Stocking Up

Through the years my pantry has been extremely important. Although I have an actual room, it is not necessary to maintain an adequate pantry. When I speak of a pantry I am referring to the food that I have on hand to work with.

When you live in the country you do not run to the store before you cook a meal. If you do not have the ingredients for the food that you intend to make, you do not make it.

Through the years I became very good at improvising. I had emergency substitutions for many things. If I did not have an emergency substitution I had a recipe to make what I needed.

What do I mean by this? If I did not have eggs, I had a cookie recipe and a cake recipe that did not take eggs. If I did not have the can of milk or the yogurt that a recipe called for I had a recipe to make my own to use. I made a substitute for Eagle Brand milk as well as homemade yogurt. I also made my own brown sugar.

When I think of a well-stocked pantry I envision one with all of the staples such as sugar, flour, dairy products, eggs, and spices and herbs. If I have a protein and potatoes or pasta I am all set. When cooking for the people who worked for us my rule of thumb was if I had a big dinner entree, I fixed a simple dessert such as ice cream and cookies. If I had a small entree, I fixed a more elaborate dessert. At any rate no one left the table at Hickory Heights hungry.

Recently, I took advantage of a wonderful sunny mild day to do some grocery shopping. I happened upon one of my readers that I know quite well. She, too, was out filling her pantry just in case bad weather hit. I was stocking up on fresh things as well as some staples that I happened to be short of. With the cold weather and snow that arrived I am pleased that my preventive shopping trip paid dividends.

I must confess at this point I am spoiled. Instead of going to the grocery store when it is bad weather, I make a trip down the road to get my meat and eggs. The farm store has a wonderful assortment of items that I can use to create a nutritious meal.

If I could have only one protein on hand I would choose some type of ground meat. You can turn ground meat into many different dishes. I used ground pork in my chili. I made meatloaf with ground beef and pork or even with ground lamb. The mixing of different types of meat is the secret.

Along with my pantry I had a freezer as well as the jars I canned in the fall. That freezer and my stash saved me on many occasions. When we first moved up here the electrical system was old. It was the same as when the electric came to this area in the late 1940s. The small box and fuses were unable to keep up with the influx of electrical items that were now part of a well-equipped home.

Until we upgraded the system there was only so much that could be added. I knew that I needed a washing machine, but I could do without a dryer so that I could have a freezer. It turned out to be a good choice. I hung my clothes out on a line for years while I enjoyed the convenience of a freezer. I could purchase things in quantity such as bread and rolls. I could also freeze some of the produce from the farm garden. My freezer is still a major convenience item for me.

Today my grandson is spending his day off with me not because he needs a babysitter anymore, but because we enjoy having a day together. We had a wonderful discussion over breakfast about a project he did in his science class. That is how I keep abreast of what is going on in education these days. My grandson always puts off eating breakfast until he gets here because having eggs and cinnamon toast at grandma’s house is a tradition.

He and I are also going to work together. He will do the climbing to put my village things away. The other two grandchildren helped me get them out; now it is his turn to help me put them away.

We discussed the supper menu. He wanted goulash and cheese bread. Thanks to my shopping trip the other day I have everything I need on hand. He is at the point where he is interested in cooking. He made the crumb topping for the apple pie plus sliced apples. He grated cheese and helped fill the bread machine. His father was always interested in cooking, too.

It is good for boys to know how to cook. My husband never learned how because his mother was always at home on the farm. Once he was no longer milking cows he was eating lunch at home. After he microwaved a hot dog for five minutes rendering it inedible, I set the microwave for him and told him to press start to heat up his lunch.

Life is different today. With women in the workplace it falls upon the men to handle the cooking detail once in a while. Also, when they go to college they have to be independent. It is good for the boys to know how to do the laundry and at least cook a few things. The skills we practiced today just might come in handy someday, and he will remember cooking with grandma.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.