Sunday, November 04, 2007

PANTRY SHOCKER

My Pantry is Shameful

picture photograph image inside a pantry 2007 copyright of sam breach http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/

I decided to tidy up my appartment a bit. Something like a Spring clean for the Autumn. There were lots of things (unopened letters, a pile of clothes, unsorted papers) that *needed* to be tidied so instead I procrastinated and decided to start in the pantry. Unlike the rest of my chores, organising my pantry is something I actually enjoy. I even managed to draw the task out and make it last almost the entire weekend. It was an education.

Longtime readers of my blog will know I have shared my pantry cleaning exploits before. So this time I had to try and better myself. I decided to make a spread sheet for it. Not only that - I made the spreadsheet using google docs (which are genius, btw). Not only can I share them with you, look here, I can also share them with myself - meaning I will be able to check up on the stock levels in my pantry whilst I am actually out shopping, using my iPhone. Like I said, genius.

So I have been under the clearly misguided impression that I am a pretty savvy local eater. Most of my meals are, on average, at least 75% local, maybe more. I heard a story about someone who was worried about Alice Waters looking in their fridge. I could show Alice my fridge with confidence. All the fresh produce passes the Eat Local Challenge with flying colours.

HOWEVER, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY ALICE IS EVER GOING TO PUT HER PAWS INSIDE MY PANTRY.

My pantry should be ashamed of itself. I knew there was non local stuff in there but I didn't realise quite how much. For shame, Samantha, for shame. Because I probably only use one or two pantry items per meal (three or four if you count salt and pepper), it doesn't have much impact on my local eating on a day to day basis. But put my pantry up to the Eat Local Challenge on its own two legs and it fails spectacularly and miserably.

I colour coded the spreadsheet:
Green means local ingredients (except in the liquor category where it just means produced locally)
Yellow means ingredients from the USA.
Orange means from the specified country of origin.
Light Violet Blue means origin unknown.
Red means warning this item nearly out of stock, buy more.
Dark Purple means contains corn, watch out!
Torquoise means organic, hurrah!

Because of King Corn I read every single label to see if corn was present. Thankfully, my pantry is pretty corn free, but there were a few surprises:
- SAN-J Soy Sauce: "we only add enough corn based alcohol to prevent the growth of yeast or mold"
- Rumford's Baking Powder contains cornstarch, but it is from a non GMO source we are told.
- Party Decoratives - little red balls for cookie/cake decoration contain both corn syrup and starch. Needless to say they are now attending birthday parties in the sky.
- food colourings, containing lots of crap which may or may not include corn products, so they have gone to join the Party Decoratives in corn heaven.
- Powdered sugar from C&H contains cornstarch. Is this true of all powdered sugar? Something I need to research.
- Rose's Grenadine contains high fructose corn syrup. Ugh! They are licenced by Rose's which is an old British company. I'll hedge my bets that the British version uses a different sweetener to the US version. (Any Brits who can help me out here?)
(I also made note of some surprising soy bean appearances, because I sure soy beans are due to be grilled after corn has had its moment in the spotlight.)

Whilst I could work out the source of most everything in the oils & vinegars and preserves categories, not surprisingly the pastas, grains nuts and seeds and mainly the herbs & spices categories contained lots of products of unknown origin. In the future I plan to check out fair trade and organic sources for replacing these products instead of continuing to mindlesly picking up what is most convenient at Rainbow Grocery or Wholefoods. I buy a lot of these things from bulk bins which is why I don't always have info about the origin easily to hand. I will keep better notes in future. You bet.

Am I the only person with Locavore tendencies to have these terrible alien skeletons non-local non-organic foodstuffs in their closet pantry, or is it something that we just haven't thought to talk about in the open before? Is it more difficult than we'll admit?

If you want to confess, I admit I'd be happy for for some more members in my newly-formed failed locavore gang...



Last night's dinner was LOCAL Marin Sun Farm pasture raised chicken, roasted with LOCAL thyme, LOCAL chervil, LOCAL parsley, LOCAL garlic, LOCAL butter, LOCAL wine and served with LOCALLY baked bread (made from non-local wheat?), with LOCAL frisee, dressed with LOCAL oil and non-local mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. See why my pantry has been getting away with it for so long? The bad stuff is keeping a very low profile.


