Before Thanksgiving, our big worry was how the free-range, Amish-grown, 26-pound turkey was going to fit in the oven. Chef Wille took care of that, with a half-inch to spare.
After our houseguests took to the road and the last of the carcass simmered into broth, the air cleared of turkey and trimmings and it was time to sit down and relax…but wait, the air wasn’t clear. Tiny winged creatures were fluttering around the kitchen.
While every red-blooded he-man in Centre County went to huntin’ camp for the post-Turkey Day rifle-and-poker weekend/first-day-of-deer season, Mom and yours truly found ourselves on a slightly different seek-and-destroy mission.
Indian Meal Moths invaded the kitchen!
True confession: In retrospect I ignored their presence before the holiday. I smacked and swatted, sometimes getting lucky with a smear of brown moth dust settling on my palms or the kitchen cupboard. It was just a tiny moth or two. They would disappear with the colder weather.
I think it all started when Chef Wille used the kitchen as an experimental station for his gluten-free baking last summer. In came the strangers: potato starch, tapioca flour, brown rice flour, etc. But all the blame can’t rest on his broad shoulders. I love raiding shelves at Trader Joe’s for couscous, quinoa, and the like. Then, I started baking whole wheat bread filled with sprouted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and wheat berries.
The microscopic eggs of Indian Meal Moths hide in the creases of packaging from Weis, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s or the local health food store. The tiny, newly hatched larvae slip into seams of various foodstuffs or wait until you open the package and then take that route and start chowing down. By this weekend, the Indian Meal Moths resembled geese in V-formation. (Oh, I exaggerate, but it was time for action.)
I took up arms in the battle against the scourge of the pantry, Plodia interpunctella, by reading about its egg, larval and pupa stages. With seven to nine generations a year, it seems to be a virtual rabbit of kitchen pests. The larvae weave webs as they grow, leaving behind silken threads as they crawl around cereal, flour, and the like. (So that’s what that little cluster of webbing and crumbs was.) Eventually, they spin silken cocoons on the bottom of your Campbell’s chicken noodle soup can, for example. In no time the adult emerges, starts flying about laying microscopic eggs on your barley and green lentils, and the whole damn chain of events starts over again.
Out went the potato starch, cornstarch, tapioca flour, and brown rice flour. In my subconscious the Mom-ghost of 50 years ago kept repeating, “But what about all the starving children in Africa?” I plowed ahead.
Out went the quinoa. The Mom of this year simply said, “Oh dear.” Out went the couscous. “Oh dear.” The two partial bags of chocolate chips, dumped into the trash. “Oh dear.” The brown rice, the white rice, and on it went. I wiped a white cocoon off the bottom of a can. “Oh dear.” The brand-new and pricey almond flour was in the freezer, thank God. Our precious Brazilian farinha was already locked away in an airtight container. It could stay. My homegrown, dehydrated kale found refuge in a Ball jar, as did a treasure of chocolate-peppermint biscotti and my supply of Craisins and candied ginger. My Ball jar brigade marches on where no ineffective Ziploc dares to travel.
We absolutely FILLED the garbage can in the garage and I couldn’t wait to drag it out to the curb for trash pickup. Got back from work, and the garbage can was still there—full. Turns out the garbage men take off for deer hunting too.
Back in the old days, when the men went hunting and the womenfolk stayed home, State College stores ran Deer Lonely Ladies Day sales. The kids all had a day or two off from school (still do), so it was a win-win for all, except the deer. “Oh dear.” Laurie Lynch
Leftover Discovery: With all of the swatting and sorting and wiping and washing and tossing I worked up quite an appetite. I roasted the last few wedges of a neck pumpkin and spooned my sister Lee Ann’s Cranberry Chutney over top. Wow! Lee Ann’s chutney is a perennial hit at my mother’s table, and Marina and Richard introduced it to a houseful of friends in Ghent to celebrate an American Thanksgiving in Belgium. Magnifique and grandioos!
1 small can Mandarin oranges, drain most liquid
2 cups cranberries, rinsed
1 medium apple, diced with skin
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup orange marmalade
½ cup cider vinegar
1½ cups of water
1¼ cups of sugar
Dash of allspice
¾ tsp. of cinnamon
½ tsp. of ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves.
Combine all, bring to a boil and then simmer, one to three hours. The longer it simmers, the thicker it gets. Then chill. It is best made a day or two ahead.