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Tony Grist

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Home Economics [Jul. 3rd, 2009|09:27 am]
Tony Grist
Ourdert invited herself to lunch at short notice- but instead of panicking as I would once have done- or suggesting we race off to the chippie- I reached for a cook book and the store cupboard and- in about 40 minutes-  threw together a very interesting little stew containing chicken, potatoes, tomato and lots of coriander. Where I lacked ingredients I improvised, throwing in a couple of chillies instead of a splash of tabasco sauce. This was a test of my confidence and resilience- and I believe I passed it.

I've learned how important it is to have a well-stocked kitchen. There are certain things one should never be without. They include chicken, vegetables in season, fresh herbs and a wide range of sauces and seasonings. The challenge- and this is going to take some smarts- is to balance the need to have all this stuff to hand against waste. I despise waste.  I think it's immoral to throw food away. 

But it must be doable. Our mother's couldn't afford waste- and they managed without fridges or freezers. I'm just old enough to remember a time when perishables were stored in a cool room- a sort of walk-in cupboard- called the larder. I guess I must have eaten  a lot of rancid butter in my time. 

We went shopping yesterday afternoon. We spent more than usual because it was a store-cupboard shop. I bought a chicken because I need to have chicken in the freezer.  Also some lamb steaks and a piece of basa- also for the freezer. The basa (cheapest fish on the block) will go to make a fish curry or something along those lines. And I now own a bottle of tabasco.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2009-07-03 09:14 am (UTC)
Ooh, congratulations! That sounds like an ace dinner, and you're right, it's the mark of true cooking confidence to be able to throw something together from what's in the house. Here's what we always have in the storecupboard:

- tins of beans/chickpeas
- tins of tomatos
- olive & vegetable oil
- pasta, rice, nuts, seeds, cous cous
- herbs & spices
- salt & pepper
- soy sauce, hot chilli sauce (insert whatever magic condiment works for you here, whether it's Maggi or ketchup or whatever)
- vegetable stock (Marigold is best, it's brilliant for pepping up risottos and soups)

Veg-wise we always have onions, spuds, garlic & carrots in the fridge. Usually courgettes and peppers, and then as you say, seasonal veg. I find we get through a LOT of butter, so it doesn't go rancid. But yes, I do think people were happier with more elderly goods in the past. I also think they shopped more frequently, so stuff didn't have time to go off. I lived without a fridge for a year once, and it was instructive - I completely broke the habit of the weekly shop, and just bought as much milk & veg as I needed daily. The supermarket and the weekly shop are the door to waste, if you ask me!
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2009-07-03 09:15 am (UTC)
Oh yes, and freeze your leftovers, as soon as they've cooled! Don't give them time to go off in the pan or in the fridge. That way you've always got lunches in the freezer, too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 09:58 am (UTC)
I freeze leftovers- but rarely straight away. Thanks for the tip!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 09:57 am (UTC)
Yes, I think we've got everything on your list of essentials. The fridge and the freezer are full to bursting.

I find it hard to remember what things were like in the days before the supermarket. I have vague memories of going with my mother to the local shops- and of a butcher's shop with sawdust on the floor- but nothing that's in sharp focus.

We went through a phase- about a decade ago- when we didn't have a car- and I was walking up to the shops- and back again with my arms aching under the strain- several times a week.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2009-07-03 10:04 am (UTC)
Yeah, carrying is a killer. Particularly for potatoes. Have you ever tried online supermarkets? I haven't, but I suspect they might transform my life.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 10:29 am (UTC)
Yes, after my arms gave up, we relied on online shopping for a year or two. There are distinct advantages. One is that you're less likely to buy things you don't really want on impulse
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-07-03 12:37 pm (UTC)
Except for the more or less durable vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, celery), I tend to under-buy to keep things from going off if I can't use them as planned. I keep and inventory of frozen green vegetables -- green beans, broccoli, spinach --in the freezer for when I don't have fresh. Small cans of tomato paste for sauces. Flour and two kinds of oil and lots of pasta. Sunflower seeds and cashews. A range of spices. Oh, and I buy 12 oz bottles of Tabasco by the case and re-order when I'm down to my last two. Evaporated milk for when I'm caught short and need to make a cream sauce or a cornstarch pudding. (Butterscotch pudding is extremely tasty when made with evap. milk.)

