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De-cluttering for Dinner

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

For the past few weeks, the weather has been cold, the pandemic dragging, and more than ever I have found myself understanding what people mean about the nights closing in. Even though I am as busy as ever, there has been a monotony to my weekdays that troubles me, especially when bedtime rolls around again, and I feel a sense of deja vu. Didn't we just do this? I think to myself, as I brush my teeth and climb into bed, exhausted, but with the uneasy feeling that I have accomplished nothing of note during the day.

More troubling, as a foodie who makes pesto pasta sauces for a living, I have found myself dreading the thought of having to make dinner each evening. Cooking from scratch, even with a fridge full of food, has felt exhausting, and I feel overwhelmed by the number of half-empty jars, leftovers, and bags of wilting vegetables I see whenever I look inside for inspiration. On nights like these, a bowl of pasta with Sugo pesto sauce should be a great option, of course, but not even I believe pesto is a dish that should be eaten every day.

At times like this, I know from experience the answer is not to buy yet more food, or to order takeout - tempting as both options might seem. The answer, for me at least, seems to lie in creating space in my fridge, and therefore my mind - by which I mean, ritually taking out every single item in my fridge (thank you, Marie Kondo) and only replacing items I know I will actually look forward to eating one day.

Much like cleaning out a closet or drawer, the act of clearing, cleaning and sorting acts like a kind of moving meditation for me; a soothing way to re-connect and care for my possessions, while creating breathing space for inspiration to strike - or for the memory of an old favorite outfit or dish to bubble up to the surface.

In de-cluttering my fridge shelves the other day, I ended up throwing away surprisingly little, but in the process, I discovered a fish sauce marinade I had forgotten about, as well as several jars of homemade salad dressing I was able to consolidate. I also found some lettuce from a local farm that was still good, but needed eating, as well as some mushrooms I had sauteed a couple of days earlier with olive oil, garlic and parsley. By sauteeing the mushrooms again in butter, then adding white wine, heavy cream and lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, I made a delicious pasta sauce in the time it took for the water to boil, and we followed it up with a simple salad. Even better, I had several ideas for lunch and dinner in the days to come.

And just like that, it felt like order had been restored, both physically, and metaphorically. Sometimes, it really is as simple as that. Now if I can just keep things that way....


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