Friday, February 14, 2014

five kinds of rice

overindulgence --> moment of reckoning --> reorientation

This is about food. We all need food, every day, some of us just love it more than others. Some of us might, in fact, collect it, like others collect Christmas decorations and shoes. I enjoy just about every aspect of food, learning about it, growing it (back in the day, on a small scale), chopping it up, and buying it. Especially buying it.

Due to a small food preparation and storage area, I'm already pretty sensitive to how much I buy, but I usually keep that space pretty full. It's full of staples and odd bits of ingredients that are required for special recipes. I love reading cookbooks and trying new recipes, so I have an excuse to have a variety of ingredients on hand. However, there are only two of us eating all this food I keep buying. Food doesn't keep forever and I was starting to realize some items had been pretty much permanent residents on the pantry shelves. Yeah, I had five kinds of rice and twelve kinds of beans. Really?

We recently visited the homes of our grown children. I opened their pantries. I wasn't snooping, I was helping get dinner on the the table. There was space on their shelves. Airy, open space. Nothing was dusty in the back corner. There were no rusty cans with foreign language labels on them. There was just food, basic food that they were using to make basic meals. And not all that much of it.

In Zero Waste HomeBea Johnson makes the case that all that extra food sitting in your pantry can add up to a complicated wasteful mess. She expresses a lack of concern about having the "right" ingredient. She says, in her post on meal planning, they have in their pantry "one jar of a "rotating" grain: for example, when we finish rice, we'll get couscous." What?! They don't have five kinds of rice?

In Stone Soup, Jules Clancy, already the expert at making five-ingredient meals, opens her pantry cupboards to show how she keeps out the clutter to focus on basic ingredients to prepare fast and healthy meals. I've made some of her recipes. They're good. Five ingredients are plenty.  Read her book, 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes to learn more.

Here's how I roll now.

Inventory - know what's in the pantry
Categorize - is the item for baking? Is it item for sauce? What role does that ingredient play?
Identify the outliers - is this ingredient really something I need? 
Reduce - use up all the ingredients identified as unnecessary in step 3. It may mean meals based on black-eyed peas for awhile...
Streamline - resupply only the staples. Keep a grocery list on my mobile. Stick to it.
Exceptions - there is always room for special ingredients. The trick is to use them up in a reasonable amount of time. When some special sauce at the Farmer's market just has to come home in the basket, use it. Use it all. Soon.

So, now I'm going to open up that bag of Macadamia nuts I bought last Fall and make chocolate chunk cookies until the bag is empty. Then, when they are gone, just use walnuts. We'll live.