Monday, September 21, 2009

Do I really need 5 types of mustard?

Every food blogger worth their salt has posted what should be in your pantry along with starter-kitchen lists (equipment, regular foods etc). With a pantry filled with such wonders, coming up with a week's worth of recipes is supposed to be easy.

My First Apartment - Starter pantry and staples checklist
Minimalist - The lastest must-haves
Homecooking - Pantry basics
Canadian Living - Pantry staples for busy families
How stuff works - 10 must-haves

Here's my own staple list for my pantry:

Pantry Basics

  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Barley (dried)
  • Beans (dried & canned)
  • Black Pepper
  • Cereal
  • Cocoa
  • Cornmeal (coarse)
  • Couscous
  • Crackers /Cookies/Snacks
  • Dried Herbs and Spices
  • Gelatin
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Fish sauce*
  • Flour (all-purpose, whole-wheat)
  • Flax seed (unground)
  • Honey
  • Hot sauces (chili, shriea, chipotle...)*
  • Lentils (du Puy - dried)
  • Oil (Canola, peanut, olive, sunflower, sesame dark and light)8*
  • Oyster sauce
  • Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, rotini, ...)
  • Peas (split & dried-yellow & green)
  • Rice (basmati, calrose, brown, wild, black)
  • Sesame seeds (fresh or toasted)
  • Salt (rock, kosher, white)
  • Sherry*
  • Soy Sauce (light, dark)*
  • Sugar (brown, white, substitute)
  • Tapioca
  • Taco chips
  • Tea (many types)
  • Tomatoes (tinned -- diced, paste, whole)
  • Tuna (canned in water)
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vinegar (apple cider, red wine, balsamic, fruit vinegar, rice wine, white wine)*
  • Zahtar


  • Apples
  • Anchovies
  • Basil
  • Bell peppers
  • Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • Bread (tortilla, crusty, whole wheat)
  • Broccoli (frozen)
  • Butter
  • Capers
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (fresh)
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese/Riccota
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Hamburger
  • Jam
  • Ketchup
  • Lemons/Limes (or lemon/lime juice)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk
  • Mustard (old, yellow, grainy, dijon)
  • Onions (red, white, yellow)
  • Oregano
  • Parmigiana-Reggiano
  • Parsley
  • Peanut or nut butter
  • Pears (seasonal)
  • Potatoes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Rosemary
  • Sour cream
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tahini*
  • Thyme (lemon, other)
  • Vegetables, Fresh (seasonal)
  • Yeast
  • Yogurt

Household Supplies

  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Bleach
  • Cheese cloth
  • Dish Detergent
  • Facial Tissue
  • Garbage Bags
  • Glass Cleaner/Vinegar-based Cleaner
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Laundry scouring powder
  • Laundry spot treatment
  • Paper Napkins
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Scouring Powder
  • Sponges and Scrubbing Pads
  • Toilet Cleaner
  • Toilet Tissue
  • Zip-Lock Bags

But at what point does a well-stocked pantry become over-stocked? I've tried to keep the vast number of small bottles (Tai chili sauce, Tai red pepper sauce, fermented black bean sauce, hosin sauce, ...) off the list. Besides do I really need 5 types of mustard?

My own pantry currently suffers from having an abundance of condiments. I love mustard, but I have 5 kinds (dijon, ancient, grainy, yellow, & spicy). I have tiny bottles of things that are used by only one or two recipes (and those I've purposefully tried to find). I have sauces that I use when barbecuing (hosin, memories of seshwan, chipotle dipping sauce), sauces I use when cooking meat (mostly brown sauces like Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, fish sauce...), and sauces best used with salads (specialty vinegars, oils, etc.)

Most times I enjoy having this much variety; but with the new fridge I find it constraining to have so many bottles of 1/2 open sauces and preserves. So next week I'm trying to get rid of a few bottles and not replace them until I absolutely have to. Because, you see, that's the problem: I do actually use all this stuff; not all at once and certainly not regularly, but I do use it.

My list of "default" recipes includes a teaspoon of this, and a dab of that. I eat a lot of salads, and so am interested in tasty vinaigrette that are easy to make (and the easiest of all is a 2:3 ratio of oil and vinegar). I love to barbecue and there's nothing easier than grabbing one (or more) ready made sauces as a marinade. My soups sing when I add a drop of hot sauce (or chipotle peppers in adobe sauce or wasabe). Jam for the occasional breakfast, and as a cookie-sandwich filling and for thumb-print cookies. Curd as an alternate to cake icing (in the middle of a layer cake), or to top homemade mousse.

I have to agree with Organizing Junkie in that condiment bottles breed in the darkness of the fridge.

But my biggest worry is that, once the bottles are gone--I'll just go out and buy more. Some because I miss the flavourings of my favourite recipes; others because I've found all new recipes that use something I've not tried before or even because, as I cruse down the sauce isle I'm struck with that sense of wonder. I wonder how I'd use this, I wonder how this would taste...

I wonder if I'm doomed.

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