Four years ago this kitten brought joy to the house. Now she brings havoc and rats.
Sometimes she plays nicely in the sun, ignoring the steely glare of the older cat, who will never understand why she lives here.
But mostly daylight hours are for this.
While she waits for the night, saving her energy for going off to work.
It is law here that the cat flap is locked at dusk. If you leave it open she will take that as a sign of hunger, and rush out for snacks for everyone. This week we forgot about The Law, and somebody here woke up at 5 am with a live rat, and a noisy, triumphant cat in his bedroom.
It was bad luck that he went back to sleep, and worse luck that rats know how to melt through bedroom walls, and re-appear in kitchen cupboards. When we found it, there was a lot of squealing from humans as well as the rat. It is a fact that it is much easier to empty a cupboard quickly and trick a rat into a box if you squeal and shout while things are going on.
It was noisy but we managed. The poor rat was gently released outside to wait for the next cat and the contents of the ‘store cupboard’ were all over the floor.
What is a Store Cupboard?
It is something you start in 2019 as insurance against Brexit and pandemics. Fill it with neat rows of tins, rice, pasta, milk and vodka and you can stop worrying for years.
What do you find if you Empty it all over the Floor after Two Years?
Nothing you want in a good store cupboard. We must have stolen it all from ourselves. There was just: tinned soup from when somebody was ill, old curry sauces, sugar-free baked beans that cannot be eaten because sugar is the main point of baked beans, mackerel in tomato sauce because ‘you have to eat oily fish sometimes’, even though nobody here likes it, dozens of carrier bags, 45 useful jam jars, old vitamins, the food mixer that is too complicated to assemble, missing clothes pegs, and an inexplicable collection of soy sauces.
It was time to think about Food Management. There are many things to consider.
It is seedling time here.
Food prices are soaring, so we are in a frenzy of planting. Trays of baby vegetables lurk everywhere and there is talk about ‘where the potatoes will go.’ Spring is a time for knowing that we will be totally self-sufficient, with enough left over for all our neighbours, in a matter of weeks. Or will we?
Yes, as long as everybody is happy to live on lettuce and chives for the first few months, followed by tomatoes for the rest of the year. And if you don’t eat them fast enough this will happen.
Photos from last September turn up on the computer to remind us.
And you can talk all you like about preserving and freezing but this is the reality.
The freezer is full of pointless bags of frozen tomatoes. They clatter around the bowl like snooker balls and dissolve into rotten tasting mush that only chickens can eat.
Shopping is a minefield of decisions about who likes what, which things have too much fat, sugar, packaging, and arguments that degenerate into ‘Do you actually know what it is like being a pig in Denmark?’ The only thing everybody can agree on is Jaffa Cakes, they just disappear quietly.
And it comes with guilt. You get treats if you can afford them, but the prices go up by the minute, so you don’t get many. It is not your fault that this rich country has been taken over by maniacs, or that over 2.5 million of us can’t survive without food banks. But every treat buy could translate into a tin for someone else, and it is hard to un-think that sometimes.
When you get your shopping home, there is the daily problem of what to cook. New recipes are impossible because you don’t have all the ingredients, and the old ones follow a loop of ‘Pasta, roast, soup, salad, soup, pie, fish, pasta.’ This month we found another way.
Meal in a Box
You have to park the guilt for this one because it is mainly about packaging and expense. All the ingredients for a gourmet meal, the sort you would never cook yourself in a million years, are delivered, with instructions for assembly into a gastronomic experience never seen before in your own kitchen. Here is a handy review.
You can get this if your neighbour forgets they made the order and needs you to take the box off their doorstep because they are away.
The first box experience was a whole new way of following a recipe. No confusion because you thought you had Tamarind, but it is actually fermenting in a jar that was opened in 2014. No guesswork about ‘a bit more chilli’. Just chop, fry, steam or boil. Follow step-by-step instructions and think about anything you like while you are cooking because you don’t have to work out what to do. A lot of fun to cook but less fun to eat, unless you like rubbery fish and dry aubergine in slimy stir fry.
Not sure what went wrong here but it inspired another try.
If you are stuck for a birthday present, try this. You get 50% off on the first order and it is the perfect present. Just the right combination of treats and flavour. You get to combine things like paneer cheese with cinnamon and peanut butter in ways you would never know about in a normal world.
But it does things to your brain and affects how you feel about your kitchen and then you have to move on to a new issue with food management.
Having everything laid out all neat and in the right place was a revelation and lead to a quick kitchen audit of ‘how to make it work out better’. It would be so nice if the kitchen lent itself to this sort of cooking. What are the kitchen areas and how could they be encouraged to work better?
Freezer. Recently tidied and not bad, apart from the tomato harvest, and bread crusts. You are supposed to keep bread crusts in case you cook with breadcrumbs and nobody should waste food, should they? But if you don’t cook with breadcrumbs this means you get a freezer full of bread so what is the point of that?
Herbs and spices live in two different places and are a problem because they go out of date like lightning.
It is like children. One minute you have a little toddler driving you crazy because it wants to put bricks through windows and clamber on ledges. The next minute you have a teenager, still thinking about where to throw the bricks and experimenting with parkour. The turmeric grew old at exactly the same rate. One blink.
Then you divert from the food
Under the sink is the place where toddlers must never go. If a toddler came rummaging we would need to get everything out of there quickly. And that is tricky because it is completely rammed.
One end is stacked with gallons of carpet shampoo from the day of hiring a carpet cleaner. You have to keep that in case you decide to clean carpets again. The other end is full of filing boxes because some life hack said that putting filling boxes under the sink helps to keep things organised. So now you can’t get in there because of all the filing boxes. It all sits nicely on a layer of old slime from when the sink leaked and nobody got in to dry it out because it was too full of cleaning stuff
Tupperware. When somebody says ‘How do I find a lid for this box?’ and you say ‘Just empty all 500 pieces out and the lid will be piece number 499.’ you have got to the day when you need to employ a Tupperware manager.
Tupperware is a problem that will never go away. A bit like dog mess on the village newsletter, or socks breeding around the washing machine. It is what it is.
Back to the joy of spring
If you got all the way down to here, well done. Enough about food now. Outside the trees in the garden transform the view, covering up the new estate next door.
It is like a magic trick. Luckily we like our new neighbours and, as the weather warms up, their children fill the gardens so the air is full of happy laughter, bouncing balls and screaming tantrums in the evenings.
Sometimes they have parties and sit around under solar lights that are better than ours and laugh in a way that makes us think they have more friends than us, but mostly they are OK.
I bet their kitchens are more organised than ours too.