Archives
2006 | I love girls who get grubby.
2005 | Secrets from the Concord Trolley.


© 2007 Sam Breach
PANTRY SHOCKER

52 Comments:

  • At 4/11/07 22:15, Blogger FaustianBargain said…

    rose's grenadine isnt real at all..its is 100% hfcs. rose's was purchased by schweppes in the late 50s...and then schweppes merged with cadbury. in the 80s, mott's(an american company) was purchased cadbury-schweppes and operates as a subsidary(i think) of c-s. so mott's grenadine..in all likelihood.. is probably an american invention.

    of course, you should know that coco-cola company and cadbury schweppes are hand in glove with several mergingings of their brands in multiple countries..the details are too confusing. but needless to say, they are partners.

    and anybody who does business with america will probably have to dip into the hfcs pot because they'll probably receive benefits from the government because...*dramatic pause*..corn receives obscene amounts of subsidy $$ from the govt..so the govt has to unload it off elsewhere and thats why most cheap food/fast food/junk food is full of hfcs..because those american companies that include hfcs(which costs the taxpayers billions of $ a year by way of farm subsidies) in their product find the govt genorosity too alluring to give up...makes sense now?

    oh my! what a tangled web we weave!

    a google search shows that monin, the french brand makes a more authentic version of grenadine.

     
  • At 4/11/07 23:26, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    darn it, now i'm going to have to do this to my pantry, aren't i? i actually love that you did this. i suspect i will come out about the same.

     
  • At 4/11/07 23:47, Blogger Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said…

    I recognized your vanilla extract from a mile away - I use the same kind. I smuggled a few bottles here in Italy since I can't stand vanilla "aroma." Ugh.

     
  • At 5/11/07 01:02, Blogger ChrisB said…

    sam did you really mean to share that doc. with everyone!!

     
  • At 5/11/07 02:40, Blogger Lydia said…

    I've made some compromises with my pantry after doing essentially what you've done -- reading every label, etc. A lot of authentic ethnic condiments would be on the "no, no, no" list, so it's always a dilemma -- authenticity vs. a healthier pantry.

     
  • At 5/11/07 03:38, Blogger Tony said…

    I think there's a little misprint in the title of your spreadsheet...;)

     
  • At 5/11/07 03:45, Anonymous Alexandra said…

    Hey Sam, I checked out your .doc That's a LOT of stuff you manage to store in your "Panty" ;-)

     
  • At 5/11/07 05:20, Anonymous Sharon said…

    What about tea? I hate that I love tea so much ;-)

    I am trying to get away from HFCS and food colorings but the local eating is really tough in NJ.

     
  • At 5/11/07 05:40, Blogger Dagny said…

    I would guess that many of the spices are from outside of the US. I know that I am not willing to give up my cardamom nor my Mexican vanilla extract. And things like nuts and couscous I tend to buy in bulk so I have no clue as to their origin. Except the pecans and the walnuts. My aunt sends me a large amount of pecans each year from Georgia. And the walnuts come from my cousin's trees up around Clear Lake.

     
  • At 5/11/07 06:08, Blogger Jennifer said…

    How extremely organized! Sounds like something I would do. I love a project!

     
  • At 5/11/07 06:39, Blogger Sam said…

    Ha ha - some of you noticed. I wondered if you would. It's not a mistake, it's on purpose. It's an in joke between me and Fred. You need a French accent to get away with it, but Fred always accidentally on purpose says he is going to "luke een ze pantee" for a joke, instead of look in the pantry.

     
  • At 5/11/07 06:48, Blogger Anita said…

    how funny -- I did the same thing this weekend, but King Corn wasn't (as much) on my mind as non-local. I have a big back of stuff waiting to head to the food bank; anything that was already open or bought in bulk will get eaten as needed (it's already burned its carbon getting here, I reason).

    The only exceptions (and this goes for HFCS, too) are the ketchup and the mayonnaise -- the more-healthful alternatives are lovely products in their own ways, but they don't scratch the same itch as the Heinz and Best Foods versions, for us.

    A bit of good news for you: Non-HFCS Grenadine is preposterously easy to make, especially now that pomegranates are in season.

