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Simplicity, key to variety

(post, Julie Kadingo)

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My fridge resides under the sink in my very small, 175 sq ft live/work art studio. It’s as tall as my favorite pair of boots; and, like my boots, my fridge comes to my knees. Downsizing has been an adjustment since I’ve always been the kind of cook who likes bottles and bottles of interesting olives and sauces, and one bottle of capers. But, please don’t feel sorry for me, because I’m actually eating better without all those bottles, and the bottle of capers, too.

The key, I’ve learned, is to decide on a few high quality ingredients that I just can’t live without. I bought high quality products before; however, so much of what I bought lost its flavor before I could use all. I wasted so much money!

Now, I keep only a few staples in my fridge: butter, a jar of garlic, lemon juice, lime juice, and a small bottle of organic soy sauce. Otherwise, for flavoring, I rely on 4 spices that I can keep on my shelf: a grinder with sea salt, a grinder with good quality black pepper, a jar that keeps a cinnamon stick, and a jar that keeps a stick of nutmeg. I've invested in a good grater to grind the nutmeg and cinnamon. I also have one more staple in the fridge: a grater with a high quality block of Parmesan cheese. 

I buy lots of pasta and potatoes because, of course, they keep outside the fridge. Besides pasta and potatoes, I’ve discovered all kinds of interesting grains: Thai Jasmine rice, Indian Bamati rice, wild rice, Arborio rice, and Black Japoica. 

I am lucky to have a garden for growing a variety of herbs and greens. Since the garden is a few blocks from my studio, I grow thyme and parsley on my window sill for those times I can’t walk to the garden. 

There are three more very important ingredients that help me get the most out of my food dishes. At the beginning of the week, I make a vegetable stock, which I keep in a recycled glass jar in my refrigerator. I can add the stock to rice or pasta for flavor. I also own good quality oil and good quality vinegar for making dressings. Dressings can be made with oil, vinegar, and any imaginable combination of herbs and spices. 

Who knew simplicity is the key to variety. Even if I ever have a refrigerator that is taller than me again, I won’t go back to my old ways. I have more fun choosing a good parmesan cheese than choosing 10 bottles of sauces I’ll hardly ever use.