Donna Fielder: Cupboard comes clean after plea to neat genes

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Donna Fielder is on assignment this week. The following is a new version of a 2004 column that was a reader favorite.

“You threw away all my food!” The kitchen cupboard fairly sparkled in its cleanliness. And its emptiness.

“Why did you throw away all my food?” I asked my daughter as she proudly stood aside for my inspection.

“Muh-ther,” she rolled her eyes. “If it had an expiration date in 1999, it wasn’t food anymore.”

This happened back in 2004, in my pre-Kiefer days when Willoughby the wonderful Shih Tzu was still alive.

I was reminded of it this week because Christi arrived at her brother’s house Saturday and relieved him of all his food, which turned out to be unfood just like mine had been.

Chris is moving and she didn’t think he needed to haul boxes of frozen dinosaur nuggets to the new place.

Before I enlisted Christi to clean out my cupboard, I had shelves full of food — canned goods, plastic bags of pasta and peas, boxes of instant potatoes and powdered onion soup — all the culinary basics.

But there was a ton of other stuff in there too. You know, those cupboards are sort of catchall places.

Mine had a checkers game, two sets of dominoes, quite a few bottles of assorted alcohol, cookbooks, the vacuum cleaner, three old partial sets of silverware, some jars of stuff I canned a number of years ago, a plastic washtub full of used candles — most of them from my Pink Period — and my gun cleaning kit.

It was admittedly a mess. So I enlisted my daughter — actually bribed her with promises of pot roast — to tidy it up for me.

She inherited my mother’s neat genes. They hopscotched right over me, I guess.

She shudders every time she opens one of my Ma Kettle closets, and she went after my cluttered cupboard with gusto.

“Mom, what is this?” she said.

I looked up from my own excursion into the dangerous wilds of my bathroom cabinets. She was holding a jar of something I canned or jellied or pickled many years ago.

It had retreated into unfood and consisted of a long string of something awful dangling from the lid to the bottom of the jar.

“That, you definitely can throw away,” I muttered and went back to digging old hot rollers out from under the bathroom sink.

The cat gets part of the blame for the mess. That cupboard door won’t latch and Chloe loves to open it with a clever paw and play in there.

Once she found an economy-sized bag of plastic forks. It looked like a plastic utensil explosion had blasted through my kitchen. She nonchalantly batted a stray fork down the hall while I crawled around the floor, fishing forks out from under the china cabinets.

Then there was the mashed potato-flake blizzard of 2003. That was one for the weather record books.

Am I the only one who didn’t know canned goods had expiration dates? I always figured if it was sealed up nice and tight in a can, it would be there for the Rapture.

Turns out that English peas and cream-style corn go bad after a few years, at least in theory.

The stuff she threw away wasn’t really all that necessary, I guess, or I would have eaten it. When I get a craving in the middle of the night, it rarely is for Campbell’s Bean with Bacon Soup.

I panicked when I saw the shelves with only two cans of tuna fish and a can of smoke-flavored Spam left to get me through a hard winter.

I dug furiously through the trash bags for something unexpired and eventually came up with a box of Jiffy corn bread mix, which I added back to my stores.

The canned goods shelves are bare. But the top shelf is loaded with dusty bottles of Scotch and tequila, cute little jugs of Chambord and tall vials of vodka.

Thank goodness booze lasts forever.


DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is

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