Small jars and bottles fill the cabinet above our stove, while larger jars and bottles line the inside door of our refrigerator. These condiments are necessary nuisances when it comes to spicing up or seasoning the foods we enjoy.
It’s sometimes hard to know what spices, seasonings and flavor-enhancing sauces you have until you discover you’ve run out, so you accumulate and replace them when they run out or expire. Otherwise, just as you’re prepping a roasting hen for the oven, you realize you’re out of poultry seasoning. Or when you’ve gotten out your bread and bologna, you notice that quart jar of mayonnaise expired last month.
No mayo, no sandwich.
My wife and I agree that Miracle Whip isn’t welcome in our house. Though we may disagree about which mayo to buy (I prefer Duke’s; she’s indifferent), we prefer the real thing to whatever they put in Miracle Whip. It’s sorta like that butter vs. margarine thing.
Take inventory sometime on what’s hiding in your kitchen cabinet or stuffed in your refrigerator door. You’ll think, “Well, I’ve got a little bit of everything.” That’s when you try to follow a new recipe for meatloaf only to discover you finished off your Heinz 57 the last time you grilled steaks.
At this point, I must insert that my wife is a kitchen chemist. Though she can’t duplicate Heinz 57, I’ve tasted and approved her homemade substitutes for other sauces, sloppy-Joe mix, special dairy products and seasonings.
Did you know, for example, you can add a few squirts of lemon juice to regular milk to make your own buttermilk? I’ve mentioned before how my wife substitutes lean bacon bits for fresh bacon with drippings to season my butter beans with less fat. That, along with some dried onion flakes, are all she adds.
Of course, I then add salt and pepper, but she’s used to that.
We actually have two refrigerators. The extra one is in the garage next to our upright freezer that’s mostly for bulk-item meats and summer veggies, but it’s also for large batches of my chili and spaghetti sauces or her beef stew and homemade chicken-noodle soup.
A few weeks ago, I decided to go through the condiments stuffed on the door shelf of our inside refrigerator. The red cooking wine — which is only used for my bolognese sauce — steak sauces, soy and teriyaki sauces, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and a few others that are used infrequently went to the other fridge. The ketchup, mustard, mayo, my North Carolina and her Kraft hickory barbecue sauces, Texas Pete, Parmesan cheese and at least three kinds of salad dressings stayed inside.
I thought my organization of our condiments would be appreciated and planned to organize the 700 bottles of spices and seasonings in the cabinet.
“Not so fast,” I was told.
A few items I thought rarely were needed were required that evening. My North Carolina barbecue, Texas Pete and hot-wing sauces were offered up to go outside so some the other condiments could be readily available.
It was just as well. The garage fridge already is where I keep my special lemonade-limeade mixture, Sam’s colas and Squirt, as well as leftovers from a casserole recipe that won’t be repeated. Undesirable leftovers remain in the fridge until it’s officially OK to throw them out. To do so before official word is given would be wasting food. The garage fridge is like the holding cell for condemned leftovers.
Strangely, though, condiments are rarely thrown away until they’re used up or long past their expiration date. During my condiment re-organization, I checked the expiration dates on each one. I’m OK with using sauces that expired last week, but last month’s stuff heads for the trash. Same for spices. I was wondering why the chili powder I was using had no kick to it, and then realized it expired three months ago.
It’s a continuous process, first getting and then replacing condiments when they run out or reach their expiration dates. It’s inconvenient, but it’s necessary.
Life — and, especially, our food — wouldn’t be the same without a variety of spices and seasonings.