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The Tailor

January 22, 2013

Don’t waste food. It’s a mantra that I try to convey to my children. In this house, we don’t waste food. And I try to explain from the field to the table all the work required to grow the food and all the people and places involved along the way.

The kids like soft squishy sandwich bread. So I get them the least-bad stuff that serves as a reasonable delivery device for peanut butter and honey. Personally, I think it’s vile. But that’s another rant.

When they don’t want to eat the crusts, I tell them about the farmer who has to grow the wheat. The machines that are used to harvest the grain. The wheat’s journey from the farm to the mill and from the mill to the bakery. The bakers and the factories used to make the bread. The machines and the designers who produce the packaging. The truckers who bring the bread to warehouses and then to markets. The supermarket employees who stock the shelves. And all of the people in between. Sometimes they have to hear about the coal miners, without whom there would be no electricity to run the factories.

I think eventually they eat the crusts to get me to stop talking.

But the sad truth is that in this house we waste food all the time. Most recently Mrs. Fussy took a long hard look into the deep recesses of our pantry and found some things no longer fit for human consumption. Obviously, I’m ashamed by this. So naturally, I will share the story.

Did you know that rice had an expiration date?

I’m a cheap bastard. And I’m also a creature of habit. Those two usually work together nicely. Generally, buying food in larger quantities is a good way to save a little money. Buying five pounds of rice is more cost effective than buying one pound of rice. However, that only works if you use it all.

Well, apparently sometime over the last few years I switched over from using both brown and white rice to using brown rice almost exclusively. It hasn’t really seemed like years since I made a batch of white rice. However, expiration dates on the bags would indicate otherwise. As would my lack of any sense memory for preparing the stuff.

Besides the five pounds of Goya short grain, there was some aged basmati and some nice arborio. But brown basmati is now the grain of choice to go with Indian food. And risotto is just too much of a pain in the ass for me to make with kids underfoot. Plus I’ve become a bit of a dietary fiber junkie, and the refined rice just isn’t doing it for me anymore.

So all of that rice went to our friend “the tailor”. It’s a euphemism Mrs. Fussy and I use for throwing something away. Neither of us likes waste, so one of us promises not to throw it out, but instead we’ll bring it to “the tailor”.

It’s a little Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in Albany. Just not as creepy.

But rice wasn’t the only casualty. There was a big old canister of potato starch that I bought several Passovers ago. Kosher for Passover potato starch doesn’t come in small quantities, apparently.

I still had a stash of the Honibe dried honey tablets that they had sent me to review a long long time ago in the back of a cupboard. Who would have thought that had an expiration date? However I’ve been buying raw honey from Lloyd Spear and these days it seems to be a constant race to eat our honey stash before it crystallizes.

Other items seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Mrs. Fussy unearthed a full bag of steel cut oats from the bulk bin at the Honest Weight Food Co-op.  The funny thing about that was that I had just looked for one recently and replenished our stock. So now we have enough oats to feed ourselves silly for the next two winters.

A bag of corn flour that I bought from the co-op years ago with the optimistic goal of making fresh tortillas went to meet the tailor. As did an entire unopened bag of whole wheat flour. At one point there was a bread machine in the kitchen, and I had been experimenting with making our own fresh bread. But that piece of kitchen equipment moved into the garage years ago, and the flour simply remained on the shelf taking up space.

The small remaining quantity of semolina flour will remain on hand, as that just got purchased recently for a failed orecchiette experiment. I have hopes of trying to do it again, but maybe this time without children. We’ll see. Making your food one fraction of a bite at a time doesn’t seem like the smartest use of time.

There were a few other odds and ends that had to go.

But getting rid of food is hard. Even expired food. Because it’s not just the food itself, nor is it the waste. Rather it’s the disposing of the dreams and the possibilities those foodstuffs represent.

The antidote was a little retail food therapy. Now that the cupboards were newly empty, I stopped in at The Cheese Traveler for something special. Given that I also have a stash of many bottles of olive oil, I picked up some apple cider vinegar from Normandy.

Lucky for me, there’s no expiration date to be found anywhere on it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2013 10:30 am

    Composting does wonders for ‘tailor-made’ food disposal guilt. I highly recommend.

  2. Stevo permalink
    January 22, 2013 11:48 am

    No need to make the kiddies eat the crusts. Just freeze them until you have enough to make breadcrumbs. I’m sure you’re saving old bread for that purpose anyway.

  3. January 22, 2013 12:39 pm

    I’m imagining my future self biting the crusts off my kids’ sandwiches and eating them. Mmm. Second the composting, I have been meaning to start that since we got our own place. Also, hopefully you take these date with a grain of (expired but not dangerous) salt. Sometimes it’s not “expired,” it’s just that it was “best by” a while ago. Doesn’t mean it won’t be good!

  4. January 22, 2013 7:54 pm

    I hope the garbage man has not come yet, because there was no need to throw out that rice. Anthropologists have made delicious risotto from rice found in the ashes of Pompeii.

  5. Kate H permalink
    January 22, 2013 8:13 pm

    I think dates on food can be pretty arbitrary. Manufacturers put dates on things because we expect them to and it helps their bottom line when we let it expire and buy more. If it doesn’t smell rancid it’s good to go in my house. The only things on your list that I would have gotten rid of would be the corn and wheat flours because they actually can turn. Best bet with them is to store them in the freezer.

  6. January 23, 2013 2:52 pm

    “But getting rid of food is hard. Even expired food. Because it’s not just the food itself, nor is it the waste. Rather it’s the disposing of the dreams and the possibilities those foodstuffs represent.”

    You put into words the feeling I had last weekend, when I threw away two (?!?) boxes of cake flour. I don’t remember what I had been planning on making (expiration date was 2009!), but I know it must have been grand.

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