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14 December 2005 — Enough Food to Feed an Army (14)

When Kris and I moved from our house in Canby, we swore we'd stop hoarding food. In Canby we were both notorious hoarders. My pantry shelf was filled with dozens of cans of beans: chili beans, baked beans, bean with bacon soup. Kris' pantry shelf was filled with various tomato products: tomato soup, ravioli, corn beef hash. Our chest freezer was full of breads and berries, some of which we'd frozen a decade ago. (No joke.)

We didn't move most of the food, and we vowed that at the new house we wouldn't hoard as much. Ha! Maybe it's a disease.

I'm not sure where Kris got her hoarding habits (though I did once have some twenty-year-old cocoa at her grandmother's house), but I know where I got mine. I grew up Mormon. As Mormons, we obeyed the dictum to lay by a one-year supply of food in case of emergency. We were big on emergency preparedness. Out in the shop we had an entire storage room devoted to emergency rations: freeze-dried fruits, large drums filled with wheat, vast quantities of powdered milk. We had what seemed like hundreds of bags and cans from Deseret Industries.

Now that I am older, I have an innate drive to hoard food. Even in the new house, my pantry shelf is again filled with all manner of beans. We have more space, though, so I've begun to hoard other things, such as breakfast cereals. For some reason, whenever I find a breakfast cereal I like, especially if it can be purchased cheaply, I stock up. I have several boxes of Trader Joe's Essentials, of Kellogg's raisin bran, of generic spoon-sized shredded wheat. I also have large stockpiles of premium chocolate and of scotch whiskey. (These last two probably oughtn't be considered food.)

Kris has moved my cache of Asian food down to the basement. During my Asian phase about five years ago, I bought all manner of sauce and powder and condiment. I made maybe two meals from all of this stuff and then forgot about it.

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to use some of my Asian food. I dug out two cans of curry sauce and started to prepare a deluxe curry feast. I bought some chicken. I chopped some vegetables. However, when I opened the curry sauce, I discovered it had turned into curry bricks. With much coaxing, I managed to convert the solid to a liquid once more, but I was shocked — shocked! — at the oil slick that floated on the surface of the stuff. I checked the nutrition information. Each can of the curry sauce contained over 2000 calories. My saucepan contained about 4500 calories of curry sauce, and I hadn't even added the meat and vegetables yet. I'm willing to indulge in a lot of high-calorie meals, but this was too much even for me. And, as you might have guessed, ultimately the sauce had spoiled anyway; I'm sure it wasn't poisoned yet, but it had begun to turn. I threw it all away and prepared my chicken and vegetables in a more traditional fashion.

Now it seems that Kris and I may be beginning to hoard in mass quantities. We recently joined some of her co-workers to purchase a cow. She brought home about seventy-five pounds of beef the other night, and I spent ten minutes loading ground beef and steaks and ground beef and roasts and ground beef into the chest freezer. (To make room, I had to throw away three bags of rotten bananas that Kris was hoarding — they were making the freezer smell like bananas. "I was going to use those for muffins," she said, "but I guess I can just buy new bananas.")

We keep more food than many families of four. When will we eat it all?

When I got home from work yesterday, John Little was outside in his yard. "Hey!" he said. "Do you like salmon?"

"Hell yes!" I said. We'd just had a fantastic salmon dinner at Jeremy and Jennifer's house the night before. John scurried into his house and returned with a bag filled with frozen filets.

"This is from my last Alaska trip," he said. "I haven't gotten around to eating it and I don't want it to go to waste." John is a retired schoolteacher. He spends his winters in New Zealand, and he spends his summers in Alaska on his fishing boat.

I thanked him for the fish, then took it to the garage where I crammed it into the freezer with the cow. Later, I called Jenn for her salmon recipe. Kris and I are going to eat well in 2006, and we won't even have to buy groceries. We can live off our hoarded reserves.

On this day at foldedspace.org

2006Duke, R.I.P.   In which Duke is dead.

2004Nightmares   In which I have a series of nightmares.


Comments
On 14 December 2005 (08:59 AM), jenefer said:

Kris's aunt Cecily is a great hoarder and so is her aunt Carolyn. I resist better than they do. Bob has wanted to buy a chest freezer for our entire married life. I have reisisted because I know what happens to food that goes in the freezer 'black hole.' Several tools come to mind in dealing with it. First, get Tiffany to come over and go through all the old stuff. She is not emotionally attached to your food and she has great skills in organization, as you know. Second, keep a running calendar with committed meals written on it. Don't buy or accept food without writing the meal on the calendar for a specific evening or gathering. If you miss using a frozen item for the meal it was planned for, write it again on the calendar further along. It takes some discipline, but is helpful. It helps with fresh food buying to complement the main course (salmon, steaks) and reminds you that the food is in the freezer. NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION!


