A Zen parable tells of a wanderer on a lonely road who came upon a torrential river that had washed out the bridge.

So he built a solid and heavy raft, which carried him safely across to the other bank.  “This is a good raft,” he thought.  “If there’s another river ahead, I can use it.”  And he carried it for the rest of his life.


How often do we hang onto things that served us well at one point in our lives but are no longer relevant or useful?

It is a curse and a blessing to be a retired chef.  Those pans and knives,  those bowls and whisks,  those tools of a professional kitchen are an extension of who we are.    We may say good-bye to our restaurants but it is difficult  to say goodbye to the tools of our trade.

Do I really need three china caps?  What am I going to do with a dozens whisks – some 24 inches long.    When am I going to use two  stock pots a three year old child could hide in.   Friends and family  have graciously accepted beautiful (to me) saute pans but what use do I have of the other two  dozen.  Ours was a  French kitchen and  much of  the menu was cooked-to-order requiring  a battery of heavy saute pans.


I am getting rid of the life raft!  I’ve removed over half the contents of the pantry and still have all this left.  Some  items a donation to my favorite Thrift Shop some to be sold on Craigs List.




I am shedding the life raft piece by piece.

I am saying good-bye to wonderful, happy memories.  We loved our restaurants.  We loved cooking and feeding people.  The hours were long.  The work at times exhausting, but we loved every minute of it.

What I will have is the perfect pantry.  With new shelves.  Shelves  I will use to display my stacks of  plates and serving dishes.  Vintage soup tureens and platters. Narrow shelves filled with canned tomatoes from Italy.  Capers from France.  Jams and jellies from my preserving friends.  I’ll put a sweet little wooden table in the centre of the room.  Hang the walls with vintage food posters.  Checked curtains at the windows.

What I will have is a new chapter in my life.


14 thoughts on “THE PERFECT PANTRY

  1. How I feel your pain! What beautiful things you have and how many meals you made for people on their special times together. These utensils and culinary devices have become a part of us and it is so difficult to part with old friends. I wish you courage and strength…….and also look forward to your new pantry. You are the Culinary Goddess.

  2. Wowzers Virginia….it’s like a William Sonoma in your house. Am drooling with jealousy….all the pans you have!!!!! Lucky to be blessed with a career you loved. And you got to work with your wonderful husband too. And having your children in the kitchen with you! Once you have pared down to your absolute favorites….please post another picture. I’m dying to see what made the cut! With much affection…Ginny

    • Ginny my dear cookie eating friend you gave me a needed giggle. I do have an embarrassment of riches. Embarrassment because I have already culled the very best of the best and have them in my kitchen, although big items like the Italian ice cream maker shared humble quarters with stacks of dining room chairs and stock pots. I do have quite a bit of space but it wasn’t being utilized properly. It is going to be interesting to see what marvelous things I can do. Virginia

  3. Your last comment is precisely what I was thinking as I was reading, Virginia. A new chapter, it would seem, is about to commence… which can only truly happen when we relinquish the old..
    I wonder what new delights await…!?!

    • I am also wondering how this is all going to turn out. I will be changing three spaces (all connected). What started to be just cleaning up the pantry has taken on a whole adventure. Isn’t it wonderful Carolyn …having a new challenge. V.

  4. I can relate to letting go of that raft! But I like your attitude of a new chapter and change can be new. Please share pictures of your new and improved pantry. What a wonderful life you have had!

  5. Virginia, I love your pantry shots. Kitchens are so fascinating. Artist studios! I think your madeleine pan is a keeper! I thought I also spotted Oswald the gentleman and agile lapin! T. (For the love of mana, I always purchase my kitchenware at flea markets. “Everything has a history,” as Julia Child would say.)

    • Rooting through kitchenware and dishes at our local Thrift Shop is one of my fav occupations. I love it when my pans get that patina of hard wear (some called it baked on grease). But to me it’s beautiful. It has history. V.

  6. OH NO! That must be an enormous decision. You be gentle with yourself. .I have the opposite problem, i landed here with two suitcases, and only my knives. I have no accumulation from my life at all. It is all residing in the houses of my children so i had to start from scratch in my new American kitchen. Delightfully though the kitchen is very small and over the years i have managed with so little that I knew exactly what I did and did not need to start a new collection in a strange country. There is a wonderful free feeling though when you have distributed all the extra. When you get back to your bones. And your new pantry will be a joy. (let me know where to look for the whisks when you start your craigs list sale!!)
    Love love, celi

    • My dear, dear Celi. One of my whisks will be coming your way. That way every time you use the whisk there will be a little bit of me in your kitchen. I look forward to your E Mail so I can snail mail a whisk to Cousin Celi. Hugs Virginia

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