     
  • At 5/11/07 06:52, Blogger Sam said…

    Anita - how funnier - the food bank collection starting today at work was the inspiriation for me to get started too.

    I am scared of pomegranates. I better with the programme and get over them, I guess.

    Since my house is now so tidy, next weekend is freed up to squeeze pomegranates.

     
  • At 5/11/07 07:07, Blogger Sam said…

    PS - lucky for me, ANita - I ADORE june taylor's ketchup which is stored in my fridge and I LOVE homemade mayo the most.

     
  • At 5/11/07 08:42, Blogger maiapapaya said…

    Does it really make sense to throw away food items that we've already purchased just because we later discovered that they have some derivative form of corn in them? Wouldn't it make more sense to avoid renegade corn purchases in the future and not waste the food products we've already bought?

     
  • At 5/11/07 08:46, Blogger Sam said…

    I tend to agree with maiaipapaya - but since the only things I threw were the food colourings/decoratives and the pure corn syrup which was nearly empty. These are things that no one needs to eat and that I can make do without. They weren't real food, they were frou frou food. I will use the soy sauce and baking powder and powdered sugar.

     
  • At 5/11/07 08:53, Blogger Beccy said…

    So in reading these last few posts, should I be checking my food for corn?

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:00, Anonymous EB of SpiceDish said…

    Local/organic/corn issues aside.... can I just tell you how jealous I am of the sheer size of your pantry!! As a fellow San Franciscan (with VERY limited kitchen space) I am officially jealous.

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:07, Anonymous kudzu said…

    I don't mean to stomp on Locavores but there is something wrong with feeling you can let other people (ie recipients of donations from the Food Bank) eat something you consider politically incorrect or even perhaps unhealthful.
    Surely there's something amiss, here.

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:14, Anonymous Mark said…

    I too wonder about the "Food Bank dilema"...I took a tour of the one here in Portland and was amazed at the sheer size and organization of it (Sam, imagine you pantry taken 1000-fold).

    And yes, every donated item was packaged and shipped 1000's of miles. Our generation has been trained not to waste the food on our plates (or in our pantries). Doing a good thing often has those unsavory 'unintended consequences'. Argh!

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:16, Blogger Sam said…

    I can only speak for myself, but the things I cleared from my pantry to give to the food bank were not specifically non-local things, neither did they contain corn syrup, they were just things I had too much of and wouldn't be able to use by their sell by dates, or things people had given me that the two of us won't really ever use, or things I was overstocked with. I even bought lots of fresh rancho gordo beans to put with the donation.

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:19, Blogger Sam said…

    the food programme we give to specifically feeds families near to our office as I understand it. Not sure - maybe need to look into this further.

     
  • At 5/11/07 09:28, Anonymous swirlingnotions said…

    What a cool post! And what a great challenge! I'm due for a pantry clean-out, and I'm going to take you up on the challenge. Already, I'm thinking about all the whole grains I just stocked up with (organic--yea!), that I'm realizing I have no idea where they come from. It makes me think of a teeter-totter, this organic/local discussion. Ideally, we'd go with products that are both. But when we can't, it depends upon the product which choice is best.

    Also . . . thanks for the Google docs suggestion! I love that kind of stuff . . .

     
  • At 5/11/07 10:11, Anonymous kudzu said…

    Sam -- Thanks for your explanation. I commend anyone's donations to those in need of food; I just want the gifts to be thoughtful. I have seen far too many "gourmet" items in collections when I know folks need staples and everyday foods (like your wonderful beans).

     
  • At 5/11/07 14:50, Blogger namastenancy said…

    I think that I will consider the origins of food and seasons in my pantry the equivalent of a state secret. I love to cook "ethnic" food so what's a person to do? However, being pre-diabetic means that I check the labels for all kinds of sugars and darn, that stuff is hard to avoid.

     
  • At 5/11/07 15:17, Anonymous Hillary said…

    I like how you've applied the advice of both Alice Waters and the makers of King Corn to your very own pantry. I'm impressed with your organization and you have made me a Google Docs convert :)

     
  • At 5/11/07 15:46, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    I don't even hardly go in my pantry anymore. It's just a space waster with preserved foods getting older and older.
    Not to brag that I'm 100% local; no.
    I'm ready for a cleaning-out, too.

