Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Pantry

The secret to success in the kitchen is to have a well-stocked pantry.

Pantries come in all sizes from dorm-sized entities to ones more resembling the running of a small-sized military operation so it is necessary to understand where you lie on this scale.

There are three variables at play — method, money and madness. Let's examine them in reverse order because that would be the methodical thing to do.

Philosophers through history have pointed out with tedious and wearisome regularity that madness is relative. What matters is the intensity of your cooking habit, the regularity of company showing up to partake, and the depths of your obsession. The CC is pretty clear that on a scale of 1 to 10, his dial goes all the way up to 11 (but that was obvious, right?)

Money is a subtle point and one not routinely discussed in polite company. You do not have to be rich to have a large pantry (but it helps.) What is more important that you have a sufficient amount that you can juggle a complex operation and keep renewing ingredients as they run out which they will. It helps if you live in New York or London because of the insanely well-stocked ethnic markets which are dirt-cheap but the Internet allows you to source far and wide with consummate ease at this point.

(On a historical digressive note, this is something that an upper-class Englishman could do with consummate ease pre-World War I — source top-quality ingredients from across the world — he used the telephone. The First World War destroyed the aristocracy and their elite tastes and the Depression and the Second World War laid utter waste to it. It's taken us 60 years to get back to where some were albeit with a much larger degree of democratization.)

Method, of course, is the magic that mediates between money and madness. Here tastes differ so you will have to define it for yourself. It matters what cuisines you routinely cook. The CC's tastes run to French, Italian, Indian, Japanese and Thai (in alphabetical order) with liberal elements of Greek, Mexican, Persian and Sichuan thrown into the mix but yours might differ.

De gustibus non est disputandum. (in this case, quite literally!)

The list conceals more than it reveals. Each of the first three (French, Italian, Indian) constitute of tons of regions with a variety of ingredients to juggle and this requires a level of complexity that is quite deceiving when it comes down to one sentence.

So you need to source your "stuff", stock it regularly, juggle it all correctly to make sure nothing gets wasted or destroyed and cook daily to enjoy it all!

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