October’s Monthly Mouthful!

October’s here! That means many things: fall vegetables, Halloween, and of course, the latest Monthly Mouthful! Each month, we survey some of our fave food bloggers, asking questions. Sometimes the questions are serious, sometimes they’re fun, but whatever the case, they’re always food for thought.

For October, we asked: “What is the one thing in your refrigerator or pantry that you cannot live without?” As usual, we got some awesome responses. So check ‘em out below…

Jennifer from Last Night’s Dinner:

This came down to three items for me, and while kosher salt and sherry vinegar are absolute essentials in my kitchen, I think the one item really I can’t live without is the ever-present bowl of lemons on our countertop. The juice lends brightness and acidity to everything from salad dressings to pan sauces, the zest livens up grilled and braised meats and seafood, and my roast chicken just wouldn’t be the same without those thin slices of lemon under the skin, infusing the meat and keeping it juicy and moist as the lemons themselves become meltingly tender and jam-like. And of course, they play a very important role in our pre-dinner cocktail. :o) They may not be local, but I can’t live without my lemons!

Maki from Just Hungry:

A bit boring perhaps, but salt is probably the one indispensable ingredient. Not even some exotic salt either, just plain salt. It’s like the fairytale of the princess who tells her father that she values him like salt, and incurs his wrath – you only know how important salt is when you lack it. In our day of processed foods with hidden added salt everywhere, it’s easy to forget the critical role salt has played in the history of humankind.

Veronica from Veronica’s Test Kitchen:

As one who loves to bake I could never do without flour, butter, eggs and sugar. But given one ingredient to pick I’ll have to go with chocolate. If there is one special spot in the pantry which I give special attention to, it’s my chocolate section. I keep a stock of different percentages of Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, and Callebaut just so I would have the required type (bittersweet, semi-sweet, unsweetened) of chocolate at hand whenever the craving hits me. It can be as simple as making a nice cup of hot chocolate. And if we take the word “living without” literally, I think chocolate is a complete food – it has carbohydrates, fat and some protein. Hmn – now that I have revealed where to find it in my house – I need to move it to a secure location.

Lydia from The Perfect Pantry:

Okay, it should be impossible for someone who has more than 200 items in her pantry to name only one ingredient… but, actually, it was easy. I thought about what I always keep in multiples, what sends me into a panic when I run out of it, what is incomparable and un-subbable. In other words, my culinary security blanket. I ruled out olive oil and canned tomatoes, both of which I always have. I can live without Fresca, which isn’t an ingredient but is always in my fridge. Believe it or not, the one thing I cannot live without is Lan Chi brand chili paste with garlic. It is hot, hot, hot, and it’s essential to most of my Asian cooking. I always have two or three jars in the pantry.

Cybele from Candy Blog:

I always have raw almonds on hand. I usually have two or three bags open at once. One at the office, one that travels with me in my laptop bag and one in the snack box on the kitchen counter.

They’re the perfect snack: crunchy, not too sweet and of course filling. Sometimes I mix them with other things like pretzels, dried fruits, cheese and crackers, but for the most part I just eat a handful or two of the straight everyday.

Jen from Milk and Cookies:

The ingredients that I wouldn’t be able to live without is butter, sugar and eggs. As an avid baker, and especially one that has a sweet tooth, I don’t think I could make anything without these three ingredients. I would even go as far to say as they are the holy trinity when it comes to dessert making.

Jaden from Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen:

Nam in Vietnamese, Nam Plah in Thai, and Holy Stinkbomb in English – fish sauce is the reason why Southeast Asian foods taste so incredibly flavorful. It’s the umami thing – rounding out the corners of flavors and providing the sweet/salty/full hit that you just can’t quite describe. While extremely pungent if you take a whiff, the fish sauce melds away during the cooking process and tastes nothing at all like fish. Look for fish sauce that is tea-colored and not cola-colored. The tea colored brands are top quality, usually the “first pressing.” My favorite brand is Three Crabs.

Tammy from Food on the Food:

If you want a sexy answer, you have to ask a sexy question. The truth is that I can’t live without onions. They’re so versatile. Cooked. Raw. Sweet. Spicy. Soup. Not soup.

I didn’t realize how dependent on them I was until I found myself completely out of onions during the Eat Local Challenge last month. How can every farm stand be out of onions? They’re onions.