I cook up brown rice and dry beans in bulk and then freeze them. A batch of brown rice here is 4 c of dry rice and a half gallon of water. Bring to a boil, simmer on lowest heat for 5 min or so, then turn off heat. The rice will cook in its own heat. I cook dry beans 2 lb at a time, with a similar strategy. Bring to a boil, let cook in own heat, strain, rinse, repeat until they're done.

Much meat in the freezer. I buy whatever's cheap and cut it down to portions that work for us, then freeze them.

My shopping patterns are heavily influenced by the need to buy heavy things in bulk on the infrequent occasions that we have rented a car. The nearest supermarket is a mile away and even on a bike a 60 pound run is taxing.

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From: (Anonymous)
2009-07-03 01:07 pm (UTC)
I saw a program the other day about central southern Italy. They said they had no concept of a supermarket. Everyone bought ingredients daily and fresh from the market. Buffalo mozzarella is made every morning. The quality of their ingredients is, of course, fantastic, and they make amazing food for pennies, just as their ancestors have time for centuries. If we wanted to eat as well as them we'd be paying vast sums at country delicatessens. Bugger.
Tom F
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-07-03 04:58 pm (UTC)
Yes -- my husband lived in Italy for three years.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 05:54 pm (UTC)
On the other hand they have Berlusconi and the mafia :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 05:53 pm (UTC)
That's a good tip about the rice. I cook fresh every time- mainly basmati. I'm not fond of frozen veg- I'm not sure why; it's probably just a prejudice- and I'd rather buy canned if I can't get fresh.

We try to buy meat when it's cheap, but we've got limited space. What we really need is one of those big chest freezers- though I'm not sure where we'd put it.

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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-07-03 06:30 pm (UTC)
I prefer frozen vegetables to canned, and fresh to both. Frozen vegetables come with less packaging, too.

We have two kitchens and, hence, two refrigerators.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 06:42 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to remember when frozen foods first apeared in Britain- probably not until I was an adolescent. This could explain my preference for cans.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 05:56 pm (UTC)
I keep butter in the fridge and like to put it on the bread in slabs. Rancid butter is one of my least favourite things.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2009-07-03 02:45 pm (UTC)
My grandmother had a "cold room" in her stone-walled basement. It was almost as good as a fridge. And that's where the butter was kept.

I always have a large stock of spices and herbs as they will dress up any meal no matter how basic the ingredients.

When a person can improvise a meal you are officially a cook!
:)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

We have a lot of herbs and spices. Trouble with having a big stock is that things are liable to go way past their sell by date. I reached for the dill the other day and it was flavour-less.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-07-03 03:24 pm (UTC)
You are the clever man! Anyone who can put together an emergency meal in less than an hour (without first going to the store) has my vote.
Once again, in the interest of saving space in your "reply" area, you've inspired me to make a post on my own LJ.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-03 05:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

I'll come over and see what you have to say.
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From: amritarosa
2009-07-03 11:58 pm (UTC)
Sounds delicious! I'm having a ginger-lime salmon curry that I threw together in a similar manner.

Something I've noticed since I began cooking a whole lot more things from scratch is that I seem to have acquired a running "stock list" in my head. I can remember how much of what staples we have left in the kitchen and can now with little effort remember what I'm low on and buy more of that when I'm at the store instead of making a list every time.

This has been a pleasant surprise- like part of my head decided that it is it's job to tally the food and give me a mental list based on that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-07-04 08:41 am (UTC)
A ginger-lime salmon curry sounds good!

I'll be roasting a chicken this afternoon. Fairly basic stuff. We'll have one meal out of it- and then the remnants will go into the freezer for use in curries, risottos etc.

I know what you mean about the mental stock-list. I'm not totally on top of things yet, but I'm getting there.

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