Monday, July 31, 2023

Spicy work

I recently completed a revised project (photo above), one that I began because I was annoyed, then found a solution to a problem that arose after I realised my first solution wasn’t working. And, I was able to source the new solution here in New Zealand.

In June of 2022, I decided I needed to reorganise my pantry because it was becoming seriously overrun with unstable piles—or, so I thought. By September, 2022, it had become utter chaos:

I cleared out the spice shelf—though at the time it was a catch-all, too—and sorted things into categories. In December of that year, I mentioned having stopped working on the project and that stuff from it was on my kitchen benches and dining table. I have no idea why I stopped, or how far along I was, but I do know that I often lose track of my projects.

At any rate, some weeks before that post in December last year, I started trying to bring order to that shelf. I wanted to make it a place for basic ingredients—especially herbs and spices, but I originally wanted it to hold my flour and rice containers (I talked about the rice containers in a post last month). So far, the flour and rice containers aren’t on that shelf.

0I focused on the herbs and spices because in going through them, I found out I’d re-purchased some because I couldn’t find what I wanted and thought I’d run out. It was obvious that the plastic baskets I stored the spice bottles in (visible in the September photo) wasn’t working at all. I contemplated buying some new storage solutions, but at this point I became determined to use what I already had on hand, and to re-use containers. This was only partly a good idea.

I decided to take a black plastic seed-raising tray I already had to store all the spice bottles neatly in one place. I’d never actually used the tray for gardening, but at the previous house I used it under our kitchen sink to hold all our wraps—plastic wrap, foil, etc. It had the advantage of being large enough for the job, and it had relatively straight sides, unlike those white baskets. The seed-raising tray worked perfectly.

I started washing out herb/spice bottles I’d emptied, using only ones that were glass because they’re easy to recycle. My goal was to eventually have them all the same. This worked for a time, but I soon realised there was a problem: If I bought refills of herbs or spices in any of the cardboard box varieties (there are two), there was too much to fit into the re-used bottles. And that’s where it stalled.

Early this month, I saw a Facebook ad for a company I’ve ordered online from many times. It was for a set of 24 spice jars, and it reminded me of some spice jars I’d seen on Amazon maybe a couple years earlier and quite liked: They were all the same size (of course) and all square, which means they’d fit very well together. They came with a little silicon collapsable funnel and some write-on labels for lids (which I had no intention of using), plus plastic tops for the bottles that would allow sprinkling or pouring, and another lid with bigger holes to use the bottle as a shaker. The company I bought them from also put the exact dimensions of the bottles online, something Amazon was much more vague about.

They arrived a couple days after I ordered, and I needed to wash them before I could use them, and that meant I needed to give them a couple more days to make sure they were bone dry before I filled them. Then, I started transferring my herbs and spices into the new bottles, and I used all my funnels to do it, not so much because of herbs, but because spices tended to stick to the plastic, and I had to wash them between fillings. The process took until the end of last week to complete.

I combined my double-ups, and I emptied some previous spice racks I bought many years ago, when we were still living on Auckland’s North Shore, well before we moved to our last house. Those two racks are visible in the photo from September, next to the chocolate drink power.

In doing this work, I noticed that the bottles held much more than the supermarket bottles or refills the boxed contained, and that meant I’d made the right choice. In the end, I sent a dozen glass spice bottles to be recycled, along with around half that many plastic spice bottles, and possibly about that many cardboard boxes from spices, too. This means that if you include those two spice racks I emptied, I got rid of around 1.5 containers for each the new bottle.

However, there are some jars I’d still reusing. I use some old salsa jars to hold bar leaves, which take up a lot of space, and things I use a lot of, like cinnamon, cumin, garam marsala, and parsley—the latter mainly because I grew a lot, then dried some (I froze some, too).

I still may try to fit flour, at least, on that shelf, or the containers may end up on another shelf—I haven’t done much with the other two shelves yet. This was never meant to be a hurry-up-and-finish-it project, it was meant to be one I got right, and it’s taken time and some revisions to do that to get to this point.

This small project began because I was annoyed, then I had to revise it because I found a solution to a problem that arose after I realised my first solution wasn’t working. The larger pantry project may not be done, but this part of it has finally got to where I wanted it to be. Celebrate the small victories, I say.


Roger Owen Green said...

If you come over to our house, I'll let you reorganize OUR spices. Looks great!

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks. It will come as no surprise that the very next day after I published this post, I changed things: The white plastic basket? I got out another one just like it, rearranged some things, and—well, I already decided I'd update this post when I finish the entire pantry, something that finally seems possible now that the herbs and spices shelf is tidy.