Just add water

1. Feed the cats

As I am leaving for work on Friday, our contractor mentions they will have to remove the ceiling of the pantry and where should the guys put the food. The work is being done above the garage but the pantry is actually part of the house. It has a sliding door and a window and it is alternately referred to as the cat pantry because that is where the bowls and the kitty litter are.

When I get home that evening the roof is gone. There is a tarp over some beams or joists or whatever you call them. It is very cold in the cat pantry. The cats are annoyed. They do not like to be ousted from their special, dogless place. I try feeding them on the counter but by Sunday I give up and let them eat in the cold, dark closet because this is what they are used to.

2. Soup

With the contents of the pantry neatly arranged on a counter, I am confronted by the medley of dried, mixed beans I bought several shopping trips ago because don’t we all want to rustle up a pot of soup? I will make soup. I get a bowl of water to soak the beans. As I pour them out, I find a little packet of powder stamped with the word Ham.

3. Easy pancakes

Dried beans are a cheap, healthy, very unadulterated food to make and powdered ham is probably cheap. American recipes have a tendency to use processed foods as ingredients. I learned somewhere, like in Women’s Studies, that when they invented Bisquick they could have used powdered eggs in the mix so that all you would need to add was water but research told them that cracking the egg made it feel like cooking and women liked that even though they were buying Bisquick to get out of measuring the baking powder. Too tired and rushed in the morning to boil water? Drink 5-hour Energy┬«. Tuna noodle casserole: canned soup. Pies with Oreo crust. Ice cream with cookie dough. It is our cuisine.

I read an article in a magazine about a baker who creates desserts out of vividly colored breakfast cereal. Her Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berry petit fours were so delightful looking that I started to tear out the recipe until I realized that I was in the process of losing my mind.

We always had a box of Bisquick in the cupboard in college. Who bought it? Did we always have eggs? Go next door and borrow an egg. You inherited spice collections from other houses. How old, exactly, is that dried tarragon? I know that in the shelves of my first post-collegiate apartments lurked college spices that had been traveling with us for so long they were only transitional objects with no functional value.

4. Children’s dinner

Some nights, with small children, before I learned to make meal plans, it felt like some kind of crazy cooking challenge. And you did not even, actually know how to cook, only to know that ingredients were missing. Pastabroccolipeaschicken. You do the same things because you can do them.

How much easier to make soup if the ham bone has been pulverized into fairy dust. Just add water.

5. Packed lunch

The bean medley is a dumb idea. The beans are all different sizes and so they cook at different rates, but my older daughter is happy to have soup for her lunch. I make beef stock, roasting the bone from the meat I used for pot roast. In taking the lid off the pantry I see the food at different angles. I make chocolate sauce instead of brownies. I look at the contents of the pantry and wonder what else I could do with these things.

About this post: This is my 100th post. Following a silly thread on Facebook, which referenced the TV cooking show Iron Chef, which I know about because of NPR’s The Splendid Table, I asked for some random ingredients for this post, a little something to celebrate a regular writing habit and also because I was mistaking myself for a piano lounge entertainer taking requests. I was given kitty litter, 5-hour Energy┬« and a “like.” Then I counted my tips and went home to write.


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