It all started with a thunderous crash in the kitchen. The source, I quickly
determined, was the pantry. An upper shelf had collapsed onto the shelf below it, which, in turn, collapsed and fell onto the shelf below it, which in turn toppled the shelf below that. A tsunami of cans, bottles, and jars lay on the pantry floor. Unfortunately, nothing had broken. Even more unfortunate was that I could no longer avoid the twenty-plus years of house gift accumulation, all brought by well-intentioned people -- like me -- who had been raised on the
same commandment I had been: “You never go to someone’s house
I began picking the “stuff” off the floor, stacking it all on a kitchen counter, and reading labels as I went: Ajika Channa Masala Punjabi, African Shito Seafood, Raspberry Rhubarb, and Texas Tongue Torch. As I set more stuff on the counter, I wondered if that was how “foodstuffs” got its name, given that as soon as we got a jar of Sweet Montana Dills, Spicy Grill Glaze, Fig Butter, or Moutardeen Grains we quickly stuffed it into the pantry, never again to see the light of day.
I guessed it was our latest host-hostess gift -- the three-pound quart jar of Bulgarian Plum Sauce --that had triggered the avalanche. I set it on the counter along with Mamma Joe’s Exotic Delight, Tart Mayhaw Jelly, Rocky Mountain Horse Radish Sauce, Torch Hazel Nut Spread, Apple Butter, Eggplant Ecstasy, Olive Tapenade, and Raspberry Pomegranate. To make room for the jars of Cinnamon Apple Sauce, Fresh and Salty Salsa, the Marinated Red Pepper, Bitter Sweet Orange Marmalade, Thick and Spicy Barbecue Sauce, and Sliced Brazilian Peppers, I pushed the stuff farther down the counter.
Then came jars of Fresh and Fruity Apple Salsa, Kuntry Kettle, Pickled Okra Fresh, and a bottle labeled “Amazing Grass Green Super Food" to the inventory. Amazing Green Grass? That, I thought, didn't sound like something that belonged in the pantry – more likely the garage, which is where I put it.
The jar of Organic Raw Honey: Unprocessed and Unheated, sounded pernicious as did the can labeled Smoked Rattlesnake. When the bottle of Olive Tapenade fell over, I noticed the sticker taped to the bottom of the jar: “To
and Jim. Enjoy. From Arlene and Arnie” it read. We were not Julie
and Jim, and we didn’t know any Arlenes and Arnies. The Tapenade had obviously been regifted –
maybe more than once -- which got me to thinking – maybe instead of returning this stuff to the pantry I could
do the same. Regift it all.
The jar of Torch Hazel Nut, for example, was in a beautiful reusable jar, a narrow yellow bow still tied around its neck. It would make a lovely house gift, but given the amount of stuff I had, I shuddered to think how long it would take to transfer all of my stuff to someone else’s stuff. I counted the inventory -- a total of 45 jars, bottles, and cans. It would never work, I decided. Even if we got one invitation a week (which seemed a bit optimistic), it would take almost a year to clean out the pantry. Plus, knowing my luck, I would probably end up regifting to the original gifters. There had to be another way.
I could “shop the pantry,” like people were now “shopping their closets,” I thought. There had to be recipes that called for Mountain Horse Radish, Tongue Torch Hazel Nut, Organic Vindaloo and the like – but, no, even if there were, such exotic ingredients would probably call for ten to fifteen or more exotic ingredients, and I didn’t do recipes with more than five ingredients. Most of the titles of the cookbooks on my shelf had titles like: “The Three-Ingredient Cookbook,” “Fifteen Minute Kitchen Prep,” and “A Meal for Ten in Thirty Minutes.” More than likely I would be joining those other Americans who toss out $165 billion worth of foodstuffs every year.
But before I did that, maybe some soup kitchen could find a use for this stuff. But I didn’t want to make anyone sick… so I began checking the expiration dates.The Torch Hazel Nut had expired in 2005. The Cinammon Apple Sauce in 2010. The most current expiration date was 2016, but the worst were some with no dates at all! That stuff had probably been here since time immemorial. It all had to go.
Photo courtesy of
I hope I don’t sound ungrateful because I’m not. I know you don’t bring wine because we don’t know one wine from another. Or flowers because I’m allergic to most scents… but how about a pound of butter or a dozen eggs in the future? You can wrap a bow around it, and I promise, Girl Scouts word of honor, it will never be regifted!
Whiningly yours, Carol