what lies within

It's confession time.

Hold on to your seats, everyone: until yesterday, I had raspberry Jell-o and a handful of Splenda packets living in my kitchen cupboard.

Oh, the shame and embarrassment! I swear I don't even know how they got there! Which actually makes things worse, because not only am I a woman with Jell-o and Splenda in her cupboard, but I am also a woman who never cleans out said cupboard to discover the secrets hidden within!

So, for your reading pleasure, and also to shatter all notions you may have had about what kind of person I am, here is the roll call of what I found yesterday when I emptied my shelves:

very, very old and broken candy canes
plastic Easter eggs
rancid cornmeal
five(!) almost-empty jars of honey
four(!) almost-empty bottles of molasses
two bottles of rosewater (which I don't even like!)
stale marshmallows
instant flavored coffee in single-serve packs, which came in the mail
lard and Crisco
jars of weird chutneys (do people even eat chutney anymore?)
mulling spices from Williams-Sonoma
fermented black beans
hard-as-rocks crystallized ginger
a box of bendy straws

I don't know what to make of all of this. Is it one of those situations where the depths of your pantry mimics the depths of your soul? Or are all the long-ago-forgotten items more like pieces of my subconscious, repeatedly pushed aside and to the back because I don't have the courage to face them head on? Is that list a reflection of the Real Me???

Whatever it is, it's gone. I've purged and cleansed and my kitchen cupboard is now, for better or worse, a visual reminder of the type of person I strive to be: organized, clean, and wholesome, with indulgent treats thrown in here and there for a bit of excitement and contradiction. There is also now a whole lot of empty space (I threw out a lot), which I'm sure will end up being filled once again with all manner of products I won't want to own up to buying.

One benefit to this process was the archaeological act of discovering things I actually do want to eat, but had lost amid the culinary (and I'm using that term loosely) debris.

Steen's Cane Syrup, for one. Three cans of the glorious stuff, to be precise.

You don't know Steen's Syrup? Poor you! Clearly you need some good Southerners in your life! It is 100% pure cane syrup, and is to the South what maple syrup is to the North. Pour it on pancakes or waffles. Drizzle it over fruit and yogurt. Bake with it (especially in pecan pie to replace the corn syrup!). Use it in marinades. Dress up popcorn with it. It is what biscuits were made for. I've even heard stories of pairing it with grilled cheese sandwiches, which I'm thinking is probably absolutely delicious.

But this reawakening to the delights of Steen's has left me in a bit of a quandary: I am so torn between hoarding my relatively small stash for truly Steen's-worthy events, and going on an all-out Steen's extravaganza. The merits of both are so strong! If only I had thought to stock up when we were in Tennessee . . . hindsight, you know.

Pecan pie will obviously have to be made, and soon. Biscuits, also. After that, maybe restraint will kick in and our supply will last until we head South once again. Of course, chances are also good that another obsession will take over before the Steen's is exhausted, leaving the last golden puddles to rest in peace in their dark corner of the cupboard once again. I did, after all, also come across several bags of dried baby chickpeas . . .

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