So I’m doing a spring clean of my kitchen cupboards, even though it’s November! I have some untidy habits so I can’t see if I really need to order more or not; I buy more or different just in case when we haven’t finished the original supplies; plus I’ve recently given up alcohol so it seemed pointless to keep hold of our previous amount and better to donate the unopened bottles to the work Christmas raffle.
As I’m checking Use By dates, sorting waste into macerator, recycling, or bin, then cleaning the shelves and putting the slimmed down number of items back, I’m struck by a number of things:
• The memories evoked by the smell of flavourings or icing colours I’ve used: the blue and white Danny Rose birthday cake for my ardent Spurs fan; the purple and yellow Spiro the Dragon cake for his video game playing brother; cinnamon and citrus for so many Christmas puddings and mince pies for family and work colleagues.
• The regrets for the things I didn’t cook: the coconut liqueur for the tropical trifle meant for a dinner party I was too ill to attend; the crystallised and stem ginger for a long forgotten cake recipe; the black cherries in Kirsch for a luxurious pudding never made.
• And further regrets for the waste: why on earth did I buy and then not use 6 boxes of vegetable suet or 5 tubs of candied peel? Perhaps I fell for some supermarket deal for a multi buy. Why didn’t I give away those 2L Pepsi bottles left over from our anniversary party last year? And how frightening it is to see the amount of plastic used in food wrapping and thinking of the effect that will have on our environment, my own culpability for that.
• The possibilities for future recipes out of what I have left: what could I make with four packets of dried cranberries? There must be a Caribbean bake I can use the muscovado sugar in. And how many cupcake recipes can I come up with to use up all my different size muffin cases?
It all feels like a metaphor my psychological and spiritual life. I think of how many times I have crammed something in that I don’t need; how many opportunities I have wasted; how I let the good memories get all muddled up with the rubbish; or how I prefer to mentally shut the cupboard door and ignore the growing mess of unresolved issues until there simply isn’t space for any more and I have to take action.
It’s hard work spring cleaning – and clearing out one cupboard only makes me more aware of the others that also need sorting. It’s painful sorting through memories, evaluating what should be kept and what should be discarded, and letting go of regret.
But it’s also good. I feel somehow lighter and as if things are more manageable. There’s a sense of satisfaction of a job well done and plans to go forward. It’s a lot like therapy.
I know that I’m likely to slip into those old habits again. I’ve always been better at blitzing than daily tidy ups. I will need to repeat the process of sorting though both my physical and psycho-spiritual messes over and over. But thank goodness for the people and the God who help me do so and never give up on me.