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Trilla Pando:

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.

††††††††††† I 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.

††††††††††† The 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 the pantry.

††††††††††† Thatís more likely what started it than the dishtowels.I began thinking about tomatoes: reading seed catalogs, choosing seeds, saving yogurt cartonsfor 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.

††††††††††† I turned and looked all the way around.What a mess!It almost made me shut the door and brew another pot of coffee.

††††††††††† Instead, 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.

††††††††††† Do 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?

††††††††††† Clearly 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.††

††††††††††† What 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.

††††††††††† Weíre 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.

††††††††††† But 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.

††††††††††† Iíve found some good uses for the snappy tomatoes and the many cans of beans.We like spicy food.You may prefer these slightly calmed down.†† †††††

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 broth

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.

Tomato-Clam Seafood Chowder

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 quartered.

Combine the 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.

††††††††††† Serve 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