The first food pantry I remember seeing was my Godparents Doc and Katherine’s pantry, in their larger-than-life home in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It was a walk-in pantry with a window-filled wooden door that was always invitingly left open. I was too young to remember what was in the pantry, and I don’t even remember if Katherine was a good cook. Likewise, I have no idea if Doc cooked at all. Chances are he didn’t given the era. But I loved that pantry.
Having a room filled with food has always intrigued me, even before I went to culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine. Food, and cooking, has always been a hobby of mine, which is why I fought becoming a chef–I didn’t want to ruin my hobby by turning it into a job. Luckily, I realized that cooking is a passion for me and the rest is history, as they say.
I have quite a pantry now. This is mainly because I collect exotic and interesting ethnic ingredients when I see them as I peruse the exotic, colorful, and interesting aisles in Asian, Indian, and other ethnic grocery stores. Plus, when I read cookbooks and see an ingredient listed that I do not have, I put it on my List and eventually find it, adding it to the pantry.
Aside from all the exotic ingredients, I always keep a basic pantry. At the beginning of my Everyday Cooking class (coming up on June 4th here in Madison), I discuss what ingredients I always have on hand and I give students a list which we discuss. I’ll give some of the highlights here.
This may seem like a lot, but it is the minimum of what I would like to have to set up a kitchen from scratch, be it a starter kitchen, a second kitchen, or a traveling kitchen. (And this of course is always subject to change without notification.)
Dry pantry: all-purpose flour, Kosher salt, olive oil, vegetable oil, a wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, yellow cornmeal, honey, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, raisins, some nuts, cocoa powder, and semisweet chocolate.
Canned and dry goods: black beans, other beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, low sodium broth base, assorted olives, various types of rice, assorted pastas including couscous.
Condiments: ketchup, Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish, dill and sweet pickles,
Perishables: Produce: onions, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, some citrus, apples. Protein: chicken breast, bacon, some kind of seafood (frozen), chicken stock. Dairy: milk, Wisconsin cheddar, heavy whipping cream, butter, eggs, cream cheese, Parmesan.
Storage: Zipper bags, plastic wrap, tin foil, parchment paper and waxed paper.
And much, much more.