Sunday, July 27, 2008


Pantry d’Elisson

Behold the freshly cleaned and organized Pantry d’Elisson. No Olde Foode here!

Yesterday we drove down to Savannah, picked up the Mistress of Sarcasm’s remaining belongings, and drove back to Atlanta. It was brutal. Nine hours on the road, combined with schlepping stuff down a narrow stairway in the Savannah summertime heat for a couple of hours, filling up a pickup truck and the Elissonmobile. But now the Mistress is one step closer to Nashville.

One of the nice things about having the Mistress of Sarcasm with us for these few transitional weeks, aside form being able to enjoy her company, is having the advantage of her industriousness. She’s a ball of energy.

Three weeks ago, she and the Missus cleaned out and organized the basement, a thoroughly unpleasant job that we had managed to put off for almost ten years.

The past few days, she’s been doing surface prep, getting ready to paint her room. It’s the last bedroom in the house that hasn’t been painted since we moved in. We always dreaded doing it because it’s a big room with a complicated ceiling...and the walls have borne the effects of the Mistress’s high-school-era decorating efforts. Lotta ticky-tack and two-sided tape remnants.

A couple of days ago she tackled the fridge and the pantry, mercilessly discarding all of the old, outdated crap. They’re both pristine now.

I have a nasty habit of buying Interesting Food Items, stuffing them away, and then either forgetting to use them or just moving on to other things. Sometimes the pleasure of owning a jar of something like Prune Butter (AKA lekvar) interferes with the pleasure of consuming it. Call me a Food Collector. Or better yet, a psycho nutjob. And I’ve resisted the Missus’s previous attempts to clean things out. Because, after all, you never know when you’ll need that nine-year-old tin of garam masala.

Look, it’s reasonably easy to keep up with the refrigerator, with a little due diligence. When stuff gets old, it usually tells you. It starts to smell funky, or it starts to grow green hair like some sort of alien zombie armpit. But old stuff tends to accumulate. Jars of olives, capers, various Exotic Condiments...these can get pretty old. And even though they last a long time, they don’t last forever.

The freezer is worse, because it’s easy to throw something in there and forget about it. Three-year-old meat is not a Good Thing.

But the pantry...ahhh, the pantry. That’s where the really ancient stuff lurks. Olde Foode. Stuff you buy with every intention of using it, but somehow never do, until finally it’s too old to consume.

A few weeks ago, I made a piña colada using some Coco Lopez piña colada mix I had found hiding in the pantry. One taste, and it was pretty damn obvious the stuff was way too old. Feh. The moral? Just because it’s in a can or jar doesn’t mean it’s good forever.

Staples also don’t last forever, with the possible exception of sugar. Flour, especially whole wheat or rye flour, gets rancid. And spices are generally useless after a couple of years. But I’ll bet that you have spices in your pantry that are old enough to get a learner’s permit.

Years ago, after my mother passed away, SWMBO and I took on the unenviable task of cleaning out her pantry and freezer. If you wonder where I get my pack-rat tendencies, wonder no more. I am my mother’s son. There was stuff in that freezer that was amazingly ancient. We took everything that looked like it might be usable.

[For months afterward, whenever we had anything to eat, the kids would ask whether it had come from Grandma’s freezer. If it had, they wouldn’t touch it. All that stuff tasted…worn out. We finally ended up tossing it all.]

The pantry was worse. There was crap in there that dated back to the Nixon administration. Here’s the evidence:

Ancient Jell-O

You’re looking at a box of Jell-O (duh). But it’s a really old box of Jell-O. How old is it?

Back when we found it in Mom’s pantry, I knew it was way too old to use. The package design was one clue. Here was another:

Ancient Jell-O with price stamp

Check out that price...27¢! Stamped on the box with a rubber stamp! (Of course, this was way before the days of bar codes, back when each item in the supermarket was individually priced.)

One of our neighbors worked for General Foods. I showed him the box, and he told me that it was produced in August, 1974. That was the month Nixon resigned...and the month I started working for the Great Corporate Salt Mine. That box was fourteen years old.

But that was back in 1988. It’s been living in our pantry for the past twenty years. Not that we ever planned to use it, mind you. It was a keepsake.

And we still have it. As you know, there’s always room for Jell-O. In the basement.

[Got any Olde Foode stories of your own? Why not write ’em up and link back to this post?]

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