The Kitchn Cure Day 14: Field Trip!

published Sep 24, 2015
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(Image credit: Henry Chen)

The Kitchn Cure Day 14: Replenish and replace.
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Today is the day we finish up creating our Super Magical Power Pantry; replenish our spices; and replace any unhappy dish, tool, or gadget. Yes, today is the day we go shopping. Grab your bags; tuck in your pantry, spice, and utensil list; and set your mind towards a more conscious, mindful shopping experience.

What? Mindfulness and shopping — aren’t they mutually exclusive activities? Well, sort of. Much depends on how you shop, or more specifically, the kind of mental state you bring to your shopping experience.

Simply put, mindfulness is about bringing a sense of observation and awareness to our activities, whether we are sitting quietly or moving throughout our day. It’s important to practice mindfulness in a diverse set of circumstances (such as the grocery store) and not just when the incense is burning or we’re in our yoga pants. Integrating this intention to be present with the humdrum of everyday activity is a key factor in living a more connected, considered life.

Yes, but shopping? In some ways, shopping is a perfect place to practice mindfulness because shopping is loaded with all sorts of impulses and reactions, many of them unconscious. So to the extent that we can be bright-eyed and aware of mood, surroundings, desires, triggers, and tendencies, it’s possible to bring this same sense of awareness and liveliness to our shopping experience.

We have just spent three weeks clearing out many of our mistakes — the excesses, the duplicates, the nonfunctional, the ugly — let’s try to avoid turning around and bringing it all back in. Before you head out into the wilds of your local mall or supermarket, take a look at your lists and be sure you’re prepared for the journey.

The Super Magical Power Pantry

Before leaving, go over your pantry list from day 11 to be sure it is accurate and has everything you need. Think about what kind of cook you are and, playing to those strengths, be sure you are stocking your pantry with things that support your tastes and style (and time constraints — see below). While you’re at it, add an ingredient or two you normally don’t keep on hand, maybe because it’s too expensive (truffle salt) or just a little intimidating (black garlic). Go on, it will be fun! The Super Magical Pantry is all about a light and playful touch.

At the same time, also think about the kind of cook you want to be. Do you admire the Ottolenghi-style of cooking, but never seem to get beyond your usual spaghetti and red sauce? Then research and add an ingredient listed and used in the Ottolenghi books to your list. Or maybe you want to eat more vegan food, whole grains, or seaweed. Whatever it is, lean towards the cook you want to be with this one item. Even if it seems a bit mysterious or odd, bring something new into your pantry! The Super Magical Pantry requires a fearless approach to the unfamiliar.

A few more hints for Super Magical pantry shopping:

  • Consider time. For example, have dried beans on hand for longer projects, lentils for quicker ones, and canned beans for last-minute emergencies.
  • Keep lots of flavorings on hand: Soy and fish sauce; toasted sesame oil; chili sauce; anchovies, smoked fish, or tuna; horseradish; preserved lemons; flavored vinegars; curry paste; dried mushrooms; etc. These are the secret ingredients that will make or transform any dish.
  • Don’t forget that pantries also contain treats! Stock up on packages of good cookies, bars of chocolate, Nutella, delicious jams, and honey.

The Herb and Spice List

Your herb and spice section is an important subset of your pantry. Much like the flavorings discussed above, they will transform your cooking. If you want to stock just the basics, Emma’s list is a good start. If you want to broaden your range, revisit the Quick Guide to Every Herb and Spice in the Cupboard post.

My take on acquiring herbs and spices: Unless I’m making a mad dash to Trader Joe’s in the middle of a recipe because I’m suddenly out of cumin, I always buy my herbs and spices in bulk. And depending on what I get, often in just a small amount, maybe just two or three tablespoons. Of course this means I have to be more vigilant when it comes to keeping track of my stash, but I’ve thrown away too many old and unused herbs and spices to do anything but this. Besides, I love a visit to the herb and spice shop!

Tools, Implements, Utensils, Jars, Containers, and Other Assorted Stuff

Do you need to replace a tool or utensil that you threw away on day 13? Is it time to invest in your pantry storage with a case of quart-sized jars and a sharpie? Are you finally ready to try a microplane grater? We are in a bit of a danger zone here, because we’ve just done a purge and now we’re looking at adding stuff back in. But with our mindful intentions and William Morris’ words ringing in our ear, we can now look with kind and considered eyes and choose our new purchases wisely.

And of course, as usual, we don’t have to buy anything at all today. If that’s the case for you, take a nice day off. Read a book! See a movie! Take a walk in the park!

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

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