About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Private Chefdom- Part 6: Waste Not

Part 6 of a 9-part series

As outrageous as the feeding-of-the-dogs situation sounds, The Quires were, in general, not overly extravagant where food was concerned and could be downright miserly at times with their food stuffs. 

I should rephrase that.  They were very consistent about talking about being miserly and having Rules about being economical, but they were not very good at following through with their actions.  It was very important for the Quires to feel as they were being as frugal as possible ( I'm sure this had a lot to do with their impoverished youths and the unimaginable hard times and horrors of their Nazi concentration camp interment).  Conversely, they also liked to enjoy many of the fine and fancy things that their independent wealth allowed them, sometimes in quantity.  For example…
They insisted that I keep the refrigerator looking full.  

One of the first things I did while settling in to the job was to clean out the big Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer boxes.  There was a lot of stuff that could not be identified, it was very cluttered and would be much easier to keep organized and well-cleaned if I weeded it out a bit.  The next day Mrs. Quire was apoplectic.  Horrified, she asked me where everything had gone.  I told her that I had just thrown out the bad stuff but she would hear none of that.  “It looks like we are going to starve to death in there” she moaned, completely ignoring the fact that the two other refrigerators and freezers, the 200 square foot dry-goods storeroom and the 100 square foot , climate controlled, meat and cheese “locker” (all located in the basement adjacent to the wine cellar)  were still filled to overflowing.
On their frequent trips into “The City” (New York City, of course) and overseas, the Quires would often take the opportunity to shop.  More often than not exotic foods were a big part of their shopping.  They would bring back (and sometimes have shipped or delivered) car-loads of specialties from Dean & Deluca, or cheeses, sausages, dried meats from across the globe, or breads from little ethnic bakeries or bags and crates of fresh fruits and vegetables from various farmers’ markets.  All of this would be dumped in the kitchen with great flourish and excitement.  “Here”, they would challenge me, ”make something interesting from all of this”.  
Now that is exactly the kind of challenge most chefs love, and I’m no exception.  The next day I would have a game plan for some of the most particularly tasty-looking ingredients.  I would present my menu.  Invariably Mrs. Quire would say some thing like “Oh, no.  Let’s save that for a special meal.” or, “I just had some of that in The City”, or (my personal favorite), “We don’t really care for it that much, we have to be in just the right mood”.  Who cares that it was some $20 a pound perishable that would be inedible in a few days.  The end result of all their shopping sprees was that, often, much of it went to waste.
I found myself having to sneak into the various store rooms or refrigerators and surreptitiously discard copious quantities of food.  If I just left it there and got real nasty, it was my fault that it hadn’t been used (and my problem to clean up the stinky mess too, of course).  If I got caught discarding it, I was either being wasteful (“Don’t throw that away, it’s still OK”) or, again, it was my fault that it hadn’t been used in time.  The key to happiness for them was an overflowing larder that they never had to eat from, which always had more room for new purchases and which maintained the illusion that nothing in it ever went bad or to waste.

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