• Carmen Marie Fabio

Table of condiments


Shutterstock photo

It was a case of canned peas on sale that last year cemented the realization that the idea of a bargain is more important to my husband than what is actually being sold.

“I hate canned peas,” I told him.

“It was a good price,” was the response I’ve heard more than once as, bless his heart, he weekly peruses the flyers for sales, comparing the sticker price with the database of grocery item costs that he somehow manages to keep in his brain.

I thought he was cured after he was the one who ultimately ended up eating that haul but now he’s checking out the produce carts that surreptitiously appear at the back of the grocery store. The ones with one wonky wheel, filled with rejected fruit and vegetables, positioned on the Styrofoam trays in such a way to hide the bruises, the whole pulpy mass held together with plastic wrap.

And so it was that I found myself on the weekend with his latest booty of contused pears, a dehydrated citrus selection, puckered peppers, and wounded eggplant.

Now I have no problem with consuming produce that is not pristine and fully support the movement that prevents grocery stores from tossing out bruised and blemished fruit. My issue is more with the urgency of the situation – produce on life support must be cooked or consumed immediately. There’s no time to leisurely peruse recipes for eggplant parmigiana or breaded aubergine slices with kiwi-onion salsa. Those poor suckers needed intervention – stat.

Taking advantage of the hot bed of coals on the barbecue, I wrapped the eggplant in foil for roasting with visions of smoky baba ganoush, feeling culinarily smug in knowing I even had tahini and garlic in the house. Shoving the cooked goopy mass into a Tupperware container to cool, I delegated the final production step to my son, telling him, “Just google it,” for the recipe.

All was fine until the expletive-laden texts started arriving on my phone.

Calling home, my exasperated son explained the tahini had separated into an oily layer and a non-Newtonian substance akin to concrete inside the container.

“Does it come in smaller jars? Two pounds of it – why’d you buy two pounds of it?” he asked, his voice tightening. “It’s coming off in chunks and looks like wet sand. But thicker than wet sand. We don’t even eat that much baba ganoush!”

So many of life’s lessons are learned only after the money’s been spent and if the fridge-full of condiments purchased that sit largely unconsumed is any indicator, I spend far too much money on what is essentially food accessories.

Like most of life’s purchases, they seem like good ideas at the time, and the tahini incident forced me to take a closer look at the miscellaneous jars that had congregated in the rear upper right portion of the top shelf of the refrigerator.

Using the same clothing rule of thumb that advises you to donate things you haven’t worn in a year, if you haven’t made sushi, pho, chicken satay, or vindaloo in the last 12 months, the contents should probably be emptied and jars and bottles recycled. Same goes for the garlic aioli purchased on a whim and the Swazi Fire Hot Sauce. My uncharted exploration unearthed three jars of bouillon, three flavours of mustard, two brands of ketchup, and something called Ploughman’s Pickle. It’s brown.

I also discovered Cheez Whiz can go very, very bad.

And, like the closet recently purged of a corporate wardrobe I no longer wear, or even want, I have a sudden glut of shelf space in the fridge.

Time to go shopping.

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