First we eat, then we do everything else.
Today is "cleaning out the refrigerator and restocking it" day. This day never fails to truly boggle my mind. You would think that after all these years of having to shop for food, stock my refrigerator and pantry, and eat that I would be accomplished at this feat by now, maybe even proficient at it, but I am not. My struggle is no longer in actually stocking the refrigerator but is now how to do it economically, and in an environmentally sustainable manner, which is a whole other blog.
There were, of course, the years when I did not worry too much about what I had to eat. This is a thing of great hilarity for my sisters who have all been just a little more practical and on top of this whole "life" thing than I. I am...just not that way...but I do provide lots of comic relief. One way my sisters have to amuse themselves is with this little game they created in which they call one another up, guess what is in my refrigerator, make appropriate bets, and then call me to confirm who will win. I think it could be actually defined as a sport in their collective minds.
This is how it would go: My phone rings on a weekend afternoon and I unsuspectingly answer, it is one of my sisters calling for our usual weekend roundup. I am met, however, by the sounds of gasping for air as one of my sisters tries to compose herself for actual speech. After much giggling, one of my sisters would finally speak: “Jo, we were just wondering if you could do us a favor and look in your refrigerator, Practical Sis and I were just kind of…err…wondering if you might have like maybe a package of blue cheese, some limp broccoli, and maybe half a bottle of wine in there?” I would dutifully go to my refrigerator and, by God! How in the hell did they know what was in my refrigerator! I would then, just to prove them wrong (although I am sure it just caused the other sis to win whatever bet they had going), I would finish the bottle of wine while eating last of the blue cheese. “Nope, just some limp broccoli” I would reply only to be drowned out again by wild giggling!
Yes, it was bad for a while. My few attempts at cooking consisted of reading a recipe, going to the store after work, painstakingly compiling the list of appropriate ingredients, coming home, and making the meal. Needless to say, on the nights I cooked, we usually ate dinner around 10 or 10:30pm. I did this for years. I had never thought of stocking my kitchen with food to make when I needed to cook. Are you speaking domestic or something?
At work, my very practical friend “T,” who knew how to stock her kitchen like nobodies business, and I started hanging out at each other’s homes more and more. She began to see that my empty cupboards and refrigerator were not just a passing phase, that it was actually...gasp!...the way I lived! She decided to fix me up post haste! For my 29th birthday she enlisted our close mututal friends and hatched a plan to get my kitchen stocked.
And when I say stocked, I mean STOCKED, like all-in-capitals-yodeling-from-mountaintops stocked! They supplied me with not only staples and spices but also with dishes and glassware! I had been relying on the three plates my mother-in-law had given us along with an assortment of glasses collected from various work-related wine tastings. I sat overwhelmed trying to keep my mouth from gaping open in wonder as I opened package after package of carefully wrapped…beans and rice and pasta and dried oregano and curry…and the list went on and on in quite amazing detail! After I had opened the last carefully wrapped package of foodstuffs, they kindly and slowly explained what to DO with all these new exotic items now lining my surprised and no longer bare cupboards.
And that is how I was finally turned around. Having a stocked kitchen for the first time in my life created the fertile ground needed to sprout an epiphany: that this stocking thing was not half bad, that although it pained me to do the shopping, it was much nicer to come home and have things with which to make dinner. Most importantly, it taught me how to be a better and more inventive cook, that creating a meal could be more of an improvisational art than a mundane following of directions. I became a culinary artist! I was inspired! I was in control! Now I was cooking!
So that is how I came to have a real, functioning kitchen. Now when my phone rings and all I can hear is wild giggling trying to control itself on the other line, I can say with authority, “This may take some time, I have quite a bit more around than half a package of blue cheese and some limp broccoli. You might want to pour yourself a glass of wine, or make a nice cup of Constant Comment with honey AND milk, or perhaps brew some coffee, or make yourself a G&T, or maybe a hot chocolate, if you have some, because I know I do!”
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