Necessity IS the Mother of Invention
Three days ago I carefully chose 1.5 pounds of beautiful ground sirloin from the meat market. I had big plans for that meat. And by “big” I mean burgers. But when I returned home I discovered only a mere five or six ounces of charcoal remained in the bottom of the Kingsford bag on our patio.
“No problem,” Mick said. “I’ll pick up a bag when I get groceries on Sunday afternoon and we’ll have them for dinner.”
Three days in the refrigerator is about as long as I want to go with freshly ground meat, so I agreed. Flash forward three days. Mick returned with all the groceries except one thing: charcoal.
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll just turn that meat into really good taco filling and we’ll have it for wraps and taco salad over the next few days. The garden lettuce is ready to eat and the grape tomatoes are prolific. That will be fine.”
Five minutes later I had exhausted the search in my pantry for two packets of taco seasoning I was sure I had recently seen. Mick and I retraced our steps and realized those suckers go fast when you’re using them on pulled pork for lots of people and you really only had one instead of two.
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll just make chili.”
By now you can probably get a sense of our preferential hierarchy for fast hamburger meals: grilled hamburgers win, with tacos coming in an easy second, and only because it was pretty hot outside chili was pulling up the rear position.
So I browned the hamburger meat while I chopped the last of my garlic and some of my beautiful onions I harvested earlier this year. I like to pretend I’m the only woman in 1947 going to the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in France just like Julia Child, and I chop my onions like I’m competing with the entire line of disapproving male students. When my knife is sharpened to it’s finest edge, I can SPANK those onions!
I drained the beef, blotted any remnants of grease, returned it to the pan, tossed in the garlic, the onions, the cumin, the salt, the paprika and…wait. Where was the chili powder? I searched more and more frantically until I finally breathed a sigh of relief. “THERE you are,” I said to the jar of chili powder…that had about 1.5 tablespoons in it! “Crud,” I thought to myself. “Am I going to have to turn this into stew?”
It’s like me to occasionally run out of taco seasoning packets. But it’s really not like me to run out of chili powder. I cook a great deal of chili and am constantly scoping out the “Clearance Spice Bins” at any store I visit. My two mainstays are Italian Seasoning and Chili Powder. I had to have more. So, I searched again. And finally, behind the salt, silver decorative pearls, the bulk garlic powder and my precious Muscavado Sugar was a jumbo sized chili powder container.
I secretly saluted all the time I had spent digging through the spice bins, finished my chili and ate dinner.
For dessert, I had a slice of cake that included ingredients I had cleaned out of no less than four little plastic bags in my freezer. And for tomorrow? I think we’re combining at least five or six packages of leftovers for a “clean out the fridge before Mick leaves town” meal.
“Necessity” is indeed a beautiful thing that fosters the highest caliber “Invention” in our kitchen every week of every year. And boy, is she a great teacher, or what?
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Best, Red Dirt Kelly