     
  • At 5/11/07 16:19, Blogger Cate said…

    Sam, any time you want to come over and organize my pantry, I'm ready!

     
  • At 5/11/07 17:04, Anonymous Diane said…

    Every New Years I clean out my pantry. The malingering beans/grains not used in a while get either thrown away or put into rotation with deliberate menus.

    As far as local....I'm an original locavore from way back. But I also cook a LOT of Indian cuisine. And I'm sure my toor dal, cardamom and other spices, basmati etc is NOT local. I guess I'm a locavore lite. I shop the farmer's markets, and I cook everything from scratch. I buy local where I can, expecially meat and dairy, but for the things I can't (or aren't as good) I don't. Local basmati - no. I know there's local rice, but it isn't real basmati. Local parmesean - no. Parm Reg only.

    I think the key thing is to be thoughtful, deliberate in choices and not wasteful. I like the pantry clean, because it reminds me to use things up.

     
  • At 5/11/07 18:25, Anonymous Christina said…

    You made a spreadsheet. Of what you have in your pantry. A spreadsheet. And showed it to the rest of the world.

    If I did the same, I would be harassed by friend and foe for the rest of my life. BUT, a spreadsheet!! Totally smart. Love it! A spreadsheet would increase my nerd-rating in the most fantastic way. All-time-high. Perfect.

     
  • At 5/11/07 19:28, Blogger Kevin Kossowan said…

    A fellow spreadsheet geek. I like it. I've spreadsheeted my pantry items before too, but not online with iphone capabilities. Jealous.

     
  • At 6/11/07 00:01, Blogger Alice Q. said…

    Ugh - I am so due for one of these too. I can't throw away my karo syrup (which by the way, contains some HFCS, but is not pure HFCS in case anyone is concerned) because it's a critical ingredient in certain recipes, but I do try to avoid it whenever possible. Michael Pollan's book is a good primer on the subject of F1 Corn, and I'm sure the movie is interesting too. The whole mess is just so convoluted - I wonder if we'll ever sort it out.

     
  • At 6/11/07 02:44, Blogger Gemma said…

    I'm afraid that I spent the whole of this post being jealous of your pantry, something I really desperately want. You could fill it full to the brim with high fructose corn syrup and I would still be jealous!

     
  • At 6/11/07 11:18, Blogger Betty C. said…

    I'm duly impressed with your spreadsheeting your pantry. Is a pantry podcast next?

     
  • At 6/11/07 14:15, Blogger Chubbypanda said…

    Sweetie, you're doing fine. I'm Taiwanese. 90% of the stuff in my pantry is from overseas, never mind local or organic. Sadly, that's the only way to get the products I need.

     
  • At 7/11/07 11:23, Blogger renee said…

    Quite a bit of work went into that spreadsheet! Could you come and do one for me? Just kidding. I noticed some Homemade Spicy Tomato Chutney lurking in your pantry. Can you supply the recipe? It sounds yummy.
    renee

     
  • At 7/11/07 11:25, Blogger Sam said…

  • At 8/11/07 15:31, Blogger renee said…

    Thanks for the link to the recipe. There are still tomatoes on the vine up here in Chico, so you know what I'll be doing this weekend.

     
  • At 10/11/07 13:01, Blogger Shaun said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At 10/11/07 13:05, Blogger Shaun said…

    Sam ~ You are nothing if not an inspiration. The pantry-cleanout is a challenge, and it should be one that is completed often. Thank you for testing the Google docs, so now I will *bother* to do it. I wouldn't let Alice Waters come near my pantry either. Glad to see we both use Scharffen Berger cocoa. In fact, I only use that or Valrhona for cocoa. No need for embarrassment on my end there, for I now live in New Zealand where we don't grow cacao beans, so it doesn't matter where I get my cocoa from.

    As for the anti-corn thing...What have I missed? Sounds like something important. Serves me right for being entrenched in academia...

     
  • At 11/11/07 07:03, Blogger Rachelle said…

    Sam,
    FYI- My understanding is that powdered sugar is, by definition, sugar and cornstarch. That's what gives it its unique characteristics. However, if you want, you can make your own non-corn version by grinding some sugar in a blender of food processor. I've done this in the past and it works fairly well.

