SINGING THE CORONA BLUES
Neither my pantry nor my fridge mirror any of the images currently flooding my inbox. Today is a fine day to unearth and regroup, tidy and pitch. My initial foray into the double door Jenn-Air refrigerator meets with immediate tragedy. An overfilled container of San Marzano tomatoes jettisons from the top shelf to the floor, spreading its contents with great abandon. Careening to a halt at the edge of the stairs, spilled tomatoes are not dire. It could have been far worse, it could have been egg whites. Tiptoeing to avoid the river of tomato puree as I secure a mop, my mood teeters between simmer and parboil. In light of the world around us, the idea of taking a deep dive into produce, dairy, and dry goods feels petty.
Grabbing more space than they deserve, incidentals roam freely amongst sensible groceries. Cookie dough studded with dark chocolate should move to the freezer. but the freezer is full. Combing through the yogurt, skim, and whole milk, I see nothing that boasts an imminent expiration date. There's little if any spoilage, and cobbling together a recipe based on odds and ends is do-able. It's also something our grandmothers did religiously, before groceries and meals were delivered via Amazon and Fresh Direct.
Neediest items will jump to the head of the line. I venture into the warped drawer identified as the “crisper.” It houses the remnants of a butternut squash and an unopened bag of rainbow carrots. As colorful and leggy as a Rockette kick line at Easter, I’m tempted to bake something with the carrots. Carrot cake? Morning Glory Bread? The butternut squash, sequestered since Sunday, should take priority. I close the drawer to the crisper and give the contents one last once-over. Dairy shelf real estate is too valuable for whole milk to stand upright, so I tighten the cap and turn it on its side. Tempting fate, I stack a narrow carton of eggs atop the milk.
The pantry is next, shelves over-filled with spices, dry goods, and canned goods. A lonesome can of organic pumpkin vies for attention. I see you, Pumpkin, and you, paper and cello bags of assorted grains. A package of jewel-toned candied fruit lounges against an unopened tube of chestnut paste. Smuggled home in a suitcase from a previous holiday, their shelf life is waning.
Wandering down a shelf, canned milk stretches out from end to end. Each one has value, but are they all necessary? These are baking milks, not coffee milks; sweetened condensed, evaporated, coconut, and powdered. I cannot part with a single one but reorganize things just a touch. An unopened can of dulce de leche seems better suited alongside a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk. Coconut cream is a little too self-important with a flashy label and flip-top lid. I transfer the cream behind the coconut milk and close the cabinet doors. A weighty bag of dark brown sugar insists on propping the door open. A cello bag overly secured with rubber bands free-falls from the top shelf. One corner of the bag has the slightest hole, large enough to cause chaos. A significant trail of semolina flour covers the tomato stained floor.
My chaotic pantry longs for order, jealous of what taunts from the great wide web. The pantries posted on social media are tidy to a fault. Organized alphabetically, they boast a color story direct from Pantone’s newest hits. Every pantry in fantasyland sports pristine canisters in various sizes, standing at attention. My pantry doesn't fall into place with precision; neither does my fridge. If self-quarantine doesn't encourage kitchen organization, I don't know what does. But it is a process, not a one day endeavor. More critically, I do know that the butternut squash in the fridge and the neglected can of pumpkin in the pantry deserve each other. They will also provide a little wiggle room in both my refrigerator and my pantry in the midst of a pandemic. Additionally, the marriage of the two squashes will fill a blind baked pie shell that is feeling neglected.
The latest article to land in my newsfeed instructs me to update my "storage system" which I interpret to mean, organize the Tupperware. More lids don't fit than do, and my favorite containers are triangular, (better suited to pie slices) or square, from decades ago. A wave of Corona blues hits me like a tidal wave and I slam the drawer shut. The Tupperware project can wait for another day of self-quarantine.
My knees crack as I kneel down to fetch the brown sugar from the bottom shelf. There's a 2 lb. bag of Fleishmann's yeast next to the dark brown Domino, separated by a slim paperback book. Glancing at the title, I'm shocked to see The Fleishmann Treasury of Yeast Baking. I'm organized and I don't even know it.
Reaching for a manual can opener, I explain to the ingredients set before me, "It's spring, Pumpkin. Both you and butternut are so much more November than March. But in this ever-changing world, who am I to judge?" I cross the kitchen to the sink, grab the liquid soap, turn on the tap, and sing two choruses of Happy Birthday. What a world.
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