off the shelf

I never really had to scrape. I mean there’s always American Express, so I never lived on pancakes, dined on cereal, or feasted on Ramen. In college, I baked a wheel of brie on 325 degrees while I wrote my thesis. If I ever got hungry for expensive, I’d dial home or tell an otherwise “no” date, “yes.” I soon learned I’d rather sleep hungry and awake thin than break free bread with a “he’s nice enough but” guy. And there’s always a “but.”

We do it all the time. When I’m low on cash, I dig through hangers, arm over arm, reaching toward the back of my closet full of nothing to wear to resurrect a once important, now forgotten, item. I’ll find a new use for an ordinary button down shirt; instead, I’ll wear it open over a lacy tank. From quelle boring to trés chic. Voila.

What’s old is new again. Can you do it with love? Can love be an item in your pantry, or does it have to be fresh to be good? I mean, when I’m too lazy to schlep to Fairway and brave the crowd or stand behind the woman who pays with the loose change at the bottom of her it’s-too-heavy-so-I’ll-just-wheel-it-on-a-pulley bag, I stay home and squeeze tomato paste from a tube. I fry it in olive oil with red pepper flakes and the old garlic that’s just turned green and begun to sprout things. I toss in capellini and know if I had energy I’d have feathered in a basil chiffonade. I know it could taste better if I weren’t lazy. But this is good enough. This will do. Then it spreads over into my life. I notice it’s not just my dinner; it’s my relationships. They become pantry. They become “this will do.” Nothing fresh, long shelf lives of the expected and sturdy. Right up there with lentils.

Pantries, like clumsy relationships, are convenient, filled with easy and basic. Even with hot curry and saffron, pantry life can be uninspired. I need some serious inspiration.


  1. The best posting yet. You know what though, a famous chef once said that when he visits exotic places he eats the matching exotic food sold by street vendors even though he knows that there is a good chance he'll get the runs. It's a chance worth taking he said. He also advises that you never eat brunch ANYWHERE or eat fish on mondays. I guess the message is take risks where the payoff is high and avoid risks where the reward is insufficient. And as far as needing inspiration you don't have me convinced of your lack of it, but (and there's always a but ;) if you are in need of inspiration consider the reward that will surely come if, every time you write, you write as well as you did in this posting. Enchanted.

  2. Just thinking food wise, I always tend to take inspiration from food I've had in restaurants or that friends have cooked : I put a little twist on it (or just try to do it the way I remember, which may not always be accurate) – another way to get inspiration.

  3. Love is like that dinner you keep going back to. Maybe it's meatloaf, maybe it's caviar and champagne, but you continue to order it or prepare it because of how it makes you feel. It may seem as though you're getting into a rut of "this will do" but there are always ways to spice it up. Love isn't always about new and exciting. It's about trust and stability and excitement and anticipation. Just like ordering your favorite meal at your favorite place. You trust it will be as good as last time, but you still find your mouth watering in anticipation.

  4. I think we have all been there. You need to decide what is more important; comfortable and predictable, or exciting and refreshing. I think its one of the hardest decisions anyone ever has to make.

  5. Sometimes in life we take the easy way out because we can. Love is never the easy way out and it certainly isn't a pantry item. At times it may seem like it is because we get caught up in so many other things (such as work). We often take love and our loved ones for granted because we know that they will be there for us. The key is communication and keeping the fire alive so that it never gets to feel like a pantry item.

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