2009.11.25 Looking into the larder

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I saw an interesting challenge listed recently in the Guardian’s Word of Mouth food blog. Readers were asked to try to go a week without shopping for food.

Rather than going out for something fresh, check out the packages in your freezer. Take a look into the back of your cupboards. Use up the item that’s not yet quite out of date in your refrigerator.

It seems as though Colleen and I were taking the challenge a few weeks ago before I even read about it. Last year, just for the “fun” of it, we went until late October without turning on the furnace. This fall we went without shopping. The kids must be so glad they’re gone off on their own when they hear about this stuff.

We didn’t intentionally stop shopping. It was just a busy time and we seemed to always have something better to do than shop.

I don’t recall that we really suffered during that era. We just didn’t eat what might be considered normal. In the past, I’d never looked fondly at Ben’s packet of Larvettes mealworm snacks that he left behind.

The challenge was initially posed by eGullett Society for Culinary Arts & Letters in New York City. The challenger, Steven Shaw (Fat Guy), even listed these rules:

1. No stockpiling. 2. No endangering your children. 3. No making yourself miserable.

Shaw first tried the experiment back in February and 75 people joined in. They managed to eat fairly well for a month without shopping. Wowee. Sounds like a lot of rice and beans.

On the Guardian blog from London, someone looked in their freezer and wrote:

“Well my freezer is currently full of ice cubes and there’s some ice cream in there as well. My cupboard has tomato ketchup, tuna and sweet corn in it. I probably wouldn’t die after a week but I would be %&#*@! hungry.”

Another writes:

“My freezer is full of breast milk. I'll pass, thanks.”

One other:

“There’s only vodka in my freezer. Am sure I could survive a week on just that. Will give it a go.”

Kidney soup, gammon joint, ice lolly coulis, flageolet beans, treacle pudding, sachets of creamed coconut, half a pack of Quorn, sheep’s milk ice cream, goose fat, pigeon pea curry, oven chips, kaffir lime leaves...it’s stuff you won’t find in my American freezer.

But what oddities are in my kitchen? There are probably a few things to match those British freezers.

The object that surprised me most was a fish. The whole thing. I wonder if Ben caught it a few years ago.

Generally the first thing an observer might notice about our freezer is the preponderance of garbage and banana peels. Banana peels cook easier after they’re frozen.

Actually, we put food garbage in the freezer during the warm months and take it out Thursday night for the trash bag. This method doesn’t feed the fruit flies and the ants, and it doesn’t start to smell in an un-air conditioned house.

There are other inedibles, such as frozen corsages, gel packs, bulk spices and bottles of water to place in a cooler. I would categorize the kids’ leftover pizza kit ingredients as inedible, also.

Fortunately there’s a lot to eat to get through a shopless stretch. Breads, Zingerman’s brownies, veggie burgers, corn, blueberries, butter, Luigi’s Lemon Ice, one Moon Pie and a tequila lollipop with a larva.

In the cupboards there’s rice, lentils, dried beans, nuts, dates, pastas, flour, popcorn, rice cakes, marshmallows, chocolate, tea and condiments. There are potatoes, onions, shallots and good balsamic vinegar. There’s also a bag of amaranth, some Reed’s Ginger Chews and a bottle of True Cherry Boom Chugga Lugga Cola.  It’s a rather high hog on which we could live for several perhaps odd weeks.

I mentioned my freezer search to Chuck Ekins who was over working on a project and he recalled when his wife, Kim, once took what she thought was a ham out of the freezer to thaw. This would have taken the prize on the Guardian blog. You’ll have to ask the Ekins family for details, but when Chuck discovered it on the counter, he had to fess up and tell his wife that it was actually the head of a bear.

There must be a month’s worth of soup stock from that item.

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