5 Things I Never Thought I’d Have in My Pantry

5 Things I never thought I’d have in my pantry

12 Apr 5 Things I Never Thought I’d Have in My Pantry

5 Things I never thought I’d have in my pantry

Although mounds of  icy snow still lurk in the shadowy parts of my front yard, I choose to believe spring has finally arrived. I see crocus bulbs forcing their way through the compact soil in my neighbours’ gardens, and while nothing green has appeared yet in mine, I am acting as if my lawn is awash in daffodils and snow drops. Part of this cunning ruse involves partaking in the annual spring cull of Unnecessary Culinary Objects. Over the winter, fancy mixes and far-fetched condiments burrowed their way into my pantry. I blame Christmas, Valentine’s Day and boredom. During the cull I tossed guacamole mixes full of MSG and pre-made sauces loaded with six different kinds of sugars and fake flavours. Yet I kept some items that might surprise you. The following post is from the archives. Three years later, it still holds true:

5 Things I Never Thought I’d Have in My Pantry

Can you keep a secret? After going on and on about Homemade This and From-Scratch That, there is a spot for convenience foods in my life and in my cupboard. While I prefer fresh to tinned, homemade to reconstituted, the food snob in me has learned to make concessions. I just don’t usually broadcast them for fear that fessing up will get me banned from the culinary section of the Internet — or at least pelted with organic heirloom tomatoes.

While the following items are to food what K-Mart is to fashion, they do the trick — under specific circumstances. So here is my culinary confession. My pantry contains the following non-artisan, non-organic, far-from-fresh items. And I’m not about to give them up.

1. Instant coffee

What I use it for: Chocolate Mousse. Chocolate Cake.
Why: It makes chocolate taste more intense.
What I don’t use it for: Coffee.

2. Instant Tapioca

What I use it for: Best Raspberry Pie Ever. Capital letters earned.
Why: Raspberry Pie isn’t answer enough? Okay, it helps set the filling without using so much sugar you can’t taste the raspberries or so much flour it gets pasty.
What I don’t use it for: Pudding. Fish eyes. Ick.

3. Shortening:

What I use it for: The odd rolled cookie recipe and fool-proof pastry (although I am now a hardcore, butter-only pate sucree fan).
Why: It’s a vegan/non-dairy substitute for butter or lard for pastry. It also makes cookies crisp, which now and again is the goal. If transfats make you sweat, shortening is ideal for seasoning cast-iron pans. It produces a non-stick finish and doesn’t get tacky like oil.
What I  don’t use it for:
Cakes or  frying.

4. Corn Syrup:

What I use it for: Caramel corn and pecan pie.
Why: Don’t panic. This isn’t the same as the scary high-fructose stuff that manufacturers use. I’m talking the old-fashioned grocery store kind. It’s less sweet than sugar and when cooked, helps produce a smooth texture.
What I don’t use it for: Pancake or waffles topping. That’s what maple syrup is for.

5. Red food colouring:

What I use it for: Pink Angels Squares and other iced goodies for special occasions. But just a few drops.
Why: Sometimes you just have to be whimsical.
What I don’t use it for: Red Velvet cake. No one needs to consume a whole bottle of this stuff.

Okay, so now that I’ve aired my dirty culinary laundry, what items in your pantry do you consider hiding when food snobs come to visit? Tell me what you use it for and why. It’s okay. You’re among friends.

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  • Amy Proulx
    Posted at 07:22h, 12 April Reply

    Come visit me at work some day. We have some of the grandest food snobs around and we have every single one of those ingredients in our storehouse. It’s especially fun when you ask these guys what their food vices are.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:06h, 14 April Reply

      Really?! I’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing. And one day, I WILL visit you at work.

  • Barbara
    Posted at 09:01h, 12 April Reply

    I am not a food snob and when my daughters all lived at home and there were five of us I made complete meals every night. I baked from scratch which I still do on the few times I do bake any longer. Even after the girls were gone and there were just the two of us I still made dinner every night, But I lost my husband 14 years ago and still stayed in my large home until one day on the spur of the moment while visiting an Independent apartment I just said I think I’ll tke that one. Surprised me. Living alone as far is food is concerned is a pain. Even though I can have meals here five nights a week I choose not to but now and then. So my confession of what is in my pantry – but my freezer are some frozen small dinners. Having to cook for one is not fun so I find that making a pot of soup or chili and putting the soup in small containers and freezing works well.
    In the past I would never have purchased those frozen meals.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:15h, 14 April Reply

      Cooking for one is a challenge. I fully understand how hard it is to work up the enthusiasm to cook when you’re the only one eating. When I lived alone I also occasionally bought frozen meals. It was a healthier alternative to popcorn and breakfast cereal, which seemed to be my fallback meal. (In my defence I was a young, foolish and sure I was invincible.)

      Kudos for freezing your own soup and chili. I keep single portions of these on hand, too, but mainly grab them for lunch! Thanks again for sharing.

  • Catherine
    Posted at 11:16h, 12 April Reply

    Vegetable stock cubes, and vegetable stock granules. I also have chicken stock cubes. Have you ever used Lyles’s golden syrup instead of the corn syrup? It’s what the British make ‘flapjacks’ with, which are oats, butter and golden syrup, baked in a pan and not the pancake kind of flapjack. Golden syrup is also delicious on oatmeal, or porridge as the British say.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:09h, 14 April Reply

      Lyle’s Golden Syrup is a great alternative to corn syrup. Great suggestion! I’ve actually had flapjacks — in Sussex, England, no less — and loved them. Of course, at that time Lyle’s was unheard of in Canada, but now the stores stock it. Now I’m itching to find the recipe.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 12:17h, 12 April Reply

    Great provocative thinking out of the box post. I have all of my daughter’s pantry stuff in my pantry now – as she has moved back home – and owns a completely different food ethic. That is hard for both reasons.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:18h, 14 April Reply

      Different food ethics can be as challenging as different palates! While my husband loves my cooking, if he had to take over the kitchen we’d be living on chicken wings and salad drenched in store bought ranch dressing.

      Good luck with sharing your culinary space!

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