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plunk

What's in your fridge/pantry?

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Hi John,

Thanks for the great Q&A and your food writing in general, I love the down to earth approachability (is that a word?) and personal nature of your essays. My favorite are the ones about homemade bread, it inspired me to overcome my fear of breadmaking and now I can't go back :biggrin:

How do the contents of your fridge/pantry change as you write? If you're working on a particular topic, is your kitchen dominated by that one particular thing?

I find that I get more inspired to cook by wandering around the markets or flipping through cookbooks. Looking through my cupboards when I'm trying to think of something to make for dinner doesn't seem to work so well, maybe it's because a deadline is bad for creativity. :smile: Do you have similar experiences with writing?

Any hints on what's in your fridge/pantry at the moment? :cool:

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Any hints on what's in your fridge/pantry at the moment?

If I could add a follow up question to that, what things do you keep on hand all the time. Garlic sure, you mentioned Chimayo chile, salt and pepper etc. Do you find you keep a lot of herbs and spices on hand?

Vinegars? Oils? Hot sauces? Dozens of small jars in the fridge of various provenance? Sometimes I feel the need for a lot of these things and other times I think I could make do just a few baiscs.

Jeff

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Here we have a matter of dueling temperaments. Matt's approach to kitchen cabinets is that they yearn to be empty; mine is that they yearn to be full. I was once interviewed by a reporter from the Associated Press who asked if he could look in my cabinets. He practically passed out when he saw that they were practically empty. If he stopped by today, he would find the opposite case. For one thing, there's the double-doored cabinet with all my snack stuff, which is crammed to the max with cans, packages, boxes, etc. But also, relatively recently, I've been doing more Asian cooking -- Korean, Indian, Chinese, Thai -- and it sometimes feels as if I'm running an in-apartment outlet for the local Asian American grocery. Black cardamom, whole anise buds, dried shrimp, tapioca flour, Chinese Shanxi aged sorghum vinegar.

This has already reached the point where I forget that I have things because I can't see or find them until I try to make room to fit in their "replacement." The trick is to discipline yourself to not let things linger when you realize that you no longer use them. My mother's kitchen cabinets resemble nothing less than an archeological dig, especially the spice and seasoning area and the canned vegetables, which she tends to buy for emergencies, which never come. My father, when he was alive, used to scour the dented can bin at the supermarket for markdowns (since they were well off, this can only be described as a hangover from the Depression), and years later, those are still there, too. When I first came across the stash I thought my mother had written dates on these, too, as she used to do with the cans she left at the end of the summer at our cottage (see elsewhere in these postings). Since some of the numbers were "74" and "67", this REALLY gave me pause. But I came to realize that these were the markdown prices.

What was the question? Ah, yes. Well, I've answered part of it. As to inspiration, kind of the opposite. As with books, which if I don't read them when I buy them they tend to languish unread for years, the unowned always seems more desirable than the owned, and hence more inspiring. What is it about the possibility of spending money that so whets the appetite? Add to this my own compulsion to look for odd cuts of meat that have discount coupons slapped on them to get them out of the store before the due date passes, and you have a very impulsive cuisine. Meanwhile, the can of chile-pepper-laden tuna that I bought at a Korean grocer cries quietly in the back of the cabinet...and how can the bottle of turnip condiment comfort it, when it, too, has never been opened....

As to essentials: garlic, extra virgin olive oil and played around with all the guys peanut oil, ground dried Chimayo chile, Greek oregano on the stem, rosemary, wild fennel pollen, dried morels (for crushing into a dish as a seasoning), Tabasco habanero hot sauce, kosher salt...that's about it for my basic kitchen stuff. I have five or six different vinegars but don't use them much: sherry vinegar for salads; balsamic for this and that; rice vinegars for dipping sauces, etc.. Sometimes I have fresh herbs growing -- the only way I can tolerate thyme -- but they either die or get out of hand and start crowding us out of the living room. I once had both a Meyer lemon and a kaffir lime tree growing in the spare bedroom, but a dislodged storm window put an end to their career. And I have a huge batch of chives growing on our apartment patio. I've probably forgotten something. Mustards I can mostly take or leave, at least in their wide variety: a bottle of Dijon and another of good deli style is enough for me. As is no doubt your experience, I own a lot of stuff that I use for a particular dish or two but that hasn't worked it's way into my regular cooking. Like black cardamom: man, that stuff's WEIRD.

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