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Pantry Orphans

When I read  Best Intentions – when ingredients sit on the shelf. [TheKitchn.com], I burst out laughing.

I immediately thought of the tin of guava paste. It’s huge – eight inches in diameter, an inch thick, and it has been sitting in my cabinet for…holy cow, five years?

What’s worse is, it is under a bottle of Patak’s Eggplant Pickle…
…buried behind the spices, including the untouched File powder…
…which sits above the Ouzo…
…right next to the Ponzu sauce…
…which is behind the bag of dried Pozole corn. They are orphans. Ingredients that were used once, then sat on the shelf, not needed, alone, unloved.
These aren’t special occasion ingredients, that I use once a year. Dill seed comes out when I make pickles,  dried sage gives Thanksgiving stuffing the right flavor; they’ll get dusted off eventually.

When I see them in there, I feel a pang of guilt. They’re my responsibility. If I could just follow through…make that four hour Pozole, or that curry that really goes well with eggplant pickle. Then reality intrudes. My cooking ambitions write checks that bounce when faced with a weeknight dinner.
I really should make another batch of Pozole; I loved it the one time I made it for a party. Until then, the pozole gets in the way of the black beans I need for tonight’s dinner.

Most of these orphans come from my love of ethnic grocery stores. I’m walking down the spice aisle, and I’m overcome by the exotic ingredients. Of course I’ll use up a three pound bag of zatar spice – why wouldn’t I?
Why do I keep buying these things? Because, when it works, I’ve found a new favorite ingredient. I don’t know what I’d do without chipotles en adobo, chinkiang cooking wine, smoked spanish paprika or fish sauce. What if zatar spice is my next great find?

The pantry orphans all eventually leave. Usually when the kids have a harvest for hunger drive at school. I send a bag filled with canned tomatoes, pasta, and baked beans – to cover the jar of Kimchi I hid away in the bottom.

What do you think? What are your Pantry Orphans? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

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