You know how sometimes you start thinking about words and where they come from? It occurred to me yesterday for the first time that I knew the difference between a pantry and a larder. I’m sure everybody else knows it and I’ve just being a bit mentally sluggish – it has taken me a lifetime so far to work it out- but it’s obvious if you know a bit of French. Pantry – le pain– where you keep the bread. Larder – lard, les lardons– bacon – where you keep meat, so a bit cooler. How easy is that?
We don’t have pantries or larders in many houses now although some old houses may still have them, the lovely little rooms with shelves for so many filled jars and pots and a few friendly spiders.We have fridges and deep freezers and all sorts of cooling and stabilizing devices, so we don’t need larders and pantries. I am currently working on what I might make to go in a pantry, though, and I’m considering making mine as creative as possible.
Since doing a master’s and deciding to write full time, taking a break from the treadmill I used to leap onto on a daily basis, I have become a bit more self-sufficient. Cookery writing and blogging sharpened my desire and, before long, I was making my own cheese, freezing my own ice cream and finding new ways to source sauces than from a supermarket shelf.
Now I make my own (plant-based) milk, butter, tofu, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, mustard, pie fillings, granola, sauces, pasta, pates and a variety of cheeses – I made a passable mock parmesan yesterday from brazil nuts – in addition to the bread and occasional cakes. (I rarely do sweet stuff unless it’s to share).
There is a guideline which I apply when shopping. It goes-‘if it has more than three ingredients, I should think about not buying it.’ Of course, hard-and-fast rules are mad. I’ve just made a tofu ricotta with basil and lemon zest and lemon juice and lemon salt and sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast and tofu – that’s seven ingredients and it makes for a great lasagna topping. But the idea of shop-bought tinned baked beans with more than three ingredients or tomato ketchup with more than tomatoes and something sweet and something zingy and a bit of salt is raising the probability stakes of there being ingredients in there which I may not want. Also, it’s nice to be in control of how much salt and sugar – and which sugars – are shoved in your food!
I will never be one of those homely people who knit their cats pullovers and darn old socks and spend nights running up curtains bending myopically over the sewing machine. But it is so easy to shove some oats in a jug to soak and the next day you add a bit of (oat) cream, whiskey, maple syrup to the drained water and you have a brilliant liqueur to share. A few almonds or cashews left overnight in some water, and you have the basis for a healthy cheese or milk or sauce. A few unsweetened stewed apples in a jar, and a cake will rise with real conviction, no eggs needed.
Alternatively, a few mustard seeds and a couple of extras and you have a better dijon than you can buy for a fraction of the cost. Homemade mayonnaise is so much nicer than the coagulated oily gloop which comes in plastic squeezy bottles and as for homemade pickles, jams and chutneys- they just don’t taste of anything but the ingredients, which is so good.
Health-wise, I feel much better about choosing a creamy mock-butter made from liquid lecithin and coconut oil, nut butter with three ingredients and homemade bread on my breakfast table than the stuff we can buy in supermarkets.
Now spring is coming, it’s time to get out of the pantry and onto the picnic mat, or at the barbecue. Outdoor fun starts in March and ends in October, or even later. It’s time to collect the fresh ingredients out there and make something delicious for the pantry, and next winter will be so much warmer with home made stocks and soups and sauces, preserves and pickles.
I will fill all the empty spaces in the cupboards and then resort to putting up a few shelves for the rest of the jars. Doubtless, I will give lots of jars away. Sharing is what food is really all about, I think.
Then there is winemaking… an opportunity for another blog, another time maybe, but it is lunch time now and I have a 2006 vintage elderberry waiting for me with some homemade lasagna and granary bread, homemade butter, piccalilli and pickled onions preserved three months ago, and a leafy salad.