(I feel I must add a qualifier to this post – I have not told my wife about this article or my intent to show the world these embarrassing photos, which I know to be not only poor representation of the art, but self effacing to a fault. Frankly, I couldn’t care less, but she will be mortified – my apologies to my dear wife who deserves better.)
OK, I’m doing this as a catharsis of my soul – done partly because in my heart of hearts, I know it’s sadly true, and partly because – like any addict – if I accept this as true, it may help to break the addiction. I am a really BAD food collector.
What is a food collector, some may ask? Well, it’s someone who takes pleasure – great pleasure – in adding foods, usually those with some potential for long term storage, to one’s larder (although trips to Costco may result in a month’s worth of perishables, stuffed, god knows where, in the refrigerator, to wait their turn in the rotting and trash bin cycle). I can safely tell you that I possess, and can usually locate, most of the world’s representative ethnic spices, condiments, and preserved key ingredients for making almost any famous, and not-so-famous, international dish. Yes, you might even say that my house is a food museum. And then there’s the excess of those wonderful meals which we just couldn’t finish right then, so – into the freezer.
It’s not like this is happening to me unconsciously – No – I think about this often. And I ask myself why it is that I apparently get more pleasure out of owning and having near to me all the ingredients that would allow me to go in almost any direction I wanted to, at any time the food spirits move my soul? And I’ve come down to a single, consistently acceptable answer – Apparently, my interest in food and cooking is so deep that my motivations to cook far outweigh my opportunities to do so. And this fact has resulted in mass over-production of meals (and stuffing both the fridge and freezer with left-overs, few of which are taken seriously later – after all, eating frozen left-overs would imped the opportunity to create something new and exciting, right?).
In all fairness – and as long as it’s me making the admissions here, I’ll insist on injecting a healthy dose of fairness – my addiction can be neatly divided into two parts: the collection of foods that have already been prepared and need to be consumed soon; and the collection of foods that are used in the preparation of other dishes. This last group is most often made up of items that can be stored much longer than the foods in the first category, such as dried foods, or canned fruits or preserves. At first thinking, one may assume that this introduces a flexibility such as time may allow – however, this is not so! For the disease that has afflicted me – and I bet I’m far from alone in this affliction – extends into whatever license that flexibility may allow, and well beyond as well. This results in spices being stored for 3 or 4 years, instead of the recommended 6 months, or jars of whatever, long hidden at the bottom and back of shelves meant to hold far less than they now strain to support. Yes, I could engage in a project of purging all those shelves and cabinets, but I think unconsciously I fear that doing so would seriously reduce my collection, and somehow that possibility is more troubling than the concept of correcting the problem is promising!
Currently, there is NO room in any cabinet, shelf, refrigerator, or freezer for anything (I submit the posted pics as proof of this statement). Are we not engaged in an effort to correct this? Yes we are! But I will attest that it is a damningly deceptive effort. For instance, we are consciously hard at work to ONLY use items from the freezer for the preparation of meals – but when chickens are .69 a lb in the local market, do you ignore that? No, that would be stupid – so you buy 5 chickens, and squeeze ’em in the freezer for later this coming winter. Additionally, when I pull one of those chickens out of the freezer to make something new and exciting, we will invariably have more left over than we ate at dinner – do you throw that out? Of course not – you slid some of it into a crowded fridge, and the rest into the only tiny crack left in the freezer. And as any gardener will tell you, if you are eating everything you are growing, you ain’t growing enough! The bulk of your garden should be represented by what you are able to “put by”, but unfortunately, that means finding some more room either in the freezer or on your canning shelves. It’s the price one must pay.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this affliction, which is really the only reason why I’d put it up here for all to see. After much thought, I’m quite sure that the more one loves to cook and bake, the more one must store, give away, or throw out! You sure as hell ain’t gonna eat it all. I think there’s a book waiting to be written on this subject – perhaps my next project – “How to Successfully Host a Spoiled Food Party”. I’ll think on it.