On SCAD, Christmas clear-outs, and Cupboard Love
So I had this plan to make a Christmas pudding. As you do. This was about three hours ago as I write, and several days since you started reading, and what strikes me is the curious genetic glitch I seem to have inherited, which, for purposes of scientific rigour, I shall apply an appropriate name. Namely SCAD.
You might not recognize the acronym, but I’m hoping I’m not alone in this mutation – that of being afflicted with Seasonal Cookery Affective Disorder, or, to use the colloquial term ‘serial stockpiler of crud’.
I’ve been in denial about this, clearly, for many years. Which is easy because, along with many other forms of embarrassing human malfunction, it’s not hard to keep it to myself. I simply shut the doors on my kitchen cabinets and walk away.
Yet, as a result of my modest festive ambitions, here it is (again) all laid before me. The hard evidence – and, yes, much of it IS extremely hard – of my absolute failure in the cupboard husbandry stakes.
I can’t organise a kitchen cupboard to save my life. That’s the truth of it. Yes there are small pockets of efficiency – the cat food is mostly well stored, and my crisp drawer (doesn’t everyone have a dedicated crisp drawer?) has even garnered the odd plaudit. And, in my defence, I keep a tight rein on the saucepan lid situation, and have an admirably well-ordered set of tea towels.
But beyond that, it’s chaos – behind pretty much any door you care to name.
Which is galling, because I’m an organised person. In fact, I’d go further. I’m An Organised Person. The sort of person you tend to come to if you want anything organised, particularly if you want it organised to within an inch of its life.
Except in the kitchen, which is my organising nemesis.
As I say, it’s all before me. Or rather, they are. All the trusty foot soldiers of the Store Cupboard Essentials Army – and almost all of them in need of de-commissioning.
I start well. At the front, I positively bristle with efficiency. Here a tall Tupperware container full of basmati rice. There a standby drum of still-in-date peppercorns. To the side, the friendly face of my pot of ceramic baking beans, which have served me well though several major buffet catering campaigns, and topped off (because the top happens to be the perfect size for it) with the equally stalwart bicarb of soda.
But it’s simply a veneer. A wicked falsehood. Because to push them aside is to part those metaphorical Narnian coats, and enter a world time forgot.
Half-packets and third-packets – they are clearly my trademark. A half packet of sunflower seeds, one of walnuts, one of lentils. Two of pearl barley, jostling for supremacy. A tower of elderly cake cases, like a prim Victorian mistress. A tin of Golden Syrup, welded to the shelf. Here some pasta. So much pasta. Of all hues and varieties. Enough penne rigatte to make tea for a band of visiting faerie minstrels, sufficient black macaroni to prepare a pasta bake for a gnat.
Onwards then, to the fruit. And there is always much fruit. A sticky pot of glace cherries. (Six in all. I count them.) A large bag of sultanas. (almost fully full – good grief). Smatteirngs of cranberries and currents, of candied peel and angelica. And a lonely plastic tube in which sits a single vanilla pod – all squished and broken, when it had hoped for so much better.
I am cheered, momentarily, nevertheless. You know those clips you can buy to seal things and which are always disappearing? Fret no more. I have them all here.
I also have dry goods. A lot of very, very dry goods. Very dry, and in very tiny quantities. I have eight kinds of sugar, all of which will make serviceable pixie house bricks, and five types of flour, including rice. I have food colourings aplenty, both extracts and essences. And, if I take my reading glasses off and my life in my hands, it’s both difficult to see and equally easy to convince myself that I’m not reading (over and over) ‘best before March 2005’.
But then it strikes me. That’s the whole point about Christmas puddings, isn’t it? Alcohol. Sugar. And pretty much anything else you fancy. They exist PRECISELY to be the SCAD afflicted’s friend.
Or perhaps I’ll just shut the cupboard and go to Lidl.
First Published in the Western Mail magazine, 31.10.15