Here she is. Yes, I have a lot of cabinet space, and no, there was no physical way to get my giant pantry shelving unit thing into this shot. Maybe I do use the top of my cabinets as storage space for a random assortment of vintage cookware, and so what if that’s a diagram of different clam breeds stuck on my fridge? Variety is the spice of life, friends.
In the Fridge
Look, I’m no Mark Menjivar , but I figured you’d probably want to see what’s up in my fridge. There’s some stuff going on in here. I like to cook, but because I often work late and/or go out to dinner, I don’t get a chance to all that often. So what you see here is a pretty random assortment of leftovers, beer, and the remnants of my roommate’s baking adventures.
I’ll go over the top shelf in the next slide, so let’s focus on the middle for now. From left to right, we have: leftover quinoa, squash, and kale (foreground, not mine); a tub of fresh burrata that former National Managing Editor Erin Zimmer gave me for my birthday (background); a disproportionally large tub of cream cheese frosting with half of a red velvet cupcake in a plastic bag on top (not mine, foreground); communal corn tortillas (background), leftover pinto beans, sour cream, and not one, but two different brands of eggs.
On the bottom, that silver foil thing is (probably too old) leftover onion jam, topped with a piece of pizza in a Ziploc bag. Apart from that, it’s the lower level is mostly reserved for a random assortment of beer and wine, most of which was brought over by friends.
The condiment shelf
The top shelf is mostly reserved my ever-growing collection of jarred condiment things. I…have a lot, most of which never really get used. It’s a problem. From left to right, we have pickles, then chili-loquat jam I brought back from Cyprus,; tucked behind that is a jar of lemon curd and a large jar of caramelized onions; along the wall there are two different kinds of tomato jams and a jar of pickled rhubarb; a container of dulce du leche, honey mustard my boyfriend brought back from Sweden, a small container of…actually, I have no idea what the little short jar next to the mustard is (egg whites? Why are we saving that?); then a wall of pickles along the right side, and a jar of pickled corn and tomatoes I made at a canning workshop in Harlem…two years ago.
Oh, and that foil-wrapped mystery on the left, in front of the OJ? It’s a baked sweet potato.
Did you think the top shelf was the only place I stashed bottled/jarred things? Oh, okay, well, it's not. The door is also filled with jams, dressing, sauces, pickled things, some errant beer and wine, and a canister of Kraft “Parmesan” cheese (no shame). Also: butter.
I used to stash all sorts of shit in the freezer. I hate throwing food out, and I often cook for one, so tiny portions of leftover everything would go in there, plus bones and shells that I swore I’d make stock out of, and never did. Last year, before I went to Southeast Asia for three months and sublet my apartment, I finally cleaned out the freezer, much to my roommate’s delight. Now, most of the stuff in here isn’t mine. I do have that ham, and some frozen sliced bread and soup on the top shelf. The rest of it—chicken legs, berries, and especially that banana-flavored ice cream—belongs to someone else.
Moving over to the cabinet area, there is a method to the madness (kind of). The small cabinet on the left is mostly home to my roommate’s vast selection of tea, plus some water crackers, and up top, a bowl of ramen and a packet of Tim-Tams that I received at an Australia-themed dinner. I keep them up there to try to trick myself into forgetting I have them. It’s…not really working.
On the right, let’s break this down by shelf. The top is mostly oddball ingredients I bought for some ethnic cooking project that I’ve only used once and can’t bear to throw away now (breadcrumbs nonwithstanding). That big bag in front is trahana from Cyprus, and behind that there’s shrimp chips, dried coconut flakes, a bag containing dozens of little bags of fermented soybean paste called pong yi gyi from Burma, and some pistachios. There is a very good chance I will never use the pone gi gyi—I don’t actually really like it—but I visited the factory where it’s manufactured in Bagan and refuse to toss this edible keepsake.
Middle shelf: mostly various types of salt (kosher, sea, table) and pepper (dried red, chili, bulk bag of black peppercorn refills for the grinder). Also: another container of breadcrumbs, because that sometimes happens when you live with roommates.
Bottom shelf: all of the spices! Too many to name. Probably everything you can think of, plus more, including za’atar and herbs de Provence. Like many people with a vast array of exotic spices, I find myself cooking with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes 90% of the time.
