Every night when I get home from work, my husband and my cat meet me at my front door. You probably think they’re waiting to welcome me warmly after my long day at the office, but you’re wrong. They both have only one thing on their mind, and that’s food. As I walk into the kitchen, I can hear the pitter-pat of two feet and four paws close on my heels, accompanied by my husband’s booming “Babe, I’m starving! And there’s no food in the house!”
Well, I’m starving, too -- I’m the one who just spent an hour on the train
. What I don’t agree with is my insatiably hungry spouse’s declaration that our cupboard is as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s. Didn’t I just go grocery shopping three days ago, or am I making that up? No, I’m not -- when I fling open our cabinets in disbelief, they’re packed to the gills with dry and canned goods
. It’s just that my husband and I see our kitchen through two very different lenses: When I scan our supplies, I immediately envision at least five meals I could make from whatever ingredients we have on hand. When he does the same, all he thinks is, I have to use a can opener if I want to eat that—that’s way too much work
My partner may desire instant nutritional gratification, but I’ve had to learn to plan our menu far in advance. As charming as it is to fantasize about living like French villagers
who shop at local specialty markets daily, buying only enough to make a single meal, neither of us has time to do that, so we have no choice but to buy in bulk. Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of tasty culinary staples with a long shelf life and a wide range of applications. With these items in your kitchen arsenal, you’ll never get stuck gorging yourself on late-night Chinese takeout again.
Spice It Up
Dried Herbs and Seasonings
A little spice goes a long way toward perking up anything you can shake a saucepan at. The more spices you have at the ready, the greater the variety of cuisines you can explore. Chicken breasts seasoned with curry powder or garam masala, for instance, have a drastically different flavor than the same meat spiked with rosemary does. If you’re just beginning to cultivate a spice collection, don’t get too fancy—just start with the basics: salt, whole black peppercorns, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill weed, garlic powder, tarragon, sage, chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaves. Always keep an eye on how long these items have been in your spice rack, as dried herbs lose their potency after a year or two.
Onions and Garlic