Maker Monday: Make Ahead, Make Space

To take a turn on Game of Thrones: Summer is coming.

There are a lot of things I love about summer, like trips to the beach, working in my garden, not shivering while waiting for the bus, etc. However, I have the heat tolerance of a popsicle. Being excessively warm transforms me from a reasonable person into an angry, wilted mess. A hot sunny day often gets my chronic conditions a-flaring, and let’s not even talk about how easily I sunburn.

If it's over 80 degrees, it's pretty much a given that I have the vapors.
If it’s over 80 degrees, it’s pretty much a given that I have the vapors.

These various things being the case, it is not surprising that I am not keen to turn on my oven in the heat of summer. However, I’ve been baking a lot of my own bread lately, and I’d like to continue to do so. Bread baking keeps the oven going at 350-400 degrees for about an hour. The natural conclusion is to buy bread. OR bake it at four in the morning. OR bake it all now.

Enter the freezer, my hero. I’m baking loaves of bread, wrapping them up in foil, and filing them away for summer time.

Food storage has been an issue for humans for a long, long time. It’s why we learned to dry, pickle, bake, boil, and roast. It’s why we figured out canning, and refrigeration, and flash freezing. Having a ready supply of food has meant the difference between survival and death for most of history.

In more recent, vintage-y times, food storage was a way to be thrifty and prepared. Homemakers stored the bounty of their summer gardens for winter, so they didn’t have to rely on store bought products. During World War II, American homemakers were encouraged to grow and can food, so that factory produced stuff could go to the troops and people who couldn’t preserve their own food. This is why victory gardens were such a big thing, and people could get extra sugar rations for canning.

My own reasons for preparing food are a mix of thrift, preference, and a desire to shake my puny fist at our corporate food system. But since I don’t have a summer kitchen, or a root cellar, or basement, or any of the many appealing options for storage that have seen housewives through the ages, I will first have to make space.

One must make room for all that bread. I’m also trying to clear some space in the pantry, for canning season is coming right up. Canning is the opposite of a comfortable summer activity, but more on that later. Things have piled up in the freezer and pantry, somewhat through frugality, but also through a lasting delusion that I am on the Oregon trail, or have six kids. When left to my own devices, I tend to stockpile. This is all well and good, until it is time to seasonally store things. Most years, we play an exciting game of “Where the hell are we going to put these tomatoes?” followed by a round of, “Exactly how much jam did you make?”  It is impossible to win this game with multiple bags of half-used beans and inexplicable cans of mandarin oranges cluttering things up.

So, time to clear things out!

I am following these steps:

  1. Determine what is actually in the pantry and freezer.
  2. Determine if whatever it is remains edible. Throw it away if it is not.
  3. Have a minor existential crisis about why you keep buying rice. What does your subconscious think it’s for?
  4. Recognize the incredible privilege of having more food than you immediately need.
  5. But seriously, what are you going to do with it?
  6. Choose an item at random.
  7. It’s probably adzuki beans, because of that time you went on a cleanse.
  8. Think about the likelihood of cleanses being useless because toxins are pretend.
  9. Remember how gorgeous your skin looked while you were on that cleanse, though.
  10. Table thoughts about cleanses.
  11. Remember you’re not a huge fan of adzuki beans, which is why you still have them. Determine you must find a recipe with strong flavors to compensate for how non-delightful you find adzuki.  Or whatever it is. You probably don’t have long-term leftover stuff that you think is absolutely delicious–you ate that first.
  12. Make whatever that thing is.
  13. Eat it.
  14. Repeat with next inexplicable item you encounter, until your pantry has decreased to a manageable size.

Is your pantry full of stuff? Is it just me? Is everyone else way more responsible?