Monday 22 September 2008

Confession time: guilty pantry secrets

As a general rule, so-called foodies' tastes can acceptably encompass both cheap and expensive ingredients, and both wholesome and some rather unhealthy foods... but one of the big no-nos is trashy, instant, highly-processed food.

During the dinner party I hosted last Saturday, G was helping me out in the kitchen. Looking for the salt, she flung open the doors to my pantry and stood for a few moments surveying the contents. As she did so, I must confess that I felt slightly uneasy - what if she saw some of the non-foodie food items in my pantry? Items that no foodie worth her organically-certified sea salt should rightly own?

It got me thinking about guilty pantry secrets: food items you love even though they're highly unfashionable. The thought has been following me around all week, so without further ado I present to you three items in my pantry that I love but feel guilty about loving, in the hope that you (a) won't judge me too much, and (b) will share some of your own guilty pantry secrets in the comments section...


Old El Paso Pickled Sliced Jalapeños

One of my very favourite trashy snacks is a toasted cheese sandwich crammed full of Old El Paso pickled jalapeños. The ultra-tacky Old El Paso labelling always reminds me of a Mexican restaurant I went to in Edinburgh five years ago with my friend Sam, who was from San Diego and a champion yachtswoman. It was a freezing cold night and we happened upon a restaurant called The Tijuana Yacht Club - I insisted that we dine there, on the strength of the funny name alone, and after much protesting Sam agreed. We ate what would pass for a decent enough Mexican meal in Australia, and as we finished eating I said something along the lines of, well that wasn't half bad. Sammy gave a heavy theatrical sigh, dropped her fork with a clatter and looked at me with pity. "Claire, WHEN you come to So-Cal, and WHEN I take you to Mexico, then you'll understand what you're missing out on. Oh my GOD!"

And yes, when I did make it to Southern California and to Mexico I did appreciate good Mexican food. But that doesn't mean I don't still like the occasional Old El Paso meal! :)

Malaysian Creamy Satay

Continental Asian Recipe Base: Malaysian Creamy Satay

Yeah, I know. I KNOW. It's completely fake. It's powder you add to pan-fried onion, chicken, capsicum, water and peanut butter, for heaven's sake. But... I just love the taste of it! I used to make it for my brother and sister for dinner when I was first old enough to babysit by myself, and it remains a guilty comfort food I still love to whip up when I haven't got the energy to make anything else.


Heinz tinned spaghetti

Okay, this is the point in the post where I really hope my Mum doesn't read this, otherwise she may call up the carabinieri and arrange for my Italian passport to be revoked... I think it was the year of crappy college food in Adelaide that made me appreciate the occasional weekend breakfast of tinned spaghetti on toast. To be honest, this tin has sat unopened in my pantry for several months, so it's not even as though tinned spaghetti is high in my list of priorities. But yes: I do own a tin I hoped G didn't notice as she inspected my pantry contents.

Now that I've bared the most shameful items in my kitchen... what guilty pantry secrets do you have? :)


jamesbluntknife said...

my guilty secrets are:

* old el paso taco kits (i only ever whip them out for friends to chow down on when i'm having drinks. that's my excuse, and i'm sticking to it!)

* goober grape - i mean c'mon, have you ever tried this? it's peanut butter AND grape jelly together. how can you possibly go wrong?

oh, and does having about 5 litres of random olive oils count? i promise, if you can think of a small olive grower that has done a cold pressed evoo, i have probably got it. i'm not proud ot if, but's it's there (and taking up way too much cupboard space).

they are the only ones i'm truly game to admit to (i might have a look tonight and find other things that are just as embarassing). oh wait, i also have hooters crumb base and dipping sauce for the hooters wings!

claire said...

Thanks for sharing James.

But no, having about multiple bottles of cold pressed EVOO most certainly DOES NOT COUNT! EVOO is not trashy! Now, if you'd said you had multiple bottles of Paul Newman Salad Dressing on the other hand... :p

jamesbluntknife said...

nah, not my thing. anyway i did a clean up recently, and found i had a salad dressing that expired in 2000 - that means i'd had it for 10 years, and 4 different apartments...

i'm sure i have other bad things simply due to two reasons: i tend to impulse buy and regret it by the time i get home, and i like to go to asian markets to buy crazy name items. anyone up for LOLers? how about fuku chicken noodles?

thanh7580 said...

Claire, you won't believe it, but like the mushroom thing previously, The Age have done an article that is exactly the same as yours.

It's about whats are in chefs pantrys.

And Paul Wilson from The Botanical says

"Old El Paso pickled sliced jalapenos I've tried many other brands, and they're usually more expensive, but I haven't found any as good as this one. It has a lot of heat and a nice texture."

thanh7580 said...

Oh and my guilty items that I have are

* Pickled jalepenos - I love these things too and love them on a toasted sandwich with salami, cheese, anchovies and mustard. Mmmm, mmmmm.

* Praise Italian salad dressing. I love this one, it has the right amount of acidity for me.

