Rotting Food Guilt and Other Messy Details

August 9, 2010

food craze veg

Some days I wonder if my public Chef persona gives a false impression of what really goes on behind my kitchen door. I don’t post the sordid details: the rotting vegetables; the fruit fly infestation; the junky pile of canning jars and unlabeled boxes that is my pantry. It’s all farm-fresh chicken and organic blueberries over here at Lip Smacking! But after reading Facebook fanpage comments that run the gamut from “One word: Superwoman” to “Stop being so productive, Heidi. You are making the rest of us look bad,” I’ve decided to let my friends into my kitchen for a moment.

It’s true that I am productive: I get lots done in the kitchen; I do lots of freezing, canning, cooking, and baking; our family eats well; and I love to cook. It’s also true that my husband has threatened divorce because of rotting food waste and over-stocking. He is joking (I hope) but he has a point.

The messy reality is this: I have a tiny kitchen, two kids, no dishwasher, and a food-buying fetish that borders on a Disorder. My fridge is currently full of more heirloom green beans and fresh blueberries than our family can eat in a week; my pantry is loaded with boutique grains and unusual spices, and I rarely use them. A 30 pound box of apricots is at this moment gracing the top of my clothes dryer (I bought this even knowing that we are leaving town for three days). While writing this out, I am fielding intense questions from my husband about what I “plan to do with those apricots“. This is a successful multi-tasking moment!  Less successful is the time last week when I tried to simultaneously freeze 100 pounds of blueberries, make 10 jars of raspberry jam, and render some Metchosin lard, all while making dinner. Results: the raspberry sticky-toffee is salvageable; the over-cooked lard is not. 

I am both a kitchen wunderkind and a kitchen mess. I can pull off fantastic feats of farm-wife-ness, and wallow in food mismanaged sloppiness all in the same day. Like today.

This morning I made a triple batch of  buttermilk pancakes with seasonal fruit salad for our houseguests, later whipped off a few jars of homemade blueberry jam and helped my son make some berry-banana smoothsicles, then washed several loads of dishes by hand, and still found time to make dinner for 8 people from scratch. Cue “Don’t hate me because I am productive.”

But also today I dumped two bags of rotting local organic vegetables straight from my fridge to the compost bin, sprung a fruit fly trap involving an overripe nectarine and a Shop Vac, added more useless pretty jars to my ever-expanding collection, and lacerated my foot on scattered pieces of Lego (or was that Playmobil?) on the dining room floor – my normal Lego-spotting superpowers being crippled on account of the giant bin of fair-trade cashews I was moving to its new storage spot… in the corner of the room. What’s more, I still can’t find a single head of the 6 pounds of organic garlic I bought last week. It has either been sucked into the vortex of my over-stocked pantry, or has been accidentally composted with the rest of the expensive farm market waste.

See what I mean?

The summer and fall are especially messy at Chef Heidi’s house. The excitement of the harvest gets me every time. The abundance and variety, the shiny organic-ness of it all – I am excited and hopeful. Every year, I believe that I will put it all to good use, and I use this as a justification to bulk purchase everything from apples to tomatillos. Let’s just say that you should all shake your heads at me right about now.  But even knowing that some of it will go to waste, I can never pass up the beautiful fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. Sometimes I do manage to use it all. But mostly, I live in a hopeful state of mismanaged produce.

Feel better now? I suddenly don’t. Faced with the raw truth of my tiny messy kitchen and my eager over-purchasing, I feel like making a new summer resolution to eat only what is currently in my house until every cupboard and freezer basket is empty. But considering how many months that would take, even with four of us on the job, I am freshly depressed. 

Maybe it’s time to rename the blog: “Chef Heidi: a locavore gone loca”. Ha. Especially since, knowing me, I love food, and food potential, too much to ever change.

Comments (17)

  1. You are inspiring. Your honesty makes me feel normal.

    I also have a hidden secret. We live in a small home and I try to tell people I prefer it – that I’m a minimalist and I am very good at only keeping what we need. However, no one but my family knows the piles of paper I’ve got hidden behind our closet door!

  2. I’m glad to know I’m not the only food hoarder out there. I’ve started referring to my freezer as “the vault”, because wonderful things go in every season (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, squash, tomatilloes, tomato sauce), but then I become a miser. It’s like money in a savings account. Once it’s in there I just want to savor the feeling and not use it.

  3. Just wanted you to now you are not alone. I frequently come home from the farmers market, basket overflowing, plans of leaving 4 days later, there’s only 2 of us in this household, and I say to myslef “perhaps I have a problem”. I can’t NOT buy those gorgeous looking raspberries, even if I don’t know how I’ll get to making jam from them and given the bleak winter days not too far ahead I feel the need to buy, consume, preserve and simply be around all the beautiful freshness that is so bountiful right now. I go into overload. But I do feel sick about it when I don’t use it, or don’t use it when I should. So this year I’ve been better about shopping less and keeping the fridge clear. But its a week by week process and sometimes I wish there was a self help group for people like us. I see this in jest because it seems like a pretty great problem to have. Enjoy these fruits of our labours while we can!

  4. Hi Heidi

    I am in Thunder Bay at a B&B and I gained permission to use a fridge so that I might go to the farmers market this morning. I am going to have to use every bit of restraint I have to not leave food here when I move on.

    Thanks for baring it all for us

  5. thanks, everyone. It’s so nice to know that I am not alone. Anna – I know exactly what you mean about “the vault”! Tami – I really think we do need a self-help group for food hoarders. Christie – ooh, I am both excited for you and nervous for you. Good luck! Loca Locavores Anonymous!

  6. We just returned from an overnight camping trip where I took along a dozen dungeness crab and 10# of Haida Gwaii spring salmon. Of course, everyone was happy and we ate very, very well but there were some leftovers that kept really well in the cooler so I decided to put them in the deep freeze when we got home for another feast, another time, along with the extra hot dog buns and sliced bread for french toast.

    I took the opportunity to do a rare deep clean of the deep freeze, and wound up filling the styro tote that the crab came in with the excess of frozen bananas, last falls butternut squash soup (squash were cheap!) and of course bags and bags of various chicken parts that were destined for the stock pot… sometime. Sometime about a year ago it would seem. So out it went to the dumpster, probably 40lb worth of previously useful food.

    You are not alone! My wife’s friends tell her how lucky she is to have someone cook for her so often, but the truth is somewhat less appealing, as it usually is. :)

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