My mother used to say - and still does - that my eyes are bigger than my stomach.
This is funny, especially if you have seen the size of my belly, but she knows me well. When travelling or just wandering through a supermarket or food shop, I become mesmerised by merchandise and, inevitably, some of it ends up leaving the shop with me.
I have even parlayed this into a weekly column called Posh Nosh, where I spent hours on weekends looking for unusual and good snacks to write about. Even though the column is no more, I cannot help myself and still live for the thrill of finding the perfect snack or condiment.
The problem is that after trying it and possibly writing about it, the stuff stays in the cupboard or fridge and I never seem to get round to finishing anything.
I live in a tiny home and my food cupboard is miniscule. At least twice a year, I have to clear out my fridge and cupboard.
Last weekend, I did my first clean-out of the year.
900g to 1kg canned chickpeas, drained
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 Tbs shichimi togarashi, or to taste (below)
1. Place the chickpeas in a large colander, rinse under running water and drain for about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
3. Pat dry the chickpeas with paper towels or a tea towel, discarding any of the skin that falls off. Place in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and toss with a spoon to mix well.
4. Line a large baking tray (I use the one that comes with the oven) with foil or baking paper. Spoon the chickpeas onto the tray, spreading them out.
5. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, rotating the tray at 20 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle the shichimi togarashi over the chickpeas and toss with a spoon. Pile into a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Serves four as a snack with drinks
Japanese tidy-upper extraordinaire Marie Kondo, whose 2011 book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing, is a bestseller, says to find things that spark joy and to keep them. Everything else can go.
The problem is that most food sparks joy in me and I hang on to things I really should chuck.
Case in point: a jar of bacon fat I have had for too many years, which I cannot bear to throw away. I tell myself I will one day make bacon fat mayonnaise.
My "big eyes" have also led to my amassing kilograms of chocolate with good provenance and unusual flavours, but which I have no desire to eat when I am home. I also have bottles of booze sitting around, unopened.
My ultimate guilty pleasure is luncheon meat. I have cans of it from all over the world, but I never eat them. There also appears to be a ton of salt in my food cupboard. I use it, but not as quickly as I add to the collection.
Looking at the crammed shelves of both fridge and cupboard, I was determined to be ruthless. Out went everything that was past the sell-by date and I made food parcels for friends who might appreciate the food that is still good.
At the end of it all, I was happy looking at whatever I had left neatly squared away in boxes.
But would I have to do it again in six months, when things pile up?
That is why I made another decision that day: I am going to limit the things I let into my home.
Being vigilant and sticking to my guns will be difficult.
A year ago, I decided to stop buying bags because I have far too many of them. I was so very good, but in the last two months, I bought two.
One of the purchases was made on a whim, the result of taking the escalator to a restaurant, when hopping into the lift would have allowed me to bypass all the stores on the way to lunch.
I love both bags and will get a lot of use out of them, but this cycle of acquiring and chucking is ridiculous and wasteful. It has to stop.
For one thing, I have to stop buying chickpeas and canned tomatoes because I have far too many cans of both in my food cupboard. However, they are endlessly useful, so I am planning meals around them, now that I can see them in the food cupboard.
A bottle of passata went into a baked fish dish with kale and mushrooms from the fridge. The other cans of tomatoes will be turned into soup or pasta sauces.
I wanted to make hummus with the chickpeas, but then, I would have to buy tahini or sesame paste, which would add to the condiments collection. So, I decided to make a snack with them instead.
The recipe is simple. I roast the chickpeas with salt and olive oil and then sprinkle a spice mix on them. Look in your pantry and see what you have. Baharat, ras-el-hanout, your favourite curry powder and spice rubs - provided they are still fresh - can add a lot of flavour to this simple snack. I used shichimi togarashi, a Japanese blend of chilli and other spices.
Roasting the chickpeas concentrates their flavour and they end up crunchy. The trick is to dry them thoroughly. So I leave them to drain for about half an hour and then pat them very dry with paper towels before roasting.
After using up two cans of my chickpea stash this way, I celebrated my big cleaning-up session with a cold beer and those crunchy snacks. Now to figure out something to do with the chocolate, without having to buy new ingredients.