Thursday, August 15, 2013

Driving The Kitchen

Photo courtesy Flickr

Changing shelf paper is a revolutionary act. Clearing a cupboard displaces rooted inventory, and the collection edits itself. It becomes obvious what is worth re-shelving, what has fallen out of use, and what will be declared heirloom and sent off to a member of the family.

Late summer is a good time to roust kitchen inventory, because new crops are about to appear in the Big Box Discount Chain or wherever else one buys staples. The rule of thumb is to buy what one eats and eat what one buys. I prefer to buy ingredients one at a time rather than unpronouncible boxes of assembled this and that, although low-sodium canned soup is a staple. If I want an easy out, I’ll pick up something at the superb new bakery around the corner.

Old food generates subtle malnutrition. An apparently healthy menu will be full of empty calories. Food safety is a government site that lists shelf lives of various meats and cooked dishes. Err on the side of caution, if only because things taste so much better when they’re fresh.

Since we live close to many grocery stores, I use a small under-counter refrigerator. The machine uses little electricity, and there isn’t room to keep things too long. I discard otherwise edible food about four times a year. If I were to set up another kitchen under different circumstances, I’d have separate small refrigerators for raw meat and vegetables.

I don’t bother with a freezer, because I prefer fresh food and because a freezer is a liability when the power goes off.

It was a revelation to learn that meat broth keeps only for a day. Now I make vegan bean dishes so they’ll stay safe and useful through the middle of the week. Smoke seasoning, a pinch of sweet baking spice, and a slug of olive oil substitute for smoked pork.

It’s worth the trouble to cook as if the house had no electricity: thinking low-tech keeps the inventory rotating so that any food that might go stale is integrated into the next meal.


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