Monday, August 22, 2011


During my FMLA break, one of my biggest tasks has been cleaning the house. My parents have started referring to me as the White Tornado, and they definitely batten down the hatches once I get started, especially when trash bags are in tow. My mother refuses to part with most of her possessions, each one has a story around its origin. The typical shrieked response is, "You can't get rid of that! That belonged to Grandma/your Aunt Frances/Bisnonna Meme," or "so-and-so gave that to me for my bridal shower." I have to admit, some of the pieces are really nice, such as a kitschy orange flower-shaped fruit bowl, but come on, a horse-head creamer? Three basket steamers? A British pudding mold? The kitchen has taken the longest thus far due to the number of hiding spaces and sheer volume of stuff that needs inspection, dusting or full wash, and neat stacking and organization. It shocks me and my folks how good I am at it, since I'm not exactly the neatest person. My room still has not been tackled properly, although I have been purging clothes.

Besides housewares, my mother is afflicted with Italian Famine Syndrome. Scratch that, it seems that most ethnic mothers are utterly paranoid of having their mission to keep their families well-fed thwarted by famine, blackouts, or supermarket closing hours. As a result, we have overflow of canned goods and spices on industrial warehouse shelves in the TV room. Many of these cans are past their expiration date. I ignore this since I hate to throw away food, and most canned products are pumped full of preservatives anyway. Thus I restack and demonstrate to my mom that we do not need anymore canned tuna, coriander, or jalapeno jam. The second prong of this attack is to use as many of these products as possible. We have been having jello and instant pudding at least twice a week. For Dad who insisted on three Costco jars of Welch's grape jelly, there is brownbag peanut butter and jelly, and one empty jar. I've also continued to sift through recipes, almost like Iron Chef. Instead of buying ahi tuna, I mixed canned Italian albacore in with the mayo mixture and used up two open jars of capers instead of opening cornichons in this yummy open-facedsandwich. Mom loved it. When my Betty Crocker mood struck, I had all the ingredients for Nigella's coffee-walnut splodge cookies to take to a friend's.

So I admit, I tend to scoff at people who "cook" by opening cans or boxes. Besides the health benefits of eating minimally processed food, cooking loses its creative edge when the only task is to add water. However, good food is good food, and if one can save time in an already busy day, it's still better than fast food. Sandra Lee, I will never thumb my nose at you. Maybe giggle at your emphasis on cocktails, but I respect thee for liberating busy cooks from the guilt of not having enough time to make everything from scratch. Will save that for the weekends....