Food Friday: Getting Organized


Last year we moved into a one-story brick house that we helped to renovate and remodel. It is a tiny place, just right for the two of us, the 70-pound dog, several linear miles of books and the odd visitor or two. We are enjoying the newness of it. New bathrooms, new appliances, clean expanses of walls without anyone else’s children’s footprints or schmears of snot. I am still running around with touch up paint whenever we ding a wall. I still can’t remember where the light switch is in the powder room. I wipe down the range every night, because even boiling water splatters and is unsightly. And my children can’t believe that I am paring down and organizing and enjoying the novelty of tidiness.

We cook most nights, as you know. Mr. Friday takes over on the weekends and is the Grill Master during the summer. I test Spy dishes often during the week. We have a white china dish next to the range that holds the bare essentials for cooking: a bottle of fancy olive oil, a tiny blue bowl of Maldon salt, a pepper grinder, some matches and a couple of cloves of garlic. (We can’t agree where the garlic should live – Food52 says in the fridge, Mr. Friday says next to the range…)

We keep cooking utensils in a nearby drawer instead of in a container on the counter. We are trying to avoid countertop clutter. Except when we are both cooking though, when the place looks like an explosion in a shingle factory. I wash up as I go along. Mr. Friday abandons his spent utensils and sticky bowls in the sink, waiting for that magic kitchen fairy to come along. Or exasperated me, who might just need that tomato-crusted slotted spoon or the colander.

This week we have both gotten the cold that seems to be sweeping the country. Which is better than falling victim to the flu. I cannot complain too much, but since I do have the Food Friday podium, I will. Mr. Friday had big plans for cooking a pork roast last weekend. He hunted and gathered the ingredients, which were numerous and expensive, and then he started running a fever. And then he started coughing and sneezing. Well. Our Sunday dinner turned into a chicken noodle soup event, and I volunteered that I would cook the pork roast for Monday dinner.

On Monday morning I found I had been mistakenly led to believe that this was a slow cooker recipe. I even located the slow cooker at the bottom of the pantry, where it was propping up a bag of dog kibble. The ingredient list promised an irresistible aroma: 4 cloves of garlic, black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground coriander, lime juice, orange juice and white white vinegar.

Further steps had me scoring the fatty side of the pork shoulder, rubbing the spices into the grooves, marinating the meat in a plastic bag in the fridge, turning “occasionally” from eight hours to overnight. Eight hours? It was noon! And then there was the small matter of the half hour that the meat needed to rest, while coming up to room temp, and another two and a half hours in the oven. Not a word about an easy peasy slow cooker meal!

It was going to have to be Tuesday night’s meal now. And it was just as well, because Mr. Friday came home from work early Monday afternoon, and needed another evening of chicken soup, Saltines and warm flannel sheets.

After I read the recipe through again I started to gather up all the aromatics that would fill the house with Cuban-style cooking smells. There is a little corner lazy-Susan corner cabinet next to the range, where we keep the spices. The ones used most often (Slap Ya Mama, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, kosher salt, basil, dried parsley and dried red pepper flakes, oregano) tend to be in large, Costco-sized containers and are easy to find amid the welter of tiny spice jars. The others that I needed were scattered chaotically and uncategorically on that shelf. Cinnamon was next to nutmeg which was adjacent to tarragon which was butting up against the green sprinkles.

In disgust, and because I am trying to be a better person this year, I pulled everything out of the cabinet, and lined up the jars and boxes and tubes in alphabetical order on the counter. I know, Martha would have had a minion with a top-of-her-line label maker organizing in a flash. I stuck with a black Sharpie and a silver Sharpie, and put the names on top of all the lids. And then I alphabetized. I hope. (I also tossed out a few that were well past their sell-by dates. I once found a 10-year old tin of Old Bay tucked away among my spices. Which I am sure would still be delicious…)

All the baking products went in one clear plastic container: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, almond extract, peppermint extract, sprinkles, dragées and birthday candles, and cupcake papers…

And then I put the alphabetized and newly-labeled jars into three other clear plastic containers, starting on the left with Allspice, and winding my way down to Thyme and Tumeric on the right.

I hope Mr. Friday is ready for leftover pork roast tonight, because I have the cold now, and I am sticking to chicken soup.

You could go out and buy a matchy-matchy set of spice containers, but where would the fun be? Don’t you need a nice, calming, time-wasting exercise in organization that won’t cost you any money? It is very therapeutic.

“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”
– Ogden Nash

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. Ah Ha! that that reference to that ominous and confusing phrase, the “Sell By Date.” My view of this is that:

    I am living my life to the fullest knowing that my Sell By Date is still over the horizon.
    BHsr ’12

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