I never really thought of myself as a hoarder. I’ve been to other people’s houses and find that every spare inch is covered with something, and have been thankful I don’t have that drive. But then I read Dona’s post about hoarding, (though I confess I don’t quite know what the difference is between a hoarder and a pack rat, Dona – pack rat not being a phrase we use here). And realised I was guilty too, particularly when it comes to food and related items.
Hoarding foodstuffs and bottles of water is encouraged in Wellington. It is called “disaster preparation” and we’re all supposed to have three days worth of food, water, and other necessities stored away in the event of an earthquake. Of course, I live on the side of the hill, and fear that if an earthquake is strong enough to cause havoc and cut off water and transportation, then my house is likely to be in bits at the bottom of the valley, with me in bits with it, or trapped, injured, and miles away from the carefully stored food and tins of baked beans. That hasn’t stopped us putting together our emergency rations though.
Even in normal times however, I do not work on the “just-in-time” principle of food purchasing that would save me so much money and space. For some reason, even though I live within walking distance of two supermarkets (30 minutes walk away, but still …) I live in fear of not having what I need when I am cooking dinner. Perhaps it is a result of growing up in the country, or perhaps it’s just that I don’t do menu planning. But my pantry is over-stocked with cans and jars and herbs and pasta and rice (four different kinds). Periodically my husband gets fed up and goes and throws things out that are five years past their use by date.
I also hoard recipes. I LOVE recipe books and magazines. In my twenties, I collected a series of Australian Women’s Weekly recipe books. I have the Dinner Party books 1, 2 and 3, and make the lemon chicken, the chocolate cheesecake, a light tomato pasta sauce, and grilled steak recipe. That’s about it. Also on my shelves from this series are French, Chocolate, Fruit and Vegetable, Chinese and Healthy cookbooks. From these books combines, I make the Beef bordelaise sauce, the rack of lamb with either the lemon/mint sauce or cream/bacon sauce, a strawberry shortcake, and a low-fat beef and beer casserole. I may have forgotten one or two recipes, but you’re starting to get the picture.
I also have a stock of Jamie Oliver cookbooks (gifts and self-purchased) that have produced a few favourite recipes, and one or two others. A favourite is my Long Italian Lunch Cookbook. I just love the idea of a long Italian lunch. All that wine, food, conviviality. If my deck ever gets finished, I plan hosting a long Italian lunch for my friends in the summer. You’re all invited.
The cookbooks are not really my problem though. I have a subscription to Cuisine magazine, a fabulous New Zealand magazine along the lines of Gourmet. I look forward to it arriving, and love reading the recipes and wine reviews, and drooling over the gorgeous photographs. It’s food porn. Then I place it carefully on a pile of magazines going back a number of years. I am very slowly working my way through these, ripping out recipes that appeal to me, and discarding the sometimes 4-5 year old magazine. It’s a slow process. I hate ripping up a beautiful glossy magazine, and I’m always worried that I’ve thrown out the recipe that will be perfect for my next dinner party. (Did I mention that my last dinner party was last year? I don’t entertain that often!)
The recipes, once torn out of the magazine, eventually make their way into some of those folders with plastic pockets. Each of these folders has with about forty pages, several recipes per page, and yet I probably regularly use fewer than ten of these recipes. For the record, these include a chicken and apricot Morrocan style dish, spicy lamb tagine, lemon and raspberry almond tart, another lemon tart, white chocolate cake, marinated lamb, a spicy tomato soup, and a few others I can’t remember right now (and I’m feeling too lazy to go down the stairs and check). Half the fun of deciding what to cook is going through these recipes and remembering why I chose to keep these, above others.
Earlier today I arranged to have a dinner party two weeks from now. Already I’ve started worrying about what I’ll make for the entree (translate to US English = appetiser or first course) and main course. I intend to make something decadent and chocolate for dessert or a lemon tart, but I’ll most probably end up buying something from my gourmet supermarket. So why do I hoard all those recipes?