When I was in senior English, my teacher told us about a field of expertise called “garbology.” I have never heard of it since, so I think she may have made this up, but she said that a garbologist is a person who examines people’s garbage in order to find clues about who they are (professionally, not as an identity thief). She had us do a creative writing assignment based off of a bag of “garbage” that she brought into the classroom and dumped on the floor. The idea, which is true, is that you can learn a lot about a person based on what is in their trash.

I believe that the groceries in a person’s kitchen are similarly revealing. As I cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator today, I was reminded of my own recent (and, scarily, not-so-recent) history:

Canned Pumpkin: this has moved with me three times now. I bought several cans of pumpkin one Christmas with the intention of passing out mini-loaves of pumpkin bread as gifts. After one unsuccessful batch, I think I decided to go with candles instead.

Can of Chickpeas: this is a reminder of my South Beach Diet phase, not so long ago. The idea is that you roast chickpeas and eat them as a crunchy snack when you crave popcorn. Yeah, right.

Orzo: very expensive starchy pasta that I bought to go with the salmon dish I cooked for my in-laws the first time they came over for dinner. Haven’t made salmon or orzo since.

Four containers of sour cream (one unopened): Evidence that it is a good idea to inventory the current contents of the fridge before going shopping for recipe ingredients.

Blackberry Jelly (unopened): Neither Stephen nor I eat this. Neither Stephen nor I remember buying this. I think this jelly tells the story of a previous occupant of the house.

Rice cakes, Saltine crackers, Rice Chex: delicious snacks that I bought right before South Beach that went stale before I fell off the wagon and started eating carbs again.

Granola bars, assorted flavors: These are leftover from our honeymoon trip to San Diego last summer. We bought them to snack on as we sightsaw. I swear that I put about 10 in the cabinet, now there are at least 100. Can granola bars reproduce? More importantly, does anyone want any granola bars?

Various assorted spices, such as nutmeg, marjoram, and cumin: Each of these represent one recipe that I made once in my newlywed enthusiasm and never bothered with again. A complete waste of cabinet space, considering that basil and garlic are the only spices I am comfortable improvising with.

I have decided that even though these random food products do represent significant portions of my life and even though they hold such fond memories, I cannot allow them to continue to take up space in my cabinet. I also do not have room for them in the Memories Rubbermaid (I already have a hard enough time keeping the lid closed). Therefore, they’re gone! Let the purging continue!


10 responses to “H-E-B-ology

  1. Ummm… I think that Blackberry Jelly (unopened) is mine. I must have been one of my many “gifts” I left for the new Watson family. You should try it, it’s good. Enjoy!

    — A previous occupant of the house

  2. Some of those specialty spices can be EXPENSIVE, too! Like ginger and cloves to go with your canned pumpkin. And I wanted to make a Moroccan dish that called for saffron. That stuff costs $13! I said, um, nevermind, this nice prepackaged couscous will do.

    Speaking of Moroccan recipes and random pantry items, I have preserved lemons in my pantry! Yes, basically a tupperware container with lemons and tons of salt. I had aspired to make this Moroccan recipe that called for preserved lemons. My sweet mother-in-law figured out how to preserve lemons and gave them to me. I have yet to make the recipe, though, and I’m not sure how long they last. (I mean, they’re “preserved” right?)

    Oh, and speaking of tupperware, I miss it. The real stuff. You know, the tupperware our moms had from the 70s in green, orange, and yellow. The stuff that actually works. None of these rubbermaid/ziploc knockoffs are any good. I know you can still order tupperware somewhere, but it’s a hassle. I want to reinstate the tupperware party!

  3. I have Tupperware! Only now they make it in pretty white with blue lids. Why white for leftover spaghetti, chili, and other non-white items is beyond me! It still holds food, though. 🙂

    I see the packrat is still cleaning the nest…. 🙂 I want random spices! I happen to use cumin quite often, and can’t figure out what to do with basil! Maybe we should work up a trade….either a trade of spices, or a trade of recipes!

  4. Let’s see..what was in our house.

    Old-fashioned Salt-Water Taffy: bought on a trip to Fredricksburg when everything was too expensive to buy except this. Never ate it and I don’t know if Cliff knows that I threw it away or not.

    Netting bags of white M&M’s: Cliff snatched a bunch of these at Erin’s wedding and we never ate them. They sat in our fridge almost a year.

    Deer sausage: This is priceless according to my dad, and he would be sad if it got thrown away. We like it and had eaten a lot already, but we stored the last bag or two in the Gohring’s freezer for when we get back. Anybody want some venison?

    Manzana Sol: One day when I was missing mexico, I bought this apple flavored soda in a glass bottle from the hispanic food aisle at HEB. While it sounded good at the time, I never drank it.

    I packed up a whole spice rack of spices of which I had only used the whole jar of parsley for some parmasan chicken. Why do we think it necessary to register for things like this? Why not just buy the spice when you need it? Although I am learning a lot about cooking from scratch over here so maybe I will be like M and just throw whatever in til I can smell it. 🙂
    *i deleted and reposted this because i made a typo that made something not make sense 🙂
    *aww sad, the word verfication starts with the letters “gap”. anybody want to go to the hillsboro gap outlet with me when i get home!??

  5. Our previous homeowners left us presents too – a small can of coconut milk with an Asian label on it, a jar of cinnamon in the refrigerator, (does that keep it more fresh, I wonder?) and a big container of frozen mashed strawberries.

  6. Did you guys know that the majority of spices only keep for 6 months? After that it’s just like adding powdered card board to your food.

    Considering that…what’s the point of even buying them? I never use them that much.

    Yay for salt and pepper…

  7. Abbey, I read that somewhere, but I swear my two-year-old spices still have some kick!

  8. Well, since the comments have turned to gifts left by previous tenants, I would like to offer the following:
    5 motorcycle batteries
    a partial pan of brownies in the oven with the knife still in it
    a bag of potatoes which had turned to jelly, in a wooden kitchen drawer. Picture the smell of that.

    It took me 6 months and a pound of coffee grounds to finally remove the smell.

    Word to the transient: clean out the cabinets and oven before you leave. Please.

    And by the way, she is the rattiest pack rat of all time. 🙂

  9. One more thing…what do you do with cardomom? I bought some and don’t know why.

  10. I think I have some venison in my freezer, too, come to think of it! Anonymous, is that another parting gift?

    I have no idea what cardamom is. You should Google it.

    PS- For all of your sakes, DON’T try to picture the smell of the potato “soup” in Mom’s new house. It was not pretty.

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