I’d been talking to myself about it for ages. Well, just about every time I opened a cupboard door, especially in the kitchen. Where’s the…..? I thought I had……. If I could just reach…. It wasn’t that the insides of the cupboards were untidy –they were just stuffed full, mainly with stuff I hardly used or, even worse, thought I might try. But then I did a big shop one day (with a money off voucher as incentive) and I stocked up on food cupboard essentials: olive oil, tins of chopped tomatoes and tuna, cider vinegar, gluten free pasta and oats, gherkins etc. What? Gherkins are not only fermented and therefore ‘good for you’, but also contain no calories! And it was when I couldn’t squeeze the fresh stock into the cupboards that I knew I had a job-that-couldn’t-wait on my hands.
So I got stuck in, starting with what I loosely refer to as the dry goods store. It’s a very loose definition as this is the cupboard where I also keep tinned food. First, the good news: the 5 or 6 tins of pulses, small fishes and Chinese vegetables were all still AOK! Keepers! But, I’m embarrassed to tell you what I found lurking in this cupboard, given that I’ve only lived in the apartment for just over two years. I’d clearly moved in with a stash of dried goods that were about to expire at some point in 2017 or 2018, that were just left at the back of the cupboard to mature up to and beyond the stated date. But, worse than that, I’d also brought along a few packets that HAD ALREADY EXPIRED when I moved in – some as long ago as 2014!
Then there was all the stuff I have given up eating (everything containing wheat), and faddy stuff that I bought for supposed health reasons/ because they were fashionable/in a recipe I thought I might try (dried seaweed, cacao nibs, chia seeds to name a few). All well past their ‘use by’ date. In total, just from one small kitchen cupboard with 2 shelves, I filled 3 bin liners to the weight that I could safely lift and carry to the bin store. And I can tell you that it felt like a weight off my shoulders, my mind, and the shelves themselves to throw all that stuff away!
Fired up with success, I’ve since tackled a shelf heaving with bottles and jars of cooking oils, vinegars and sauces, and another crammed with a wide range of dried, powdered or otherwise preserved herbs and spices. I don’t appear to have used any Japanese/Chinese rice wine vinegar/ Mirin (4 bottles) since August 2017. Who knew tomato ketchup could expire before you got to the end of the bottle? When have I ever used Nigella seeds? Why three boxes of Turmeric – which I hate? They no longer grace my shelves.
When I was growing up I remember my mum and all the other housewives in our street, bought and stored dried and tinned food in case of a siege or, at the very least, a brief shortage. Growing up during World War 2, they learned that they had to be able to put food on the table regardless of any global or local crisis and were prepared. My mum regularly bought tins with no labels on them from a local supermarket for less than a shilling each, and put them at the back of the cupboard for “just in case”, which happened more frequently than a siege. About once a week, when a tinned vegetable was required, one of us kids was required to shake a few unlabelled tins until we found one that sounded like it contained peas or carrots. Sometimes we had to open a few before we found an accompaniment to our fish fingers, but the bonus could be pears or peaches for pudding!
I’m reminded of this because I’ve seen a few articles and social media scares about the possibility of food (and other) shortages as a result of Brexit (in any of its forms.) I hate the kind of scaremongering that actually creates a shortage unnecessarily. But, “just in case”, as my mum would have said, it might be a good idea, for the moment, to create some space in a few kitchen cupboards for your favourite/essential dried, tinned, preserved foodstuffs that might make post-Brexit, shall we say – more palatable?