On 14 December 2005 (09:27 AM), Lisa said:

My hoarding philosophy differs bit from yours. I don't try to stockpile foods, but I do hoard for special events. For example, a friend gives me a jar of strawberry freezer jam (or a frozen wild salmon fillet), which I put in the freezer for safekeeping. Clearly such a lovely piece of food deserves an occasion that will do it justice, so I save it... and save it... and save it, waiting for that undefined occasion. Two years later, I throw a freezer burnt ball of frost in the garbage, unsure of what it ever was. As you may imagine, it's a depressing and useless exercise.


On 14 December 2005 (11:35 AM), Drew said:

For many years, I was just the opposite of a hoarder. I would buy exactly what I needed and no more. By the end of the week, I was lucky if there was a bottle of ketchup left in the fridge.


On 14 December 2005 (11:51 AM), Kris said:

Ha! Yes, I remember those days of Andrew's.

For the record, corn beef hash is not a tomato product.


On 14 December 2005 (02:38 PM), J.D. said:

For the record, the corn beef hash was a joke. (Well, it really is on Kris' shelf, but listing it with the tomato products was a joke.) I slay me.


On 14 December 2005 (02:47 PM), Lisa said:

And here I was seriously thinking that Kris liked some sort of corn beef hash tomato glop.


On 14 December 2005 (04:30 PM), John said:

J.D., I might have a solution for your food buffer overflow problem.

Immediately - no delays! - purchase the book "How To Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. There's a website for it: http://www.howtocookeverything.tv and Kevin Kelly even has it listed on the Cool Tools section of his site: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000646.php

You want curry sauce? Page 787, listed as a variant of Basic Brown Sauce. What to do with salmon fillets? Starting on page 303, we have: pan-grilled salmon fillets with lemon (20 minutes), or with lentils (about an hour), salmon roasted in butter (15 minutes!) or in red wine (30 minutes), and finally cold poached salmon with lime-ginger sauce - bonus item: eight sauces for cold poached salmon.

Mind you, that's just salmon. There's a whole chapter (80 pages!) devoted to fisssssh, preciousssss. The first three pages are devoted to talking about fish: why they're unique from other animals from a consumer's perspective and the basics of buying fish. Every chapter starts off with basics like this; the book assumes that you do not have an intuitive grasp of the science and art of cooking.

I'm not going to get into the beef section, or I'll find myself cooking a steak - and I've already had dinner!

You KNOW that I wouldn't lead you astray on matters of food.

On weekends, designate random foods that are in storage, and read about those items in the cookbook. You should be able to plan at least half of the entrees for the week.

Now, with all that out of the way - when's dinner? :D

John


On 14 December 2005 (08:54 PM), Pam said:

Since we moved I have been contemplating writing a similar blog entry, only mine was going to be about bathroom products. We moved four boxes of pills, lotions, perfumes, soaps and medications - and I do not mean small boxes. Why do I keep my left over pain pills, how come I have a hundred mini-bottles of lotion, and why does Mac have enough cologne to shower French for a decade??? (wait, maybe I know the answer to that last one!)


On 14 December 2005 (09:03 PM), mac said:

ummm...darling...I think you STILL collect all of the shampoos, conditioners, and soaps each day while at hotels so that the housekeeping replaces them each day so you can add to your stash...I think :)


On 14 December 2005 (09:36 PM), Pam said:

Yes, but the difference is now I use the little soaps when I get home, instead of saving them.


On 15 December 2005 (06:06 AM), J.D. said:

Oh, Pam! How disheartened I am to hear that you're a hotel-soap-taker. Kris' mother does that, too, and I've tried for years to argue that it's immoral and raises the hotel rates for everyone. Apparently my arguments are not convincing. Who knows? Maybe soon I will join the dark side, too, and stockpile my own collection of little soaps.

Conversation in the shower just now...

Kris: You were pretty funny with the corn beef hash yesterday.
Me: It was a joke!
Kris: It wasn't very obvious.

Kris showers. I shave.

Kris: What's really funny is that when I have corn beef hash I do slather it all over with ketchup.
Me: I know! That's what made me think of it in the first place.

So, you see, Lisa, Kris really *does* like some sort of corn beef hash tomato glop.


On 15 December 2005 (08:48 AM), Pam said:

JD - I have come to believe the hotels want you to take the soap. The last two times I was in a hotel, I didn't hide any of the toiletries in an effort to signal that I didn't need any more, but the housestaff gave me a new set both times anyway! Then what could I do, but take them home with me?? ;)


On 15 December 2005 (08:52 AM), jenefer said:

Another great use for hoaded little soaps is to give to the homeless or put in Christmas boxes for the needy. When you don't have a permanent place to stay and you don't necessarily want to use a soap that has just washed another homeless body, it is nice to have your own tiny soap. No storage problems and no disposal problems and very little waste. I can never get enough. Sometimes I have to resort to buying them instead of taking them from hotels.


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