Saving the family's food stash

In order for everyone to get their just desserts, you have to hide the pie

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2004

"Take the pie into the bedroom, would you?"

This may sound like a strange request in most normal households. I, however, don't live in a normal household. I live in a house with six other full-time residents and various sundry, temporary ones. Most of these people are related to me, but I, nonetheless, do not trust them with unguarded desserts.

Food hoarding was not something I was terribly preoccupied with before my children became teenagers. I have never in my life gone hungry. Now there's an understatement. I've spent the last year and a half getting rid of 50 pounds of unsightly fat. Definitely not grocery deprived.

So how did I find myself in this unenviable position? I had 10 children, that's how. As generous of a person as I tend to be, it is physically impossible to give everyone carte blanche to the food supply. For instance, the pie in question.

In order for there to be enough pie left over for the poor, deprived, younger children who were required to go to bed before the pie was available, it is necessary to hide said pie from the devouring hordes of older siblings, most noticeably the men in the family. They are the ones who have no compunction about having more than their share of dessert. Our bedroom is off limits to pilfering, so this is where any contraband food must reside.

Not only do desserts need special protection, but anything I want to have for a personal snack must be held in the inner sanctum of the bedroom. A large bag of pistachio nuts currently is residing on my bedside table. I have had them for a whole week and still have plenty left for at least another week or two. On the open market, so to speak, they might have lasted 36 hours.

Foods that require special handling, such as refrigeration or freezing, are duly labeled and the entire family is threatened with extreme measures if anyone is found tampering with them. I would probably make a good spy at this point in my life because I have become an expert at detecting if something has been handled. I've been known to raise a ruckus if even one almond is missing from my Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

Sometimes the hide-and-stash method of food preservation ends up backfiring. We were living in a bus with a lean-to while building a house years ago, and I had a can of peanuts that I wanted to save for making some peanut brittle. Knowing it wouldn't last two days in the open, I hid it. A short while later I tried to find the can, and it had vanished!

I mean, really, how many places could a can of peanuts be in a bus? It's only so big. I searched for days to no avail. Of course I accused the male members of the family of having found and consumed them, but they maintained their innocence. Like they're going to confess.

I finally found them months later when we were getting ready to move and we unpacked the entire bus to repack it. The can had found its way under the bed platform and was in between boxes and things. My family has a tendency to occasionally bring that up when I'm looking for hiding places.

With this many mouths to feed there also are occasional discrepancies in the types of food everyone eats. Most of the time we all eat the same things, but once in awhile when the hierarchy (namely me and my husband) decide we want to have something different, the peons have to look on with envy. They may be eating teriyaki steak while we are eating ribeyes. I may be eating Haagen-Dazs while they're eating the store brand. When they have the audacity to complain, I remind them that no one ever said we had a democracy in our home at least when it comes to food allocation.

Bedroom food storage does have its drawbacks. One of which is space availability. I have seriously discussed having a food pantry written into the future house plans right next to the walk-in closet. Of course, there should be an outlet in there as well to plug in the mini refrigerator-freezer that we'll want.

I keep thinking this need will diminish as the kids grow up and leave home, but I've found it's getting worse. Not only do they keep coming back, but the male factor is growing as the girls bring home prospective partners! If you ever come to our home and notice a door with locks rivaling Fort Knox, you can rest assured it's the master bedroom.

Whew! Now that I've finished my discourse, I must go and take care of that nagging piece of blueberry pie that hasn't stopped calling my name the entire time. It must be silenced, and I'm just the one to do it.

Sandra Ehlers is a married mother of 10 children ranging in age from 5 to 27. She and her family have lived on the Kenai Peninsula off and on since 1980.

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