I wasn't going to post this, because primarily I was concerned that if I did, no-one would come around to dinner ever again.
In the interest of breaking the conspiracy of silence of grotty housekeepers everywhere (the silence that keeps us grotties from realising that half the population is at least as grotty as we are) I decided to be honest, however. I can only hope that the wardens don't read this and demand an immediate inspection of the vicarage.
We've been cooking up a storm at home this week - being broke always forces us to eat better, falling back on our kitchen resources and concentrating on producing the best possible food with the goods we have. We should pretend we are poor all the time. But, I digress.
Inspired by my domestic frenzy, Stompy decided to cook a date fudge slice. The result was beautiful and sat to cool on the bench. I went to bed early without doing my usual kitchen rounds, and didn't realise that the darned thing sat out on the bench all night... and when we got up in the morning, a delicate tracery of cocoa powder and icing sugar, spread from the top of the nibbled cake to up and down the wall, revealed that a rodent of uncertain and hopefully only mouselike dimensions had been enjoying the fruits of her labours.
Amidst squeals of "ewww" and "gross," we hurled the contaminated fudge in the bin, disinfected the bench top, baked a new batch of brownies, and then cruelly baited a mouse trap with a piece of the new brownie (since the rodent clearly had a taste for it), and left it on the bench top overnight.
Last night, just after midnight, I was prowling up and down the hallway with a heavy and sleepless Tom squirming in my arms, when I heard a clatter from the kitchen. It was either Toxic Teen raiding the kitchen... or the mouse! I put Tom in his cot, stood outside the closed kitchen door, and listened, afraid to open it. If the mouse had been caught, then I had the moral obligation to dispose of its probably still-twitching body. I could pretend I hadn't heard a thing and then go back to bed... but my scruples about letting Clarebear discover the mouse carnage got the better of me, and I opened the door and turned on the light.
The mousetrap had been set off, indeed. And there, scuttling across the top of the stove, glaring at me as it made for the shadows, was a grey, ghastly, gigantic RAT.
I turned off the light, slammed the door and stared wide eyed into the darkness. My dilemma had now increased. Should I open the door again and see where the wretched thing with its fat, sleek body had gone? Should I try to whack it with a broom and risk it tearing up my leg and biting my chin or something? Should I do what I felt inclined to do, stamp up and down and shriek and shudder and make gibberish noises?
I gathered myself and instead did what any sane person would do, and I tiptoed down to our bedroom, mindful of Beloved's tired state as he lay there snoring gently, and bellowed, "THERE'S A GIANT RAT IN THE KITCHEN!!!!"
To his credit Beloved didn't curse (much), but got up, surveyed the useless mousetrap and the resultant blood smear on the wall (more shuddering and gibberish ensued from me as I thought about how maybe his whiskers had been ripped out) and set a rat trap after cleaning off the bench, baiting it with yet more brownie. We retired to bed, where my mind was otherwise occupied by the ever wakeful Tom, who clearly had heard the call of Mr Rat and wanted to get up and play with it.
The next morning, the rat had been back and demolished the rest of the brownie on the mousetrap (which Beloved had not removed, but which I could not criticise him for after I had shrieked him out of his slumber at midnight) but the rat trap was untouched. Clever Mr Rat. By the time I got out of bed, Beloved had bleached everything and the kitchen was shining like a new pin.
Except for the pantry.
We have a wonderful pantry, in our old farm-style kitchen. Wall to wall shelving, and just enough room for our huge fridge. While the rest of my home has been gradually becoming uncluttered, however, the pantry has been one of those areas where sometimes I just have to close the door. It's not that it's been dirty, it's just that there's been so much stuff in there that I wouldn't have any idea just what sort of state it was in, really. And the cluttered shelves have just sat there in their grimly disorganised sort of way, chastising me every time I went to get the milk.
Well, Mr Rat had decided for me that this situation had to be remedied. The traps weren't working, as he was clearly a superior type of smarty-rat, and I needed to make sure that there wasn't anything in there making him feel that it was worth risking life, limb and whiskers to continue to have ratty raves in my kitchen at night. I hardly dared entertain the fear that perhaps it was a Mrs Rat, with the attendant equally sleepless Baby Rats keeping her up all night behind the flour bin. (Shudder, gibber.)
I girded my loins, sent Tom to daycare for the day, and set to with a bucket of hot soapy water, garbage bags and grim determination.
There was no evidence of a Ratty Residence, much to my relief, but I did find a half open packet of dried noodles that I swear has followed me around from the last four house moves, never being touched. I also found four half opened packets of linguine (and all my shopping trips of the past twelve months where I've asked Beloved, "how are we for long pasta?" flashed into my mind), no fewer than six tins of pineapple (we never eat tinned pineapple), five tins of beetroot (although to be fair, two of the tins of baby beets are for a salad I'd planned for tonight), and packets of half used spices that I remember buying when Toxic Teen was in nappies that I would never dream of using but for some reason had left to sit as some kind of archaeological record at the back of the spice rack.
We also have probably the largest unintentional collection of food dyes, hundreds-and-thousands, cachous and writing icing tubes in the Southern Hemisphere, thanks to my immutable believe that We Don't Have Any Of Those So We'd Better Pick Some Up.
I threw out everything that had been opened and not sealed in a container, including the open packets of linguine (so now I know we're all out of long pasta!) and cleaned out every corner, nook and cranny.
Once I had finished (see the results below), I took that big black plastic rubbish bag out to the bin, and, having forgotten Mr Rat and having rendered my pantry shudder-proof, the weight off my shoulders was literal and figurative. Now I want to go and bake, just for the novelty of not having to scrabble for a single thing. I am also able to start a pantry inventory, and I know that if we ran out of money, I could feed the family for a week out of what I have in there right now, as long as they were in the mood for pineapple.
I've not been able to go out for the bike ride I wanted to do today, but I've got a horrible job done, and I have Mr Rat to thank for it. If you'd like to come and receive your reward, Mr Rat, I've got a piece of brownie laced with ratsak with your name on it....