Monday, January 4, 2010

Pantry Visitation Rights

So, it's been almost a month since we made the big change to vegan food, and we've been very relaxed about our approach so that shock wouldn't set in and tempt us to backtrack. We said in the beginning that instead of throwing out all the food in the house (which would have been nothing better than sheer waste in our eyes given how many people in this world are undernourished), we would gradually use up the products we already had to make room for the new foods that would be coming in.

It hasn't quite worked that way, though. I have been loathe to use any of it. I open the freezer or the pantry and find myself scouring labels, sighing, and putting it back "for another time." We never had a last, gluttonous farewell meal with meat and dairy and all that. We just...stopped eating it once the decision was firm.

So. I have a refrigerator full of turned dairy products and spoiling leftovers that I will be purging from the icebox tomorrow. I feel a compulsion to get all Martha Stewart-brand anal about it, too, and just disinfect the entire refrigerator from top to bottom. The pantry closet is another issue entirely. It is filled with cans of soup, chicken broth, gravy mixes full of whey and "powdered beef product (ew!)," among other multi-syllabic scientific chemical names. There are chips going stale in there coated with powdered dairy products. Every manner of flavored rice (all the sauce packets are full of chicken or beef bits in the powdered mixes, and quite a few have milk products in them). Tuna packets, cream of this and that soups, cereals and breakfast bars containing whey powder...and on and on. In my freezer are several pieces of beef and a packet of stew meat. There are pre-cooked, flash frozen battered and breaded chicken nuggets covered in sauce made of GMO high-fructose corn syrup. There is a box of fish filets that didn't taste any good to us when we still ate fish, frozen microwaveable dinners that no one is going to eat. In my baking and spice cupboards, I have milk chocolate bits, three bottles of multi-colored corn syrup, beef and chicken bouillon, and a candy jar full of...candy.

No wonder America is so fat and sick! Look at what we have in our home...all of it voluntarily purchased and horded away as "staples" to supplement fresh foods that I have always cooked in my kitchen. Our family actually ate a reputedly healthy diet according to pretty much everyone we know! Imagine what the pantries, freezers, and refrigerators of less health-conscious Americans contain.

We have arrived at the conclusion that these foods will not be used up. No one wants to eat it, now. The perishables will have to be tossed, and we will simply recycle the plastic containers as per usual. As for the shelf-stable foods, I will be calling around to the various chapels on island to see if there is a food program for any families in need. If not...I'll have to toss that stuff, too.

It rubs every part of me the wrong way to throw away food. I was raised not to waste, and as an adult who has now reviewed and ordered my own priorities, I still cannot stand wasteful living and excess consumption. Odd thing for a chubby woman to say, maybe, but it's true. I don't mind tossing garbage, but tossing food--even though it's food I cannot use--feels wrong. On the other side of it, however, I know that I will feel better about my home and the groceries in it. There will be room in my kitchen for the good things once the bad stuff is evacuated, and soon I can visit my pantry again in the satisfied, comfortable way I have always done before. I love to cook. I love my kitchen. I want to love my pantry again.

Think fondly of me in the next few days as I cull out and toss. It will be difficult for me to do.

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