The true food bloggers and kitchen mavens have it all over me when it comes to fully celebrating food in the manner it deserves. Take my lunch the other day (please!). It seemed like a good idea: cream of roasted cauliflower soup with a spoonful of buttery mushrooms on top. Nice and simple and earthy. Turns out, it was too simple, to the point of being about as bland as a children’s book written by well-intentioned Educators. I ate it, being a pietist of my own sort, but not with any particular enjoyment. I should have had the dedication to re-season the soup, but I wasn’t committed enough at the moment. The sautéed mushrooms, it turned out, only emphasized the soup’s lack of valor. A mild, but still a little irksome, moment of appetite suppression that didn’t match up to my original plan at all. The upside of it was that I was sufficiently fueled to fix up a much better dinner by the time my spouse headed home. If I cook up something disappointing, at least I’d rather it’s not when I’m sharing the food!
The week has been a little like that–mistakes and false starts punctuated and rescued by recoveries and rediscoveries.
There was the pantry light that was less and less frequently willing to be switched off until its pull-chain switch finally just broke entirely. It was good that the light was stuck “on” so that we could still find things in the pantry, but bad in that even with a low-e bulb it still heated up the little room, not very welcome in food storage at all but especially when the ambient temp here has been ridiculously high for so long. The other positive that came out of it was the motivation to replace the old ceramic shadeless utility fixture with an actual glassed light fixture, though I can’t say I enjoyed crouching atop my stepladder and angled over the pantry shelf at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit for even as long as it took to wire in a new little lamp. I’ll admit I do like the slightly more diffused light and appreciate the ability to once again turn it on and off, so I will concede that it was time to do the deed.
Then we started seeing ants, more ants, lots of ants around the kitchen. And we’d just had our quarterly household pest-control visitation in the last couple of weeks. At first I’d thought these were just refugees fleeing the spray-guy’s weaponry, but clearly the activity was beginning to build rather than subside. Great! A family of carpenter ants with resistance to our accustomed defense systems. But when I called the pest-control company this morning they sent “my” guy right on out, no waiting. Now, I like him not only because he’s a nice guy who comes when contacted and because he generally manages our bug problems quickly and thoroughly. This man, however, endeared himself to us immediately on his first visit by hooking us up with the best New York style pizza around this area (in a hole in the wall strip mall joint run by New York expats). You know you’ve found a good contractor when he can recommend first class food of any kind.
Today’s bug-fixing visit was a detailed reinspection and treatment with a new combination of baits and poisons and so forth, and certainly the ants visible during my rescuer’s efforts were not inured to this particular combo, so I am hopeful. The inspection and injection, however, required our moving most of the furniture in the affected rooms and most of the kitchen’s pantry and cupboard contents as well. And of course there were dead and dying ants all over the place. Sorry, I’m just not very zen about sharing my home, particularly my food storage areas, with indoor bugs. There was no doubt that at the end of it I would be facing a major household cleaning. The very good thing about the kitchen semi-demolition, however, was the usual one that when the contents of pantry and cupboards and counters get disturbed it’s amazing how much I discover that I’d put out of sight, out of mind or simply forgotten where it was stashed. Amazing that in less than a year since our move in I have managed to get that absent-minded and inattentive about things, but I suppose that’s not as uncommon as I think it is.
In any case, it was inspiring enough to overhaul the entire kitchen; I couldn’t even resist a foray into the freezer, though I’m reasonably certain that neither ants nor pest-control contractor visited in that particular corner of the room.
In any event, it was nice to rediscover a few food strays here and there that will undoubtedly whet my appetite for various forgotten dishes and treats in the near future. The freezer reminded me that I have a pair of modest lobster tails (thank you, there are some kinds of bugs I love) sealed up in there that will surely make a nice treat soon, perhaps with a little hollandaise, my all-time favorite seafood sauce; but I must tell you that I think no haute chef’s classic version or fussy variation of hollandaise matches the version I love best, the one my mother always made from the old Betty Crocker cookbook that’s purely egg yolks and lemon juice and a ton of butter. Meanwhile, I dug up and re-corralled a bunch of other favorite condiments in the pantry, from sauces to preserved lemons to pickled jalapenos and chipotles en adobo to Asian fried shallots. Sigh. Hidden treasures revealed.
Of course I couldn’t do so much tidying without simultaneously making a mess. When I was installing the light fixture, it was catching my sleeve on something that upset a bottle of vinegar from a shelf, sending the bottle headfirst onto the tile floor where it exploded in a shower of intensely fragrant miniscule glass shards and balsamic spray. Today it was turning around only to hear my favorite measuring pitcher (you know the one, you’ve got one too that’s got exactly the combination of measurements you most often use, in the size and shape of pitcher that’s most perfect to fit your favorite whisk, spatula, spoon or single-recipe-amount of any- and everything) overbalance and fall with a sharp crack on those same beautiful but deadly tiles. Goodbye, sweet kitchen tool.
I’m glad to say that despite my utter lack of grace and athletic skills I am not generally a complete and horrific klutz either. So I’ll be a tad more vigilant and hope that I’ve gotten my major kitchen hijinks out of my system for a little bit now and get on with fixing and eating. And I am certainly glad that there was the impetus, however unwelcome its various pesky sources may have been, to get ‘down and dirty’ in order to be cleaner and more efficient and well-organized in the kitchen again for a while. There is definitely a kind of contentment for me in just looking at a space that has been newly neatened and unveiled, and I know it will lead to more thoughtful cookery for a little while as well. Next soup will surely be much better!