I grew up with a pantry bursting at the seams with food. If you opened the door too quickly, beware of suicidal boxes of crackers and cans of beans that might take the plunge from their overstuffed home.
As much as I joke about my parents’ pantry, I know their overcompensation with food has much to do with them both being children of Holocaust survivors. They were raised with the first-hand knowledge that one day there could be no more food — or no more stores that would sell them food.
I have very vivid memories of visiting my step-grandmother in her little apartment in Queens. Her pantry, too, was overstuffed with everything from paper towels to coffee beans, long before Costco made that normal. Even though she didn’t actually drink coffee, she made sure to have it on hand, because the day could always come when there would be no more coffee.
My own pantry is definitely a result of growing up in my parents’ house:
I’m always looking for discounted items to add to my hoard, but every couple of months I drive out to suburbia to load up at my all-time favorite: Ocean State Job Lot. For those not in the know, Ocean State Job Lot is basically a close-out store for common brand-name goods. Or, as my husband theorizes, stuff that “fell off the back of a truck.”
My friend Mike teases me and says I pretty much get like this when I get started on Ocean State. For years I thought that Ocean State Job Lot was my own jealously guarded secret. In fact, I actually kind of freaked when The Boston Globe wrote about it a few years back. “Nooooo,” slow-motion-me cried, “now everyone knows!” I was right to freak out, because the next time I went to OSJL the pasta shelves were barren.
It’s been a while now, so I think it’s ok for me to talk about it without worrying there’s going to be another run on $1.50 packets of gnocchi. Or $2.50 San Marzano canned tomatoes. Or a bag of dried cherries for $2.79. Or a box of Arborio rice for $3.00. Or a can of artichoke bottoms for $2.00. Or a pound of pecans for $3.00. You get the picture: This place is amazing.
(Also, the one I go to in Danvers is in the same lot as Savers, the best used clothing store I’ve ever been to and where I get the bulk of my clothes. And sandwiched in between these two amazing stores is a mega-sized used book store. Mark-Down Mecca.)
Putting my pantry neurosis aside, having a stockpile of staples is the key to frugal cooking. As I’ve written about in previous posts and will continue to do, a good pantry allows you to work wonders with even a single fresh veggie. Stay tuned for my next post, which does exactly that, as well using one of my favorite kitchen time savers: the pressure cooker.