Food On Hand is generally an important issue for someone who does a lot of cooking. I routinely have cans of mild green chiles, tomatoes (diced, paste, sauce; respectively), and, say, black beans. I’m pretty current on my pantry’s contents vis a vis mustard, pasta and cooking oil and if I think stocks might be low I check before I shop. But that’s me.
Having owned vacation rentals, and stayed in quite a few of them I have had the opportunity to observe an unusual phenomenon: The desires, habits and compulsions of vacation food consumption and its relationship to grocery shopping. I suppose being out of the normal routine, shopping in an unfamiliar place, and shopping while distracted, by hunger, children, or spouses who aren’t accustomed to grocery shopping can result in a cart full of things that one would normally not eat. Eating on vacation is another variable. People think, “Oh. what the hell, I’m on vacation, I’m gonna splurge on a box of gin-flavored, raspberry swirl sugar doodles!” What results is cabinets full of gin flavored sugar doodles. Refrigerators, shelves and drawers of food left behind by vacationers, like sinners after the rapture.
When people stay at my cottage I ask them not to leave any food of any type. People seem to think that ketchup and olives are not food. I’m sure they think “Oh, he’ll use ketchup of course.” But I don’t. At the end of the summer along with many different condiments, I toss boxes of sugared cereal, oleo margarine (who uses that miserable shit?) and Noodleroni and, as I write this, I realize I don’t consider those food either. The detritus of a vacationing family can tell you quite a bit about them or at least about the cook and/or shopper. Leaving behind envelopes of dehydrated mashed potatoes and cans of hormel chili does not speak well of the departed, in my opinion. On the other hand, while I wouldn’t eat it or touch it with a stick, a half-used jar of caviar, while I will still toss it, is another matter. “Oh, indeed,” I might think as I hurl it into the trash.
While I feel I understand the compulsion to buy the odd bag of circus peanuts, I am confused by people who don’t inquire or look to see what’s there before they shop and buy duplicates of stuff that is commonly used, like salt, oil or chili powder (this is Colorado after all). The condo I am staying at, owned by my friends Jeanne and Jerry who neither cook nor come here that often, has a very large and odd assortment of food left by vacationers (sinners/rapture). There are 4 containers of chicken stock, countless jugs of oil, vinegar and enough tea bags to swamp Buckingham Palace, though I am not entirely sure her majesty would care to toss back a cup of Smooth Move. Or maybe she would. In any event, Vail being chili country, it seems that everyone who comes here makes it. Buying a can of chili powder is a commitment to make chili, a lot of it. And I know someone is thinking “Oh, I’m going to just make a huge vat of chili and we can all just nosh.” Everyone buys their own proprietary container of powder. Only a few of those pictured below are opened and none of them have more than a teaspoon or two removed from them. Cumin, another chili ingredient, is popular too apparently. There are both Turkish and Pakistani varieties. I see now that one of those bottles is caraway. Close enough. What you might be using caraway for on vacation is a mystery to me. Oh sure if you were going to make kofte, or loaf of marble rye, but who does that on vacation?
I’d better go check on my vichyssoise. I’m making a vat in case I feel peckish this week.