The Saturation of the Garde-Manger

When we talk about cooking at home (when Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, and the like talk about cooking at home,) one of the most important elements discussed is the upkeep of a plentiful pantry. If you have a few tools to work with in your pantry, you can always make a home-cooked meal for a few people. In my opinion, here are some of the must-haves:

  • canned tomatoes
  • canned fish
  • cooking oils (olive, veg)
  • onions, garlic, shallots
  • hard cheeses (parmesan, grana padano)
  • a few herbs – dried, frozen, or outside (parsley, thyme, oregano)
  • grains (quinoa, rice, bulghur)
  • pasta
  • bouillon cubes or broth

I could keep going but I’ll stop there, because I am learning the hard way that there is such a thing as pantry saturation.

Pantry Saturation

Pantry Saturation

My pantry is a sweet little cupboard called a “garde-manger” in French (literal translation: “keep-to eat.”) It’s tucked along the wall in my kitchen, adjacent to the outside wall of my building. There is a little vent in the back letting in the cool, damp air from the outside.

The other day, while frosting Christmas bread (recipe coming soon, photos here), I began hunting for the slivered almonds to top the bread. Among the various bags and jars in the pantry I dug, dove, slid. I creaked my neck in and peered in the back. They were nowhere to be found. I was nearly certain I hadn’t finished them (I’ve developed this cook’s six-sense, always knowing when a key ingredient has been used up, and whether or not it’s been restocked…) In despair I topped the bread a different way – adding the end of a jar of marmalade to the icing. It wasn’t bad but not perfect, either.

Watch your neck

Watch your neck

Later that day I pulled something else out of the pantry and hiding behind, tada! There were my slivered almonds. Drats.

I come to you today asking for help. How do you organize your pantry? Big, open shelves with identical storage boxes, cleverly marked with a label maker? Alphabetically classified ziplock bags? Or better yet – an excel spreadsheet inventory printed out and taped on the pantry door? I’m leaning towards option number three, but so far I’ve been too lazy to spend a whole day compiling the list.

As an annex to this post, I give you a list of some of the contents of my over-stocked pantry, and invite recipe suggestions to use some of this stuff (especially the sunflower seeds!) Continue reading