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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring Cleaning Continued

Part of the diet vigil includes knowing what is going into my mouth at all times. I have already cleaned out the sodium laden canned goods and sugar based products to be on this diet. The other day, I wrote about dumping old lipstick. Today, let’s focus on the really scary stuff—the things in the kitchen.

Be honest, when did you last go into the cupboards and dump old spices? The refrigerator and dump barbeque sauce or mayonnaise?

Within my tradition of January and June cleaning, I need to attack the stuff normally ignored—the pricey items we buy for one purpose leave to sit for years in the cupboard. At $3.95 to $9.00 a bottle, spices are held in protective custody to be utilized when and if another recipe calls for it, which by-the-way usually doesn’t happen within the same year.

Let’s talk pumpkin spice. Have some? When did it get purchased? And when was the last time you used it? Exactly, I don’t remember either. I look at spice jar after spice jar unsure as to its age, my eyeballs skewed trying to read the tiny use-by-date stamped on the jar.

Take a look in my spice rack. Allspice used it last spring for a carrot cake recipe. Dump. Arrowroot—Chinese food last week. Friday taco night used Cayenne pepper and Chile powder. Cinnamon, cloves and ginger in all the Christmas desserts. Caraway seeds went into Irish Soda bread made special for Pastor Murphy in September. Ground coriander…hmmm…coriander. I’m not sure what recipe used coriander. Uh. Dump. And so on…

Now when I say dump, I mean take the contents of the spice jar and dump the contents, carefully clean the jar keeping the label pristine, then when you need the spice buy it in bulk or loose—twice a year—January and June. Health food stores, herb shops, Mexican groceries, Chinese stores and farmer markets sell spices in plastic packages or bulk at a fraction of the price of those bottled spices.

You can purchase fresh herbs like thyme, dill, and bay leaf in your grocery store. Fresh is good tasting and good health. If you are feeling particularly farmer-like you can pick up an herb-dish-garden at the local nursery or hardware store. My cousin Thia grows her own salsa garden—tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, onions, cilantro, and garlic. Thia comes from Minnesota which explains her cultivation obsession.

Next walk over to that refrigerator. Take a look at those condiment jars. What do you think grows in them after a month or two? When my husband’s best friend, Spyros lived with us, he purchased different sauces and toppings every week. He liked to experiment with flavor. After a few months I couldn’t figure out what was old and what was new. To solve the problem, I dated the bottles as to the month they were opened then threw away anything over six months old.

I now toss anything over one month old. Mayonnaise-based products are dumped after one week. I’m afraid of food poisoning.

Food, like makeup or anything else for that matter, should be purchased as you need it, stored sealed, then dumped in a reasonable length of time after it’s been opened. This is simple common sense my foremothers taught me.

Happy Spring Cleaning!