One of the biggest deterrents from getting started in the kitchen has got to be the initial stocking of the pantry. But keeping cabinets filled means there’s always the possibility of a meal without having to resort to a) leaving the apartment, b) takeout, or c) a bowl of cereal with stale rice crackers on the side. Not that these alternatives should be shunned. I mean, fresh air does the body good, and sometimes a $10 Pad Thai or half a jar of peanut butter can be just as satisfying as a home-cooked meal. Additionally, though dinner or cocktails parties will still need supplementing, with a well-stocked pantry, the staples will already be there.
It’s idiosyncratic and not foolproof in the least. More to the point, we are not practiced housewives, and there will always be occasions when we’ve polished off the last can of diced tomatoes and forgotten to replace the pasta, and, alas, that meal of spaghetti and tomato sauce becomes totally unattainable.
Cara’s pantry has been through various incarnations, at one point containing six varieties of dried beans and four exotic grains—none of which she ever used. Phoebe once found herself on a pasta kick, unable (or unwilling) to cook the same shape at consecutive meals, leaving her with five boxes of wheels, ribbons, and cork screws—a killer arts and crafts selection—but not enough servings of any one type to make a four-person pasta entrée.
At this point, we’ve whittled down the selection to the twenty-something basics numbered below. Everyone’s pantry is going to reflect individual tastes, but to give you an idea of what we’re working with, here’s the list of foodstuffs usually occupying our kitchens’ shelves.
From our kitchen, small but impressively stocked, to yours,
Phoebe and Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
On the shelves
1. Olive oil
2. Brown rice (or which ever variety you prefer)
3. Two kinds of pasta
4. Two kinds of canned beans; Cannelloni (P), Chickpea (C)
5. Canned tomatoes
6. Vinegar: Balsamic (P), Rice wine (C)
7. Soy sauce
8. Miscellaneous grain: Breadcrumbs (P), Barley (C)
9. Stock (P)
In the fridge
10. Eggs (seriously, our number-one go-to)
12. Mustard (Dijon and whole grain)
13. Hot Sauce
14. Cheese: ungrated Parmesan; a hunk of Swiss or cheddar
15. Mayonnaise (P)
16. Opened bottle of white wine
17. Worcestershire sauce
19. “Pantry” fruit and vegetables: carrot, cabbage, Brussels sprouts; an apple or pear–anything that keeps well. We’re also fond of a few frozen vegetables: spinach, peas, and corn.
20. A complete spice rack, including salt and pepper (more to come on this, P and C having varying opinions on the essentials)
23. Nuts: pecans (P), walnuts and almonds (C)
25. Sundried tomatoes (not jarred in oil)
NOTE: Phoebe also likes to keep turkey bacon and one variety of pre-made sausage in the freezer for quick additions to salads and scrambles. Cara usually has some tofu, flavored or plain, on hand.
2. White sugar
3. Brown sugar
4. Confectioner’s sugar
5. Chocolate chips
6. Baking soda and baking powder
7. Vanilla extract
8. Honey (not to be overlooked for savory purposes)
9. Rolled oats (good for breakfast AND for baking)