The kitchen is so very nearly ready. Slowly we are bringing things in from the utility room and colonising the cupboards. The worktops are in, smooth and pale hardwood, satisfyingly honey coloured against white cupboards and the dark slate floor. We have bought the wall tiles now, also grey, a beautiful pale pearly grey. They are just waiting for Ian to have time to do the tiling. Grey might sound a bit dreary but they are beautiful, trust me. The dishwasher is working, alleluia. It is all very nearly ready.
And sorting out the kitchen brings all sorts of other sorting out in its wake. This weekend was the turn of the pantry. I love having a pantry. I have always wanted one. It's hard to say exactly why, in this age of fridges and freezers, but I love a pantry. My grandmother had one and I used to love the ingredients all lined up and the pies and cakes, covered on their big plates on the slab. This is the first house to have a pantry that I have ever owned, a proper one with a huge slate slab like my grandmother's. It used to have a lino floor but now it has a slate floor like the kitchen so it is even more beautiful!
The pantry was full to bursting. We brought across some of my father in law's supplies when he came to live with us: lentils, pearl barley, bags and bags of sugar (is there a war on?), tins of this and tins of that and everything has been accommodated. We have loads of stuff of our own too. I never used to run much of a store cupboard when I lived in cities, but here I do. You don't want to find you have no flour half way through a recipe if the only answer is to get in the car and drive to the nearest town so nowadays we run a store cupboard to rival Delia, which makes for some very full shelves. So we did some pantry sorting and reorganising, doing it together so we both knew what was happening.
What a lot of stuff we have which I had totally forgotten about, or never even knew I had. We have tinned potato salad (why?) and tins and tins of mushy peas These, for non UK readers, are either a Northern delicacy or a strange green slush, depending on your taste. I think we can be pretty sure that my father in law has a connection with the mushy peas. We have bottles and bottles of differently flavoured vinegars and oils and soy sauce and anchovy essence and tabasco. These have definitely been brought in by me. We have six different kinds of rice: short grain pudding rice, risotto rice, basmati, long grain, wild rice and, to our sudden delight, we rediscover a packet of Riz de Camargue, a present from our friends in Provence. We haven't been eating much rice since my father in law came. He is a meat and two veg man of the old school. But he is also very accommodating and would happily eat one thing while we ate another, or even have a go to please us, which is not bad for ninety three. So, time to find a recipe which will do justice to the fabulous rice from the Camargue.
You know how, when you walk around the garden, there are plants which remind you of your favourite people? Cuttings from a friend's garden which remind you of her generosity? The shrub rose which was a present from your mother? The cosmos grown from some seed which came in a little packet along with a birthday card from a friend far away? Sorting out the pantry is rather similar. Here is a jar of pickled fish which came back with our son and daughter from a holiday in Scandinavia. Let us draw a veil over when. Elizabeth II was on the throne I believe. Who will eat it? Not me, I suspect. Here is some homemade mincemeat, made by son and daughter in law a year or so ago but still good. That is the wonder of good mincemeat: the alcohol keeps working, the dried fruit keeps steeping. The spices don't overpower. Put in on the "keep" shelf.
Here is jar of Marmite. I didn't even know we had any. Marmite is not my cup of tea. To my palate it tastes of nothing but preservatives but I know plenty of people who love it, including Ian. Here is a jar of japonica jelly from another friend, sweetly scented, slightly exotic. Here are some Kilner jars which originally contained preserved fruit made by a daughter for a Christmas when there was little money for presents. Here, remarkably enough, is a packet of Linseed. Neither of us can remember buying it or what it was for but it looks interesting and should surely be combined with natural yoghurt and blueberries for a healthy breakfast one day when I can bear to give up my usual breakfast egg.
And gradually things order. Some things are thrown away. Things go back on the shelves in a considered, friendly way. Generally our daughters, especially the younger one, operate a fridge police service and leave the pantry alone but they are all home for Christmas. You never know, someone might find the pasta with the 1998 date on it. Quick, put it in the bin. Other things go back on the shelves, for the time being accessible.
It is all satisfyingly ordered and tidy. The eggs from the Light Sussex (who are still busily laying every day when all the others have stopped for the winter) are in their tray on the slate slab. Rice and pasta and pulses are all in storage jars lined up in their place. Aprons are hung behind the door.
It all looks lovely. Maybe this weekend I will make some Christmas puddings. I think I have everything!