Skeleton in the cupboard

Skeleton in the cupboard

No joke! We food people all do have skeletons in our cupboards. Not one, but several indeed. The stark and naked truth came out from a thread of Facebook confessions, all revealed as if shriving for the last time for the mercy of God for all our sins before the apocalypse. It was a question by a food writer friend from Iceland asking about what strange things we found when sorting our pantry in these lockdown days.

Here is what she wrote: “Have you been going through your hoardings of past years and found anything interesting?” with an explanatory prelude: “Many people have been sorting through their ladders, cupboards, fridges and freezers recently, discovering things they had forgotten about, those things we all have, maybe bought at a market in another country and never tried out, things someone has brought us as a present, and some things we haven’t a clue about - where we got them, how old they really are or, in some cases what the heck is this stuff?”

It cannot be put into better words. Suddenly it was like we were facing with our sins, gluttony and greed, or more likely sloth, pure laziness or sheer negligence to make use of them, either out of procrastination or for hopes to keep them for a special day.

Though we all knew that we were sort of pathetic food hoarders, many of us were astonished about the things they found. I myself believed that I was finally clean, or sort of clean, after moving at least two times in the past two years, the final one just before the COVID-19 outbreak, and many of my precious food possessions were thrown out by my estranged husband, me collecting truffle pastes and saffron sachets back from rubbish. With those traumatic experiences of the recent past, I was confident I was exempt from coming out with an embarrassing list. Nevertheless, I checked my still unopened boxes I have been moving from flat to flat. To my shame, I found these: A few packages of dried horse meat powder from Mongolia; a few sachets of kvass starters from St. Petersburg, probably from the time when the city was still called Leningrad, the content dried out and crystallized; countless jars of mustard from everywhere, including the ones of the late chef Bernard Loiseau who committed suicide in 2003 after losing a Michelin star; several sacks of spices from India, amazingly still potent after all those years, and to my horror a whole box of food stuff bought in Singapore and Bali bought almost a quarter of a century ago. I remember the date of this last box exactly, as we were honeymooning with our newly born baby. My daughter is now an attorney lawyer at the age of 24.

I always thought of myself as a great hoarder and a pantry stocker, sometimes trying to explain it through astrology, on trying to find an excuse through our ancestors that have gone through tough times, wars, migrations and so on. But who keeps ordinary food items for 24 years? Time flies by, but such stuff remains in the larder forever.

Though embarrassed with my own case, I must admit that I have found great relief, and was hugely amused when I hear similar pathetic cases exist anywhere in the world, especially in the food writer’s circles.

Here is how the thread went on, the friend who started the whole thing answered herself first: “Anyway, this is what I found: The rabbit that almost fell [or jumped] on my toes from the freezer yesterday... Nothing strange about a rabbit, except that I have no idea where I got it from [not native to Iceland] or how long it has been there. And in the freezer, I also found a couple of bottles of lamb’s blood and tongues of various animals and a single cormorant leg.”

Somebody asked what happened with the other cormorant leg, and someone else confessed about 2 liters of pig’s blood, an awassi lamb tail and canned half suckling pig. As the comments came flooding in, I must admit I had to use a dictionary to identify certain food items.

Just as when I was still trying to explain to myself the Asian sauces dated 1996, my friend Charity from New York came to my rescue, finding a bottle of Arthur Bryant’s BBQ sauce purchased in St. Louis in 1978, and by her words “used lightly, and then moved to the historical archive section of the fridge for eventual transfer to our heirs.”

All of us had endless lists. It seemed that we all could survive man more months of lockdown enjoying a new thing found in the pantry or freezer. We hoarded, we picked, we hunted, we cooked, we ate, we feasted, we collected, we stocked, we kept, and we saved for better times, or for future, or better put, to confuse future archaeologists. Now time to clean up, hoard responsibly!