Flavour Guy: Marie Kondo: socks, yes, but stay out of my kitchen!

A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)A cozy kitchen, photographed by Mathilda Tan (courtesy of stock.xchng)

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I pride myself on critical judgment, on not becoming part of a cause or party, or following the crowd. I like to think that when I’m engaged in something, that I have given it great thought.

That is why I’m surprised that I have become a Marie Kondo convert. Maybe it is because her particular approach to folding clothes makes so much sense. Maybe it is because her YouTube videos are concise and to the point.

For whatever reason, I recently tossed my socks, t-shirts, and sweaters into piles as she suggests. I got rid of those that did not, as Kondo instructs, “spark joy.” I refolded what remained as she demonstrated and, to my surprise, not only did I have more space than before but
everything was neat and visible.

So I have become a Marie Kondo evangelist, boring anyone who comes over to the house as I pull out drawers of neatly packed underwear. I imagine knocking on doors in my neighbourhood and asking folk if I can check how they store their socks, offering links to KonMari.com to those I judge in need.

But I’m not going to Kondoize the kitchen. Certainly she has good ideas to get a kitchen in order. Her strategy is consistent whether it is the clothes cupboard or the vegetable drawer. Dump everything into a pile. Then get rid of stuff that does not spark joy. (First thanking them for their service and letting them go.) Finally put everything in order. In the refrigerator, that means having bottles and containers visible with the highest ones in the back. Her advice is to “keep only those things that speak to the heart.” But what about those things that talk to the stomach?

I hear the yogurt saying “you planning on making borscht, don’t forget a dollop of me” or the six jars of mustard at the back of the fridge muttering “just wait until you grill some hot dogs.”

My problem is that everything in my fridge or cupboard brings me joy. First I get those little pulses of endorphins aka joy when I buy food. I create more joy when I cook it. I receive still more joy when I eat it. How can I throw anything out? Granted some of the foods could be thanked and walk off the shelves themselves. There is that lettuce that has gone slimy or the hot sauce with a glow of mold or the cheese that wasn’t supposed to be blue — these can be ditched.

But I relate differently to food than I do to clothes. I’m not going to turn socks into an overcoat but I could see combining yesterday’s take-out noodles with a jar of Thai sauce that has been waiting patiently at the back of the fridge to spark joy. I can slice up a few veggies, maybe add some defrosted chicken. Oh joy! And also the potential for more joy! That is the essence of cooking. Socks are socks and I’ll accept guidance in that department; but I’m not ready for a kitchen Kondo.

Portuguese style stew

We often have cans of chick peas and tomato waiting to spark joy. Here is a recipe for a Portuguese style stew that uses both with some vegetarian/pescatarian ideas for
substitutes.

Make a marinade of 3/4 cup white wine, a 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika, a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper, a crushed garlic clove and a bay leaf. Pour this over a pound of lean veal cut into 1 inch cubes. Leave this covered for a few hours at room temperature, or longer in the refrigerator, turning the meat occasionally.

When you are ready, remove the meat from the marinade and discard the bay leaf. (You could substitute peeled and cubed eggplant or a firm fish such as cod but then leave either in the marinade for only a half-hour.) Pat the meat/eggplant/cod dry. Brown it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let it cook through. Remove it from the pan and set it aside. Pour in the marinade and deglaze the pan.

Reduce the marinade to about a half cup. Pour it over the veal, eggplant, or fish.

Heat another tablespoon of oil Add a finely chopped onion and cook until it is soft. Add a minced clove of garlic and a few strips of pimentos (or cooked sweet red pepper). Cook another minute. Stir in a can (about 15 oz.) of chopped tomatoes, a similarly sized one of drained chick peas and the marinade.

Bring this to a boil and simmer it uncovered until it thickens. Clams are traditional to this stew. If you use them, add a pound (about 20) of small fresh clams. Increase the heat slightly and cover until the clams open — about 10 minutes (discard any that remain closed). Now add the meat, fish, or eggplant and cook another minute. Stir in some freshly squeezed lemon and have lemon slices on the side. Top with a little chopped parsley and serve.

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