Out with the old - sort of, maybe...

Have you noticed that many retailers seem to be displaying stockpiles of plastic storage bins? What do they know about our post-xmas needs or moods? They seem to be guessing (perhaps rightly) that we all want to tidy-up.

And then… Marie Kondo is back – can't get away from her - Spark Joy in the bookstores, and articles in newspapers, my magazines and email digests. Never heard of her? She’s the young woman who parlayed the Japanese minimalist aesthetic into a global following. Lately she seems to have softened her original strategy – namely, discard everything that does not give you joy. She admits to tossing away her hammer and now concedes that some practical things do bring joy – and that hammering nails with her fry pan was not joyful. Her newest publications on the "KonMari Method" include hand-drawn illustrations of techniques such as folding socks. I am gobsmacked that there is a market for such tips, but maybe I am just envious of her bank account.

We are officially past the mid-point of Winter which may explain the onset of "Spring Cleaning" twitches. As I write this, my office is in a state of upheaval linked to “tidying”, as I pull things off shelves and out of drawers. Order, it seems, is preceded by chaos.

 Props for food photos?

Props for food photos?

Are we genetically coded to do spring cleaning? Do other mammals spring clean? one of the few cultural links to this impulse that I can find is Passover rituals – and they seem to have more to do with “cleaning” than de-cluttering (DC). A major house cleaning is also a Chinese New Year tradition. I am just at the DC stage and am dismayed that it reveals the “need for clean”. Dust and fingerprints previously hidden under under/by piles of books and stuff see the light of day – eek! Speaking of the sun - while I notice welcome changes in the quality of this light (and prefer it to gloominess) there is no hiding from what it illuminates. Makes me prefer entertaining after dark with low lighting.

I used to say that I would spend the first year of retirement cleaning my house. Have not done that and now, several years later, I am even discovering things from my workplace office I have not yet discarded!! “Stuff” is linked to identity. At first, tossing out work stuff felt like tossing out part of "me". Loss of identity does not, however, account entirely for my failure to de-clutter. Each year the cull of any/all “stuff” has gone deeper – and needs to go deeper yet if I wish to spare my kids from the 'some day' burden of emptying this house. (For a great read on this theme, check out “They left us everything”, by Plum Johnson. I love that book! Spoiler - it takes her a year to empty her parents' home.)

By now you might be thinking “Hey… I thought this was supposed to be a food blog…” What’s the connection? Well for one thing, taking food photos seems to require some props. More than once in recent months I have had something in my hand ready for one or another discard pile and then I think… “A prop!” A yucky old cookie sheet? Just appeared in a photo spread in a food magazine, so maybe I could use this for an Instagram pic… A plate I will never use for eating or serving, but… maybe in a Twitter pic… Food Bloggers of Canada just shared tips on places to find props. One is “raid mom’s house” – good grief, I am the mom. In fairness, FBC suggests that food bloggers share props with others. Nonetheless, de-cluttering has just become more complicated.

How can I link all of this to a recipe? By concluding that “out with the old” does not always apply.

An “old country” recipe was recently resurrected in the KB Kitchen thanks to Saveur Hungarian Ham and Bean Soup (Csülkös Bableves). It was the first time in my life I bought a large smoked ham hock. I soaked pinto beans overnight, and the next day the kitchen was filled with wondrous “old country” aromas for hours. The soup was so good it brought tears to the eyes and rekindled great food memories. Here’s the link to the recipe.

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