What Does Your Pantry Say About You?


What does your pantry say about you?

Well, where do I start? I am a food hoarder; if war broke out tomorrow, we’d be OK for a couple of months I’m sure. This is learned behaviour, and possibly also a little cultural since lentils, pulses, grain and flour in usually bought in large sacks in a traditional Indian household. Whilst I wouldn’t exactly call myself traditional, there are some aspects of childhood traditions I have carried forward, somewhat unconsciously.

A well-stocked pantry should have all the basics, something I emphasize to all my beginners’ students in my class, though I do accept to some degree.  The problem is, the word basic is relative.  My version of well stocked and basic means tins of tomatoes, olives, sun dried tomatoes; some emergency pesto sauce, at least a few kilo’s of onions and potatoes, butter, plenty of Parmesan and cheddar cheese, lentils of all kinds, pasta of all shapes, stock cubes and frozen peas, spinach and soya beans, teabags, and coffee and sugar.  Shall I continue?

Essential or Posh?

What started this conversation was the Waitrose essential range – Waitrose essential Parmesan cheese to be exact. “Really? Is Parmesan cheese an essential?” cried my friend. “Only posh people think Parmesan cheese is essential!” Well actually yes, in my house it is, it’s a staple, we use it all the time and it’s the means to a very easy simple supper that even my 14 year old can make very quickly.  That, according to my friend, makes me posh. To exacerbate the point I also have Himalayan salt which is apparently another ingredient that puts my pantry in the posh league. According to Harpers or some such magazine ingredients such as smelly cheeses, seeds like chia, hemp or sunflower, and bitters and tonics for cocktail mixes, are typically to be found in a posh kitchen. I am, of course, utterly bemused since I am guilty as charged on all counts as I have all of the afore mentioned items. I really don’t think I’m a food snob, or posh for that matter. I think it just makes me a ‘foodie’. I’ve always enjoyed impromptu cooking, so its quite useful to have odds and sods in the cupboard, it’s always useful.

It got me thinking about the ‘average’ person’s essential ingredients list and pantry. I think this somewhat depends on whether you cook to eat or cook to enjoy eating and sharing. My pantry reflects the need to constantly feed people and often at a moments notice. As a child I remember we always had loads of extra food, cooked for extra people. When I questioned the need to have ‘extra’ food, my mother used to say, “You never know when you might have guests.” That was actually quite true, there were always people dropping by, staying for lunch, whether they were friends passing through or relatives just in town. Impromptu entertaining was really a way of life, so having a few staples on-hand all the time meant that you were always ready any time someone was knocking on the door, whether you planned on their arrival or not.

I’ve also found that having a good spice cupboard (which in my case is an occupational must!) is essential. It is the key to turning a few basics into something quite special, and aren’t you the shinning star for being able to rustle something up so effortlessly!

Posh or otherwise, I think the larder is important part of my home-making process. For my children it’s their nest – whether I’m home or not, they have the means to enjoy a decent meal.

– Kumud Gandhi, founder of The Cooking Academy


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