“Oh, no thanks,” I said coolly, standing on a kitchen chair to remove some jars of out-of-date pickled red cabbage from a far corner of the press.
“No, no need for help, not at all. I’m used to this kind of stuff. This is what I, as a woman, was put on earth for; you know, to just keep plodding away at meaningless household drudgery while you get on with the important creative stuff that attracts all the awed compliments.”
I retrieved a tin of capers dating from 2017 and added it to the pile. The undertone did not quite go unnoticed.
“Hey,” he said in injured tones, “I’m painting those cupboard doors you wanted, the ones for the big press. Off-white, like you said. Four coats each. D’ you want a cup of tea?”
“No thanks,” I said. “I’m a bit busy.”
I carefully added three large bottles of passata dating from somewhere around the middle of 2018 to the spread, followed by two similarly aged cardboard containers of dried oregano. The pile on the work surface was getting noticeable.
“I’ll just keep going at this. Not that anybody will ever even notice that I spent most of my Saturday cleaning out the food press. Not that I mind, or anything. After all, it’s not as if anyone else is going to do it.”
I removed several bottles of a yellowish liquid from the back of the shelf. The use-by date on the oldest one was May 2017. God, where had I been?
“Cider vinegar,” I sniffed.
“Why do we need so much of it?” he inquired.
“Very good for your gut health,” I informed him.
“Oh, right,” he said diplomatically, not pointing out that whatever their esteemed health properties, three or four bottles of cider vinegar wouldn’t do much for you if they’re stuck unopened in the back of a cupboard for four years.
“Is it not very nice to drink, then, I suppose,” he ventured.
“It’s fine,” I snipped, “actually, you don’t drink it like you’d drink a glass of milk.
“You just put a tablespoon or two into a small glass of warm water every morning and drink that.”
“Oh, right,” he said uncertainly.
I got down from the chair and went to the kitchen table and pulled two big heavy - duty refuse sacks off the roll. Then I started emptying all the cider vinegar down the sink.
“It’s out of date.” I said crossly, throwing the now-empty bottles into the bags.
“Look.” I showed him the label on one of the younger ones. Best before end December 2019.
“That’s an awful waste,” he opined, a bit sadly; then his eye fell on two attractively labelled little jars of red paste.
“What’s this? Looks nice.”
“It’s harissa paste,” I snapped.
“Oh,” he said nostalgically, “the harissa chicken thing. I used to like that.”
“You haven’t made that in a while. Couldn’t you make it again? Pity to just throw it out before we got a chance to eat it. Or is that going in a different pile?”
“It went out of date 12 months ago,” I said irritably, gesturing at the huge heap which had now crawled over the worktop and onto the kitchen table.
“Christ,” he said, a bit stunned, “you’ve let things go a bit, haven’t you.”
The cheek of him.
“This all has to be binned,” I said, ignoring him.
“You can help if you really want. “But don’t you dare haul any of it back in from the outside bin like you did when I tidied out your wardrobe. Which, by the way, I won’t be doing again, given the thanks I got for doing it the last time.”
“Some of those jars you’re throwing out would be handy for holding screws,” he pondered.
There was a silence.
“And those shirts you threw in the bin that time are great for working in the shed,” he said pathetically.
“You’re not to leave them all standing around on the draining board here for weeks on end. And those shirts of yours that I threw out hadn’t been worn in years; they haven’t been worn in the shed either and you know it. Do you think I came down the Bandon River in a bubble? They’re still sitting out there in the shed in that bag you took out of the bin.”
“Microwave popcorn,” he said nostalgically, picking up a creased old packet dating from sometime back in 2015.
“Remember that? Friday evenings with the sitting-room fire blazing away, watching Disney films with the kids?”
I wasn’t going to be sucked in.
“Filthy stuff,” I said.
“We must have been terrible parents to be letting them eat that kind of stuff. Quick, get rid of the evidence.”
And away it went into the second bin bag.
He picked up a large jar of pickled baby beetroot.
“What’s this for?” “That was bought for your blood pressure,” I told him.
“You’re supposed to eat some every day. I explained about it. Remember, I googled it. You said you’d eat it. For your blood pressure, like.”
“Oh yeah, “he said unenthusiastically.
“I remember, now.”
And more hopefully: “Is that for the black bag as well?”
“No” I said. “That still has another year in it. Best start eating it. A few lumps of that beetroot every day would probably see do the job.”
“Not a chance,” he said, and he was gone.