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The Pantry

I made some stock after I cooked a chicken a few nights ago, and it was sitting there in the fridge, just asking to be used, so this morning I thought I'd make some soup. The sun may be out, but it’s still cold, and there’s nothing like soup to warm us up after a walk through the moors. So I went to the pantry to look for some ingredients and immediately got distracted when I checked the expiration date on the bag of lentils I thought I might want to use in said soup. It said August 2011. Oops!

Before I knew it, I had a grocery bag overflowing with all the expired food I found in the pantry that I had previously considered well-stocked, and was beginning to think of as over-stocked.

My internal dialogue was going on overload…how does this happen...what a waste…why did I ever buy that?  My yankee mind saying ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.’ There was even a song we sang in elementary school chorus that was full of proverbs like 'Waste Not, Want Not' and this, too, was running through my head. 

Some items were well past expired, like the Masa Harina from Bob’s Red Mill.  I was going to make my own corn tortillas with that about 4 years ago. Never mind that I hate corn tortillas. I was convinced that if I made my own they might taste better than any I had purchased. But I never got around to making them. Or that Almond Pastry Filling for braided almond bread like my mother used to make, and that when I did make, it tasted OK, but required way more effort than I cared to expend again.  And of course I had purchased two cans those five years ago, the remaining can rusty. Half-used bags of lentils and dried beans that smelled musty begged to be tossed. And boxes held shut with rubber bands that disintigrated when I tried to remove them. And a bag of green lentils that I remember buying on my very first trip to Whole Foods, and how many years ago was that? That quinoa pasta that we just knew would be really good for us, but turned out to be basically inedible…at least four years old.  I haven’t used tomato products from a can, except for the occasional paste, since I started freezing roasted romas a few years ago, and there were a couple cans of crushed ones that expired in 2012. Wheat berries that had basically turned to dust. And couscous. Wow. We must have really liked couscous a lot at some point.  There were two boxes and a plastic jar, each partly used, stale. I don’t remember the last time we ate couscous.

Myriad grocery items, odds and ends and grossly expired goods got emptied, dumped, or composted and packaging got recycled. My internal dialog settled down when I was finished, and I took stock of what was still there. We can create a lot of meals with what is left, and I counted my blessings that we are able to fill our pantry when so many can’t. I chose some fresher red lentils to put in the soup, added some boxed stock that would have expired in a month or so and reached for the onions, garlic and spices I needed to finish the recipe.  

Spices! When was the last time I checked expiration dates on those? That is a project for another day.