Stirring up memories
Living with our excesses
January 15, 2003
Perhaps I should
never have bought the new dishtowels as a New Yearís celebration.† Or is it that New Yearís brings out the
passion to clean?† I talk to others who
are also suffering attacks of ripping apart the linen closet or spending days
of havoc in the attic.†
looked at those fresh towels perky on the towel rack, and everything else
looked tired.† I should clean up.† Throw out.†
Put a new face on things.†
starting place had to be the pantry, the part of the house most in need of a
facelift.†† The pantry is my
fallback.† Donít know what to do with
something?† Put it in the pantry.†† Need a place to start the tomato
seeds?† Buy some shelves; put them in
more likely what started it than the dishtowels.† I began thinking about tomatoes: reading seed catalogs, choosing
seeds, saving yogurt cartons† for
planting.† Then I noticed the tomato
shelves were loaded.† About a yearís
supply of paper towel and toilet paper buried the top two, the lower ones were
full of art and crafts from the kidsí summer visit and the art class I started
last fall but didnít finish.
turned and looked all the way around.†
What a mess!† It almost made me
shut the door and brew another pot of coffee.
I rolled the garbage can up to the back porch and dug in.† Amazing what a person can buy and
forget.† The food shelves had gotten so
crammed and disordered that I had unwittingly decided it was easier to buy
again than to burrow around and find what I already had.
two people really need 14 containers of olives ranging from two ounces to two
pounds?† Or four sacks of cornmealóthree
of them open?† I refuse to reveal how
many brown sugars all neatly sealed in zip-up bags.† And who, who, who could explain four quarts of tomato-clam juice?
there are two shoppers in this family.†
I lean to soup and crackers.† And
I havenít learned about finishing a box of crackers.† Instead, if I open a can of soup, I open a box of crackers.† The other shopper tends to tomato products,
particularly if they have a peppery snap.††
really hurt were the mistakes.† Just
because the artichoke pesto was on sale, did I have to buy four jars, only to
discover it tastes awful?† Worst of all
were the salted, preserved duck eggs bought one adventuresome afternoon in a
Chinese grocery store.† I deliberated
and decided not to try them, but the dog might enjoy them as a treat.†† When the first one I unwrapped sloshed
softly in its wrapper, I took pity on Frank and tossed the whole mess.
in good shape now.† I threw out the big
mistakes, and gave away what was good but we knew we would not use.† We are left living with our excesses.† I have spent the last couple of weeks
cooking through my pantry and serving lots of crackers.† One comfort, I tell Bob after a particularly
unmemorable meal, is that at least weíll never have to eat that again.
there have been good surprises as well.†
Some of the overstocks are gone, and they are back on the grocery list.† But I have a new resolution.† If I donít plan to eat it in the next two
weeks, I am not going to buy it.
found some good uses for the snappy tomatoes and the many cans of beans.† We like spicy food.† You may prefer these slightly calmed
Black Bean and Corn Soup
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (10 ounces) RO*TEL Chopped
Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1 can (14 or 15 ounces) chicken
2 cans (15 ounces) black beans
1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn
In a large pot, cook carrots,
celery and onion in the butter or oil until tender, stirring often, about 10 or
15 minutes.† Add the tomatoes, beans and
broth; bring to a boil.† Then simmer for
about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn just before serving.
Add 1/4 cup sherry or cooking
sherry just before removing from the heat.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or
Italian flat parsley before serving.
Substituting vegetable broth makes
this a good vegetarian dish.† Or add a
Polish sausage to make it a hearty meat soup.†
Leave out the broth entirely and bake this as a casserole.
If the RO*TEL is too spicy for your
taste, substitute a can of drained chopped tomatoes.
Serve with an
assortment of crackers or corn muffins.†
Chopped onions on the side go nicely.
1 quart Clamato Tomato Cocktail
1 can (11 1/2 ounces) V8 Picante
100% Vegetable Juice (or regular V8 if you donít like spicy food)
1 pound catfish fillets cut into
chunks (catfish chunks work as well)
1 can (6 1/2 ounces) clams
8 small new potatoes, scrubbed and
Clamato and V8; bring to a boil.† Add
potatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes until potatoes are just becoming
tender.† Add catfish; simmer about 10
minutes.† Add clams, heat through.
with an assortment of crackers or corn muffins.
There is a problem
with cleaning out the pantry and doing all this cooking.†††† While the pantry is shining, the
refrigerator is getting overloaded.† How
are two people ever going to eat all this food? But Frank is always willing to
help out, as long as it isnít salted duck eggs.
†Remember, Iím looking for good cooks with
long memories who will share their kitchen secrets with me.†
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network