Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Great Pantry (and Fridge) Purge!

When I moved to Tucson in 2006 from San Francisco, my then fiance She-Ra (now wife) had been living in her small townhouse for several years already. In her 20s and living the single life, her party pad was a go to for friends and classmates to hang out and have fun. Even though, much like me, she is a loner and hates cleaning up someone else's mess. Then I move in, the partying pretty much comes to a halt and we start doing, and buying, couple things.

 To say the least our lil pad has gone through some big changes in the past 13 years but recently a new circumstance has come our way which has lit a fire, as it were, for us to make even a bigger change.

The dark back of the pantry filled with unused baking items, Xmas trinkets and crap

See, the townhome we currently live in is pretty old. Built in the 60's, equipped with an electric stove, a sizeable patio, garden space with a tree and a decent amount of storage even as small as the unit is. But when I moved in and started to collect Halloween and Xmas decorations, along with just general life stuff, that storage space got cramped, fairly quickly, enough where we have to keep Xmas decorations in big plastic bins on the deck outside and all the Halloween stuff takes up the whole back area of the kitchen pantry.

To say the least out little pad was getting a bit, oh what's the word...tight.

Just some of the sauces, marinades, oils and condiments that we have to deal with

About a year after I moved in, the old property management team installed these huge air conditioning/heating units on top of each townhouse and the results were awesome if not wrought with some problems.

Sure it was nice to go from swamp coolers to real central air (me coming from Northern California and dealing with 110 degree heat only cooled off by blowing air through a damp cloth was not, but the weight of the air units was a bit much for some roofs.

Ours especially.

The decades of monsoons, intense summer months and general debris had weakened the upper structure and slapping a one ton iron box on it caused some damage. Through the years, when it rained, we noticed a slight leak on the corner between the hallway and kitchen. That leak got bigger. And bigger. Then when we experienced heavy rains in January this year our cozy cabin was nearly flooded.


A stack of donations

A team of repair guys came in to help, clean and dry the hallway and inspect the damage. One guy, after walking the run of the place and surveying the roof, came back to me only to say "Well, we have a lot of work to do here." A week later we get a message from the property management team saying that they want to move us into another unit because ours is kinda destroyed.

Destroyed? Oh man. Like literally they need to rip the roof off to fix the leak problem and gut the place due to internal warping and decay. Sucks.

So this immediately set us in a weird panic. We had been in this place for so long that we had accumulated a lot of stuff - the closets are packed in, the pantry is literally overflowing with cooking accessories, holiday decorations and cookbooks and the kitchen itself is a jumbled mess of gadgets, pots, pans, spices, etc, you name it.

Here's the thing: Not only do I have a full time day job and am the Chow writer for the Tucson Weekly but She-Ra just made service manager of Old Chicago (yay!) and had to go to Portland, OR for over a month to get trained. Plus my mom was just in town visiting for a week and we were, yeah...a bit flustered.

What used to be packed with crap, is now an almost bare floor, except for Lil Poundcake

Luckily we had already gotten rid of the big, bulky and ugly brown couch and I had cleaned out the hall closet earlier last year, so that was good. But the rest of the stuff? Yeah. Not going to be easy.

She-Ra went through her closet and tossed out about half of its contents. I did the same with my "wardrobe" and now I do not own a pair of long pants as I type this. Most of my CD collection got the heave while some others were donated to our hangout bar's, Danny's, jukebox possibilities, I kept a few while some obscure Metal ones in great/unused condition ended up donated to a local record shop.

The load was lightening, but we still had/have a lot of work to do.

Just like that inspector guy said.

We had champagne?

The daunting task was the kitchen and pantry. Dear gods of the culinary dimension, are we overflowing with cooking crap.

Looking through our dry goods, I assembled a good amount for donation. Like old soups, cans of beans, boxed mac n cheese and even stuffing, basically stuff that has just been taking up residence and not paying rent for quite some time. So its nice to actually have a shelf if I feel like restocking it. Which I'm not. Why would I do that? We're moving!