* Anchovies - I put anchovies on a lot of things that probably shouldn't have anchovies on them.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the tinned spagetthi!! I have tinned sausages lurking in the pantry ... at least 3 tins at any time as Sunday brekkie at our household means combining a can of tinned sausages with tinned baked beans in a saucepan for slobbering onto toast.

There's also tinned corn beef for frying with onions and chilli.

Oh and condensed milk for milky tea at night!!

claire said...

Oh my god, Thanh. I don't believe it. First the Riverland review, then the Damian Pike mushrooms, then the pantry secrets.

Why are you doing this to me, Epicure? GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!!!

Just as well I posted mine up last night, otherwise y'all would have thought I was just copying what the newspaper wrote... :-)

Oh, and I totally concur with Andrew McConnell and Philippa Sibley re Sirena tuna, and Philippa re La Gina diced tomatoes. When all else fails, a pasta sauce using those two ingredients will save the day.

jamesbluntknife said...

i don't think tuna counts as a guilty secret - i have maybe 10 - 15 tins at any time in my pantry (i can go through that many in a week depending on the effort i put into the gym)

Johanna GGG said...

I didn't know that pickled jalapenos were trashy - just don't even know my trashy mexican food (and I know I don't know good Meixcan food thanks to an American friend)

But I do love tinned spaghetti once every now and then - but I only buy it when I want it - if Australia was like the UK I would more frequently eat tinned beans and vego sausages - utter trash but so comforting and easy

So what is trashy in my cupboards other than E's stag chilli. Probably the pasta sauce and the boxes of curries which are great for a night where we have no energy! And custard powder! But the pantry is crowded enough that it is hard to find anything including the trash.

Agnes said...

Oh I looooove pickled jalepenos but I don't consider it a guilty secret. :) And I also have tinned spaghetti, although my brand of choice is Watties!

Apart from that, my biggest guilty secret is probably instant noodles. I like Nissin and Trident!

Anonymous said...

Ooooh Claire my dear, in all honesty, I am only really getting a glimpse into your pantry now, with your very public unveiling!

On Saturday, all I saw was all that I was looking for... salt! Now, however, I wish I had taken the opportunity to have a real sticky beak!!

As for my guilty pleasures, I am with you on the jalepenos, who would have thought they were such a staple?

Does Campbells 'Real' Stock count as a guilty secret? I can't live without it, never have managed to hang around long enough to make my own real stuff from scratch...

BTW, dinner was simply gorgeous. Food and company outstanding! Andy and I feel very remotely normal and human again you lovely thing!

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd be able to dig up a few guilty pantry secrets for you... but for once it seems I'm almost pure!! I can admit to having a fondness for Indo-Mee instant noodles if I come home very late from work (but none in cupboard right now). Beyond that... does powdered coconut milk qualify? (for when I forget to buy a can).

And Claire, I think your jalapeños are entirely ok!

Unknown said...

Well Claire I DID read your post and in a few minutes you'll hear the sirens of those carabinieri coming to get you. Tinned spaghetti indeed! The very idea should be an abomination to anyone with a drop of Italian blood. It must be those dodgy Scottish genes of your father's coming to the fore

Unknown said...

I always have Tabasco in the cupboard. Which in itself is not too embarrassing, except that I put it on everything. Even Vegemite toast.

littlejoeyk said...

I love tinned spaghetti - especially the kind with extra cheese. I'm also a fan of tomato flavoured 2 minute noodles when I'm really hung-over (though I haven't been able to find them recently and chicken-flavoured ones have had to suffice.

Anonymous said...

Mine's not too bad...but the freezer's a different story. Ice-cream. Lots. None of it posh.

For the children, you understand...

Bugger Epicure - yours is far cooler, Claire!

Anonymous said...

I must confess to indulging in the occasional alfredo pasta and sauce - I think that because at the age of 7 I thought it was the height of haute cuisine it has somehow been hardwired into my adult palate.

Also tinned smoked kippers roughly mashed with lemon, salt and pepper on toast with sliced tomato.

and of course mee goreng noodles!

claire said...

Thanks everyone for writing in with your guilty pantry secrets! You're awesome. Keep 'em coming!

And thanks to everyone who has validated my jalapenos fetish :)

Gen: aw shucks! It was lovely to have you and Andy visit Chez Gwynneth, for hopefully the first of many occasions.. and I hope to come stickybeak in your pantry sometime! xox

Barbara: Mum, what can I say? It must be genetic!! xox

Clare: is that you CJ? Nothing wrong with Tabasco my friend. Sometimes if I've skipped breakfast because I'm running late I grab an egg and bacon roll from Kenny's on my way to the office, but ask them to add chilli sauce. Yum.

Oh, and thank you for your words of encouragement Lucy!! :)

Anonymous said...

oooh, i love the Melaysian Creamy Satay, it's my favourite food in the whole world, i am absolutely desperate to be able to recreate the taste of this but home experiments haven't come up with anything even close, CAN ANYONE POST THE RECIPE PLEASE!!!!
Us Satay fans are crying our for the oppertunity to make it at home.