     
  • At 11/11/07 07:14, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi rachelle - I think i realised that this weekend when I went to check in the supermarket. I have found an organic source made with organic corn, which sounds like a better alternative.

    cheers, thanks!

     
  • At 11/11/07 07:15, Blogger Sam said…

    shaun - i think the corn thing just affects America in particular which is why you probably haven't heard about it.

     
  • At 13/11/07 13:15, Blogger Rev. Biggles said…

    Eeeek! Shameful, eh? Hmmm, then I believe mine is most certainly criminal if not downright evil.

    Plus it needs cleanin' out. Mebbe I'll do that this coming weekend, eh?

    Biggles

     
  • At 13/11/07 15:35, Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said…

    Wow, Sam, I don't know which is more impressive, your pantry or your beautiful multicolored spreadsheet.
    wow wow wow, do I love this blog.
    I threw out my corn syrup and artificial colorings a few years ago and thought I was just fine until I needed to cover a cake with pink marzipan (OK, I guess you could argue about whether anyone ever NEEDS pink marzipan). I had good results, eventually, with honey and beet juice.

    Regarding corn-free powdered sugar, you can get kosher-for-Passover powdered sugar around Passover time. I think it is made with potato starch.

     
  • At 16/11/07 16:48, Blogger Sarah said…

    Hi, Sam:

    By definition confectioner's sugar contains cornstarch, so it doesn't clump as granulated sugar does. Bummer, eh?

     
  • At 16/11/07 16:55, Blogger Sam said…

    Sarah - bummer yes - but bummer no in that I have found an organic alternative for the future!

     
  • At 17/11/07 16:59, Blogger Hayden said…

    hurry, - straight to the Alemany farmer's markets (Saturday only) and buy yourself some bottles of fresh, organic pomegranate juice from local farmers. K&K Farms is my favorite (they use Early Red's) but they're almost sold out - this morning they told me that they'll bring it for 1 or 2 more weeks, then it's over until next year. If you miss - there is another farmer with a later variety - not as tasty, but better than anything at the supermarket!

     
  • At 30/11/07 12:27, Anonymous Flaime said…

    In defense of corn, King Corn was a comment on the modern agronimic apparatus, not an attack on corn. There are useful properties in many of the things that are derived from corn (like regular (not high fructose) corn syrup, and corn starch). Indeed, corn is a useful feed source for livestock that can properly digest grain (such as pigs and chickens), when used in combination with other food sources. And historically, corn was grown primarily by local livestock growers for feeding to their livestock. The current mega-corporate agriculture product we have is the fault of the Nixon administration and continued political patronage from big business. Get rid of corporate money from legislators pockets, especially that of Monsanto, and you might find them listening to their constituents who are demanding local and sustainable food supplies (though, to be honest, I doubt it, as corruption is entirely endimic in the curretn American political system).

     
  • At 3/12/07 08:06, Blogger Cal said…

    Rose's Grenadine contains high fructose corn syrup. Ugh! They are licenced by Rose's which is an old British company. I'll hedge my bets that the British version uses a different sweetener to the US version. (Any Brits who can help me out here?)

    I'm in London, UK and just checked the Rose's Lime Cordial I have in the kitchen. It has sugar not corn syrup. It also says to contact Coca-Cola with any questions - so I guess here it's either owned by or licensed to that particular megalith!

     
  • At 10/12/07 05:43, Blogger Nitasha said…

    It's true! Even Coke in other countries contains sugar and not HFCS.
    I remember being very confused by corn in drinks when I arrived from India. I'll still be using Rose's lime though!

    Your pantry-iPhone connection is ingenious. My husband will be out of work when I get an iPhone.

     
  • At 11/12/07 11:15, Anonymous George @ feedingfashionistas.com said…

    My pantry's full of all sorts of nasty, corn-infused, GMO, non-local crap, chiefly because I use so little dried, canned, or otherwise non-fresh goods these days that much of what resides in my cabinets is years old (from before I was smitten with my love of cooking).

    The closest I get to buying shelf-stable anything these days is dried grains, flours, and the onions and sweet potatoes that seem to keep FOREVER in my root cellar (kitchen drawer).

    I often think of throwing the old nasty stuff away, but really I should find a food bank to give it to. No sense wasting the stuff even if I don't plan to eat it.

     

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