Next bit of action was the freezer. It's not that big but, yowza, was it stuffed to almost overload. I discovered some random bits I had no idea we even purchased or somehow made room for. I found a bag of sausage, possibly from my buddy Ben Forbes, who is a butcher, some White Castle burgers, bags of stir fry veggies, corn, blueberries, half eaten ice cream, Girl Scout cookies, a cup of gelato from who knows where, a bunch of chicken and vegetable stock, a box of meat lasagna, booze and a good 2 pound river bass.

River bass? When did we get that? Huh...

Most of it got thrown out, I gave some of the bagged stuff to a friend and I defrosted the sausage and ate it for breakfast one morning. It had a bit of burn but was still okay.

The fish got relocated to the fridge but then I got busy and forgot about it and had to junk it. Speaking of the fridge, I found a bottle of half n half that was dated Feb 2017. Yikes! I am still in the process of going through that part but a lot of pickling experiments, old salad dressings, Japanese mayo, condiments and half frozen whatnots shoved in the back all got booted.

Man, it is amazing what one can find when they are throwing away years of living.

Found in the it edible?

While cleaning the pantry (which is going to take me a while) I found two bottles of decent champagne and just gave those away. There were also two magnums of good microbrew beer which I placed in the fridge for future quaffing now that there is a little more room. Some of the sauces have turned vinegary so they all have to go. We also never, if rarely, bake and we have loads of baking essentials that I am not too sure what to do with. Keep them? Donate? Toss? Not too sure. I'll figure it out later.

My cookbook hoarding has finally crept up on me as now I am in the predicament of weeding through the ones we need, ones we can get rid of and others that are nice to have around but really don't ever use. It's weird man. On my rare days off I find myself just staring into the void of the kitchen and just scratching my head wondering what to do next and what to do with it all.

One thing is for sure, we are keeping that Richard Simmons cookbook. It's old but it is so rad.

She-Ra gets back soon and I made it a goal to have the house down to the bare minimum when she does. The huge printer that sat on the desk unused is now in the hands of a good friend. Old stereo equipment that was hooked up to the TV that has been gone now for a few years can be found at the Casa de los Ninos thrift store on Mountain and Prince. Do we need all of these pots and pans? One thing is for sure, when we do move we are tossing the microwave and toaster oven in the bin and just buying new stuff. Now that the wife is making good corporate money we can splurge a bit.

So much stuff. So much to do.

Not a lot of time.

And I am, after all...just one dude.

Various meats discovered in the depths of the fridge

Here's the kicker: the townhouse they want us to move into? Yeah. Its a dump. Totally wrecked. Sure it has new cabinets, new stove and all that but the previous occupants obviously did not take care of it and probably just bolted when back rent was due. Our property manager assured us that they are going to rip out the carpet and re-do the whole place before we move in.


Recently I checked on it, as it is about a football field's length from where we live now, just a few days ago,  and the place was still trashed: doors hanging off the hinges, the crappy carpeting still mucking up the floor, dirty windows, broken patio light, so I don't think we will be moving into that unit anytime soon.

Last time I talked to She-Ra and told her the situation of our supposed "new home" she said we might just have to move on our own or even buy a house. Wow. You go Ms. new found money bags. Alright. Homeowners huh? Talk about grown up stuff!

But for now I am still in the process of giving a bunch of old and hardly used kitchen and pantry bits and bobs the heave ho. It's pretty cathartic, if not a little exhausting, but our old bitty cottage is feeling slightly larger due to the extra space. The place just feels lighter too. Plus without a lot of extra components in the fridge and pantry to cook with that just gives me more of an excuse to eat out more. Which is what food bloggers should be doing anyway. So bonus there!

Still, it's sort of sad in a weird way, tossing out years worth of memory and collection, as I sift through containers of house made seasoning and infused oils, it just brings me back to times when the two of us were hard at work in the kitchen cooking up something fun and inventive. Looks like we'll just have to make new food memories in whichever new home we end up in.

I just hope Lil Poundcake will like her new digs. But that's another story altogether.


Ice, stock and booze...that's all that is left

Camera, Typing and Getting Rid of Everything
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early Spring (Cleaning!), 2018

Metal Influence:

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