This is the liquids shelf. Oils, vinegars, various fish sauces (some of them smuggled back from Phu Quoc in Vietnam, where they forbid passengers from bringing it on the plane), and a glass milk bottle full of shallot-infused vegetable oil I made for a recipe from Naomi Duguid’s Burma cookbook and haven’t touched since.
A portion of cookbooks
Let’s talk about cookbooks (I’ll get to that bottom shelf in a minute). What you see here is a very small portion of my cookbook collection, the rest of which is stashed on my bedroom floor and desks both at home and in the office. Food editors get a lot of cookbooks. It’s a nice perk, but most of them don’t make it home with me. These are a few that have—the classics like Joy of Cooking and Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, single-subject compendiums like Chez Panisse Vegetables and The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles, and cheffy lookers like Sunday Suppers at Lucques and Ottolenghi. I would be lying if I said I cooked straight from books all that often, but I do like to have them for reference and inspiration.
Onto the grain/pasta/etc shelf. The theme here is: more jars. I hate throwing away glass jars/bottles from milk or sauces, so I decided to put my hoarding tendencies to good use (look at me, I’m crafty!) and make a tres-Brooklyn display of dried goods. I’ve got beans, nuts, peppers, granola, pasta, rice, some pickled tomatoes, oatmeal, lentils…the list goes on. The only downside to “organizing” your grains like this is that sometimes you forget their proper cooking times, so dinner can become a bit of an adventure. But! That’s why you taste things as you go.
Honey and hot sauce
This is the sweet-and-spicy corner, home to various honeys, syrups, and hot sauces. I often bring home honey from my trips, though god only knows the last time I finished a bottle. I’m not totally sure why the raw honey on the left is filled with turmeric—I think my roommate was experimenting with some DIY cold remedies.
Anyhow, you can see that we’re mainly a Sriracha household, though the Tapatio behind that is a close runner-up, and Tabasco is a distant third. Behind both of them and barely visible is a jar of Thai chili jam that I made for an article on nam phriks —the first time I tested the recipe, I toasted so many chilis that I had to evacuate my spicy-burny-smelling house for four hours. Suffice it to say: if you like it hot, we have a lot of options.
More travel trinkets
A few more random souvenirs: Moonshine jelly (sounds cool, taste gross) from a road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, outrageously expensive (but so so good) maple butter from Vermont, a jar of pure palm sugar from southern Thailand, and a trifecta of Cypriot products: carob cream to spread on toast, and two kinds of inky olive oil.
Behind the oil is a stack of metallic (but edible!) baking decorations that my roommate, who makes fantastically over-the-top birthday cakes, uses on a semi-regular basis. Shiny!
I am now going to zero in on my two favorite pieces of kitchen equipment. The first is this butter bell. You may be wondering what the hell a butter bell is. Basically, it’s an extremely lo-fi crock that safely keeps butter at room temperature, so you can always spread it or scoop it or do whatever it is you do with room temperature butter. Here’s how it works in more detail. I must admit that I don’t technically own this piece of equipment, and when my roommate moves out, I welcome any secret admirers out there to buy me a replacement. No pressure. Just think about it.
My second favorite item comes with a precious story attached, which I shall now share with the world. When I was a kid, my mom had this pot, and I loved its size and spout, which makes it ideal for single servings of soup or hot chocolate. When I moved away for college, my dear mother wouldn’t let me take the pot I so loved, and so I’ve spent the past decade pining for it. Le Creuset no longer manufactures this model, so I’ve looked through garage sales and antique stores, all to no avail.
My boyfriend, bless his soul, has heard me whine about this pot for ages, particularly when I find one that’s similar but-not-quite-the-same in some dusty vintage store. So for the holidays year, he colluded with my mom to track down the pot on eBay (which, yes, I could have done myself, but it’s not my style), and bought it. In his version of the story, I “ruined” the surprise when I saw a text on his phone from my mother and became highly suspicious, ultimately grilling him into a corner until the truth came out; but in my version, that part does nothing to dampen my pleasure at being reunited with the pot I love. Thanks, boyfriend! Nice work. The end.
In conclusion: plants
And finally, a gratuitous shot of my kitchenside plant collection, because I like taking care of inanimate objects. I hope you've enjoyed this window into my brain and kitchen; thank you and goodnight!