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Confessions of a condiment addict

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A thread on the longevity of miso on the Homecooking board got me thinking about the myriad condiments and other “long-lived” items that seem to have taken permanent residence in my refrigerator.

A running joke in my household of TWO is how many jars and bottles and tubs of condiments are hogging the refrigerator space, not to mention how old (and sometimes “out-of-code” as my hubby likes to say) most of them are. It drives my husband crazy when he can’t find room in the fridge and that’s when he starts getting all obsessive about “cleaning out the fridge,” which invariably starts with things that he can’t identify or pronounce. What’s this? Do you even know what this is? When was the last time you used this?!?

Once, while I was out, he threw out a bunch of unidentifiables. In the trash bin, outside. After scolding him sternly and informing him that some of these things will outlast us, I went out and fished out the banished items out of the trash bin, rinsed them off, and put them back in the fridge. That was less than 1 year into our marriage. Now we (he) have an understanding. He doesn’t throw anything out without my concurrence. But that doesn’t stop him from trying.

For his amusement, I clipped out a cartoon that shows an elderly couple, the man sitting at a table reading the paper, the woman, peering at a box of something through her glasses. The caption reads something like: “Uh oh, it says must be consumed by 1986.” It’s on the refrigerator door, held by a pig-shaped magnet depicting various cuts of meat (from Alton’s I’m Just Here for the Food: Version 2.0).

So here is my confession, a partial list of things that are taking up residence in the refrigerator door or relegated to the Siberia region of the refrigerator.

Duen jang (miso) – probably 3 years, the jar before this one I had for 6-7 years
Gochujang – 2 years, previous jar about 7 years
Fermented black bean paste – same jar I had before I was married 7 years ago, so about 8-9 years
Hoisin sauce – ~2 years
Lee Kum Kee black bean garlic sauce – another one I moved with, so say about 9 years
Oyster sauce – 7-8 years?
Trader Joe’s Peanut Satay sauce – 6 years
Nobu brand yuzu marinade (ok, not THE Nobu, just some brand with the same name, though I admit, I was inexplicably, stupidly influenced by the name) – at least a year and haven’t used it but once.
Better Than Bouillon (beef) – another mover! At least 10 years (wow, that’s really bad)
Mustards – About 5 different kinds, ranging 3 months to 2 years
Ketchup – just opened, previous bottle was at least 2 years old
Sweet relish – 2-3 years
Nori sheets – 10 years, easy
Anchovy paste – 5 months
Leftover oil from a jar of anchovies that I keep forgetting to use in pasta – 4 months
Truffle oil – 5 months (that’s not too bad.. it still tastes amazing, it was a Christmas present to myself)
Hot sauces – about 8 different kinds (Asian, Mexican, Tabasco), ranging 6 months to probably 10 years for that extra-large bottle of Thai sweet chile sauce (yikes)
Ranch dressing – what the hey?! I never buy salad dressing… musta been the hubby – judging by the expiration date (2007), at least 3 years
Tahini – a newbie at 2 months, not bad at all!

My problem is that I live in Los Angeles where I have access to the foods of just about every country within a short drive and whatever I eat in a restaurant, I’m tempted to attempt making it. And you know, with a lot of these, a little bit goes a long way. My pantry has the same problem – condiments and spices of every cuisine imaginable, though heavily leaning Asian and Italian).

Maybe it’s time to part ways with some of these things… like that ranch dressing (will he fish it out from the trash bin?). But it’s out of code!

I know there are others like me out there, I just know it! Fess up!

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  1. Sounds like my fridge except I do not refrigerate mustard, ketchup or hot sauces. I have red curry sauce, lobster base, clam base,beef base, chicken base, various types of olives, dried fish paste, anchovy paste, tomate paste in a tube, green curry paste, tamarind, sun dired tomatoes, maple syrup (sugar free, & regular) fire roasted peppers, mayo, sweet relish, pickles, and etc. . Hubby complains that there is no room for beer.

    1. I'm just like you - but because I have to bring most things back here. Of various ages from a year to twenty are: miso, tamarind paste, many types of dried mushrooms, black beans, fish sauce, soy sauce, nori, wakami, gari, Japanese and Lao and Indian and Thai rices, pickled ginger, wasabi, mustard powder, spices from all over, dried African game meat, different Asian pickled vegetables, aburage, dashi, tortillas, Maseca, cassava flour, cheeses, ...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        wow, 20 years! That reminds me of a canister of pasta that I've moved with THREE times! I bought a giant package of De Cecco cappellini from Costco when I was still in high school... about 20 years ago. When I moved out of my parent's house, I took it with me because they don't do any Western cooking. I've had it with me in 4 different kitchens. Still use it in soups... I'm a little leery of eating a whole plate of it.

      2. Condiments became more than I could deal with. Chowhound has been an influence, but I never place blame. The only solution was a third refrigerator for real food. And I live alone. The second one is just a little one for beer and wine by the hot tub.

        1. Correction: just got home and the man in the cartoon has eaten the contents of the box. That is also a common scenario in my household - "I hope it's still ok... I'm not sure how long it's been in there..." The hubby HATES that!! Also, it's being held up by a vintage Chowhound refrigerator magnet, not the pig magnet. The pig magnet is right above the cartoon, but not, in fact, holding it.

          1. I just occurred to me today, as I was trying to find room in the fridge for some groceries, that I've got what basically amounts to 9 different chili pastes from 7 different countries: Sriracha (Thai), sambal olek & sambal terasi (Indonesia), Korean chili bean paste, Szechuan chili bean paste, Szechuan pepercorn & chili paste, hot salsa (Mexico), Tbilisi hot sauce (Georgia), habanero bbq marinade (USA). And that's not even counting all the other condiments in there. Yikes.

            1. What amazes me about keeping these condiments is that they really don't seem to go bad, even after several years in the door of the refrigerator. Still, after about two years, though they seem okay, I throw them out, though it hurts to do so (especially when you consider how expensive some of them were and how difficult some were to find).

              Also, some condiments are like obscure spices--you use them once and think that you will again, only to find that they sit there, growing old.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gfr1111

                Agreed. They don't go "bad," but the quality deteriorates over time once they've been opened even if they've been refrigerated.
                You can tell if you compare between a newly purchased/opened condiment or spice and one that's been around for awhile.
                As much as it hurts my frugal soul, I pitch them after a respectful time. I've finally trained myself not to buy ones that I don't use up in a reasonable amount of time.