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    Thursday
    Jul212011

    Keep it simple, Keep it fresh

    Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more options on the store aisles of the food storage variety.  Remembering when Ziploc bags first made the scene makes me feel old enough, but plastic wrap?  The discovery of ‘cling wrap’ was made before I was born, but not too long before.  I DO remember when mother routinely started buying plastic wrap for the kitchen, and it was a wonderful thing.  It seemed easier and more convenient to roll off a section, slap it around our sandwich or over the top of a leftovers bowl, and be done.

    Before this revolution in food storage, we would place a plate on our bowl of leftovers or wrap that sandwich in waxed paper or a kitchen towel.  I don’t ever remember cheese or lunch meats being in anything but plastic.  They were, though.  “Back in the olden days”, folks would purchase their meats and cheeses from the butcher and he would wrap it all up in…butcher paper!  White or brown paper, waxed or not, that came on a roll.  You can still find that white food paper today, but it’s called freezer paper.  And it’s in a long box, and can be expensive.

    Back to “more options on the store aisles of the food storage variety”.  Several food-grade plastics manufacturers are now marketing glass containers with plastic lids.  Glass companies still make glass storage options, but it is interesting to see that home food storage may be coming full circle.  Some people like the idea of renewable and recyclable.  They are tired of the throwaway lifestyle, and tired of contributing to the waste.  Plastics and Styrofoam (which, by the way, is a trademarked name for polystyrene foam insulation) are not biodegradable.  Many plastics are now recyclable, but rarely polystyrene.  The detrimental effects from these ‘conveniences’, on our health and the environment, is just now coming to light.  BPA-free products (BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.) are now on the market, but I would steer clear of even those plastics.

    Glass, paper (of all varieties), pottery, stainless steel, really any earth product is reusable, recyclable, and, for the most part, renewable.  Unless they break, tear beyond repair, or rust, all of the above can be kept at home and used over and over and over again.  These select food storage containers are washable, storable, come in lovely colors and styles, and feel good.  Cost is always a factor, especially with today’s high unemployment rate and the country’s economic woes.  The beauty of natural food storage is that most items can be found at discount stores, flea markets, thrift shops, yard sales, and in your family’s attic or cellar.  My practice is to never pay more than a few dollars for a case of used canning jars, a casserole dish, or a crockery bowl (antique or not).  I have passed up some lovely pieces over the years, but once I’ve set my limit, I try to stick with it.  And that philosophy pays off.  The neat piece given up yesterday can be replaced by an equally wonderful piece tomorrow (for a cheaper price).

    So, this morning - I put together a lunch for GB to take to work.  I placed it in an old, glass, lidded container.  One of those 1950’s refrigerator dishes.  A meat and cheese plate with sliced zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  A rubber band held the lid on, just in case he decided to get wild with the thing.  I put some veggie dip in a wide-mouthed half-pint jar.  A pear was sliced and placed in another jar, and an apricot was left to roll around by itself in his lunch bag.  He brings it all home, the messy dishes are washed, the fruit jars get a rinse and a drain, and it’s all ready to go again tomorrow.

    A few items I’ve collected and their uses:

    ♥  Canning jars - new and antique, all sizes.  Beans; grains; pasta; cereal; tea (loose); nuts; car snacks; partly-used onions or fruit; travel food.  And, of course, canning.

      Unusual and specialty jars - flours; sugar; honey; baking soda; baking powder; salt; powdered milk; nuts; etc

      Unique and interesting bottles and jugs - from the glass recycling center, apple cider jugs, etc.  Brew and serve teas and other beverages; herbs and spices; other seasonings; condiments; oil; etc

      Pottery dishes and casseroles - lidded ones especially.  A cheese container in the refrigerator (out of the plastic.  Covered in a cloth napkin if the dish is not airtight.); hold leftovers; fruit and other salads; etc

      Glass casserole dishes - same as above

    ♥  Large, glass lids (some domed) - usually part of a set that has been separated or the bowl/bottom half broken.  As a plate or dish cover; dessert plate cover; to keep insects out of fruit bowls; etc.

    ♥  Old refrigerator dishes - lidded, the previously mentioned 50’ and 60’s style.  They are usually expensive, but can sometimes be found at yard sales and thrift shops for next to nothing.

    ♥  Stainless steel bowls, pots and pans - great refrigerator storage dishes; easy to reheat leftovers on top of the stove.

    How do I cover those non-lidded storage items?  Mismatched lids, plates, larger bowls, dish clothes, paper.  Paper for food and kitchen use can be butcher/freezer paper, newsprint (like they use in schools) by the roll, Kraft paper by the roll, paper sacks, lunch sacks.

    Don’t settle for the ordinary and the mundane.  Whimsical, handmade ceramic pieces, old and interesting glass jars, crocks, or unique candle holders can all be transformed into fun and useful. 

    Your creativity can really flourish - and did you ever imagine personal expression could be found in the refrigerator?