Good Food Blog
Spring cleaning... in JanuaryPosted at 11:02AM, 19 January 2009 by Jenni Muir - Food writer
With the weather being cold enough to stiffen dill sprigs, I've been dipping into our nuclear disaster stockpile more than usual and, having made a sizeable hole at the front of the freezer, decided what the hell, I may as well just keep going and start spring cleaning.
Instead of arranging dinner around whatever item falls out first, I can actually get to the back and chisel out whatever I fancy
Being able to move stuff about the freezer is itself a big improvement, isn't it? Instead of arranging dinner around whatever item falls out first, I can actually get to the back and chisel out whatever I fancy. Mind you, by definition the array of items stuck up there includes some of my more exotic flights of fancy - all those things I was absolutely sure I was really going to get into when I bought them ( matjes herring , Chinese sausages ) - plus scraps that weren't useful at the time and still aren't terribly useful now (a lone duck breast). And there are so many bits of stale bread you'd think I planned to crumb Mount Snowdon.
The larder is worse, a testament to both my extravagance and meanness. There's the barely touched dried limes, barberries and smoked rice from my Persian phase , bizarre jams I never use but am too tight to throw out, Mexican guava paste circa 2002 (I'll probably wait until the tin rusts), whole grains that failed to sprout, and the World Bank of Sugar. On the plus side, all those canned pâtés left over from gifts and hampers have now been employed as husband's sandwich fillings - add some chutney and he doesn't care whether it's ostrich or wild boar, he's just happy to see meat at lunchtime.
Of course everyone is advised to clear out dried herbs and ground spices about once a year, but do you know anyone who actually does? Even the food experts who tell us to do it often don't in the privacy of their own homes. The only person I know who is genuinely particular about the freshness of spices is an Indian chef and she gets through them all so quickly she probably doesn't need to have an annual clearout.
I'm terribly slack about the use-by dates on things like baking powder, gelatine and cornflour too. Surely this has to be bad feng shui? One can so easily go too far. I recently made a milky pudding with some suspiciously pale cardamom pods and antique agar-agar and it tasted like bad soap - so utterly disgusting I had to bin the whole thing. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to just be a good girl and chuck the spices etc once a year? Wastrels never prosper.