupboard for over ten years. During my cleaning expedition, I discovered two packs of Fleishman’s yeast. Why did I have that? I don’t know, but they made the cut to stay in the cupboard. Do they expire? I don’t know.
  3. Disposed of useless gadgets – I made room for more food supplies by getting rid of useless gadgets and appliances. What is more important right now? Space for food, or a waffle iron, electric knife, avocado serving dish, and an electric slicer that I use once every 15 years?
  4. Try new things – every week, we try new recipes.  I find new recipes on blogs, or just go online and search. This week we tried Chicken Cacciatore, last week it was Coconut Curry Chicken. That might not sound fancy, but it beats the heck out of spaghetti sauce, or welded grilled cheese.
  5. Know my limits: There is a set of rules that I have for trying new recipes:
    • Less than 10 ingredients. That should be a sufficient number of items for any recipe.
    • No weird ingredients. I’m not buying 500 ml of something to use 10 ml in a recipe.
    • Less than an hour prep-time.  Cooking time extra.
    • Cost effective.
    • Per item #3, no recipes that require a waffle iron, electric knife, avocado dish or electric slicer. I’m not buying them again.

The changes are happening slowly. I’m starting to enjoy cooking a bit more and it pleases me to read a recipe that calls for five different spices and know that I have them in the cupboard and they are all less than ten years old. I may not ever be known for being a gifted culinary chef, but I have made a few things that I thought “geez, that’s pretty good.”

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