I was paralyzed from the waist up. (I did eventually find some, but my resulting carbon footprint was HUGE.)

So, now, just to be on the safe side, I squirrel them away all over the house. Don’t mind that stench. It’s just my backup onion supply.

Amy from Nook and Pantry:

It’s so hard to just pick one! I love my pantry so much. Does salt and pepper count? Other than those two things, the next thing that came to my mind was soy sauce. I just can’t do my Asian cooking without it.

Anna from Sunday Night Dinner:

I am afraid my answer is a bit of a cheat since it’s so basic and obvious, but it is my very own and I shall stand by it: I cannot go a day without olive oil. I mean the good stuff: thick, deep green, so strong you can smell it from across the kitchen. Every single thing I cook begins with a pool of olive oil and often ends with a drizzle for gloss and flavor. I use it for just about everything. Besides being the base for everything that I make in a pan, olive oil is an instant bread dip (perhaps topped with coarse salt or balsamic), a salad dressing, or even a dessert, when poured around a scoop of very dark chocolate ganache. I would (possibly literally) cry if I were ever kept apart from my bottle of olive oil.

Carol from Paris Breakfast:

I recently discovered Turkish black olive tapanade in a Greek store and I can’t live without it! It makes a great base for a vinegrette plus Balsamic. It’s perfect on grilled vegetables or grilled/baked anything like fish, chicken. And you can always spread it on bruscetta for a quick starter.

Cate from Sweetnicks:

That is definitely a tough one, but I think I’m going to go with extra virgin olive oil.

Ruth from Once Upon a Feast:

Wow….that’s probably the hardest question of all! One thing? Only ONE thing?… Obviously, you’ve never been to my house…but, I guess I’d have to say pasta, because no matter what else you have on hand, you can make a great meal. Of course I wouldn’t be caught dead without garlic, olive oil or lemons either!

Luisa from The Wednesday Chef:

This is the most difficult question, I feel like I’m in some kind of foodie version of Sophie’s Choice. The one thing i probably couldn’t live without would be olive oil. Or canned tomatoes. But probably olive oil. Wait! My liberte yogurt! No, olive oil. I’m ending this before i think of something else.

And though it’s late, Adam over at Men in Aprons wrote a fantastic full-length post to answer our question. Check it out!

Many thanks to everyone who participated this month! Now, readers, what in your pantry can’t YOU live without?

And if you were not asked to participate but would like to be for future Monthly Mouthfuls, please e-mail us at chewonthatblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

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  • http://onceuponafeast.blogspot.com Ruth

    What a wonderful post. Thanks for the great question. It’s good to see there are so many of us that find it hard to choose….and an even better thing that no one has to!

    What will the next great question be?

  • http://www.chewonthatblog.com Maxine

    Thanks Ruth! We’re glad you enjoyed the post! The next question will be sent out the last week in October. If you know anyone who wants to participate, they can email us at chewonthatblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • JEP

    This is a very fun to read monthly event! Great question, too.

  • http://whatdoyoudowiththat.blogspot.com/ Marsha

    It wasn’t necessarily my first thought, but since, upon reflection, I realized I have two open bottles in the fridge and a backup in the cabinet, I guess I would have to go with Louisiana Hot Sauce as my can’t live without item. :-)

  • http://alosha7777.blogspot.com melissa

    definitely have to agree on the fundamentals – olive oil, garlic and especially the onions response.

    but I’m also all over lydia’s chili paste with garlic answer – good one!

  • Karen Thompson

    Love the question! GARLIC,EVOO,LEMONS&PASTA!!!
    Hard to makeone chice.This was fun to read and I would like to participate and tried to e-mail but my Outlook is not cooperating with sending out mail,I’ll have to go to my regular e-mail.
    Thanks Again,it was fun!!!

  • http://sososimple.blogspot.com gilli

    HI guys what a fun questionaire. An enjoyable read whilst sipping on my hot lemon drink for breakfast.
    Interesting answers.
    I have to say I can’t do without wine…for cooking but more importantly for sipping while cooking!!! and the other ingredients that are really important to me are sea salt,. freshly ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and of course butter.

  • Geri Kozinko

    Love the answers, and will continue to check on them each time. Think it’s time I started participating. I have to say I can’t do without cheese, any kind of cheese. We use cheese items everyday, and for almost every meal. Might not be diet smart, but we love our cheese.

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