Wednesday, December 7, 2011
It's not hoarding, honest!
Last night I attacked our Maggie Closet. That's what we call the closet under stairs. Even I couldn't take the chaos any longer.
My husband coined the term after Maggie from Read or Die. It's just the type of space she would love to nest in, surrounded by books.
Our Maggie Closet houses collections of dust mops, brooms, kitchen appliances, lunch boxes, reusable grocery bags, cake pans, cookie cutters and spices. This is also where I shove everything that needs to be dealt with later. It doesn't take long for this space to become a total disaster.
Last night was a total closet purge. The spice shelves took the longest. Partly because I maced myself right good by pouring white chili powder into a mason jar. But mostly because 78 jars survived the purge. No repeats. Honest.
I read cookbooks like novels. When I grow up, my next degree will be in culinary anthropology. The spice cabinet reflects that.
Travelling In Laws supported this growing trend. I will not tell you where my saffron came from and I still feel bad that they had to spend so much time in customs once because of some cumin seeds.
Recently I've learned how to find really good spices locally. The online spice catalogs are just too pricey and the quantities are too small.
For instance, one purveyor of spice wanted $4 for a tiny envelope of sumac. Two tablespoons at the most. I got 8 ounces for $3 at a local Indian grocery store. Sumac is a yummy lemony brightener perfect for garnishing hummus, sprinkling over steamed vegetables, or replacing the salt on the table habit for people who have to watch the sodium intake.
Who needs Whole Foods? During my last trip to Bombay Bazaar I stocked up on cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and ground cloves. It's time to make gingerbread!
My gingerbread recipe was wheedled out of a close friend and has so many spices boiled together that it makes your lips tingle. There's no teaspoons in this recipe, just tablespoons.
Another great find has been Compare grocery stores. There are several in the Charlotte area but my favorite is on Arrowood. This grocery store is predominantly Hispanic. Fresh garbanzo beans in the hulls and a bin of dried chilis that smells so smokey spicy good I wish I could bottle it. This store also has Indian, African, Thai and Chinese food stuffs.
In one trip I can get my bean curd thread that sates our noodle fetish yet cuts the carbs, bulgur wheat by the pound at 1/4 the price of Whole Paychecks, and whole ancho peppers that find their way into almost all of my recipes.
Don't even get me started on the lentils - they are kept in the pantry and that will have to be another blog.
If you like to cook and enjoy flavor, buy some mason jars and start building your own spice closet. Just say no to $5 little bottles of desiccated flakes at the conventional grocery stores. You will save a lot of money, learn about other cultures and put great food on your table.