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I just ran out of icing sugar. A pesky, but not in itself noteworthy phenomenon. But it got me thinking: why do I always run out of icing sugar? I mean, specifically? If I reach for the high-grade flour, in general, there it will be. Same with baking soda. Cinnamon? Sure. Cream of tartar? Lurking at the back behind the maraschino cherries, but there. Lentils? I never run out of lentils. Possibly because we only eat them twice a year.
But there are a few ingredients which exist in a state of perpetual emptiness, and icing sugar is one of them. I can’t remember the last time I opened the pantry and found a plump, full bag of the stuff looking at me. There’s always a measly cupful in the bottom, taunting me lumpily.
Golden syrup’s the same. One can never scoop a luscious tablespoonful out of a brimming tin; one is always scraping around the bottom. How? Why? Where does it go? I can understand chocolate disappearing – Helpdesk Man’s existence answers that – but to my knowledge, nobody tipples golden syrup on the sly. Nor is it prone to evaporation; especially in a tin which requires the use of a spoon to pry up the welded-on lid at the best of times. (Don’t get me started on the flaws of golden syrup tin design, my goodness.) The pigs couldn’t get into it even if they thought to. Mice neither. It’d probably baffle a moderately intelligent Martian.
And it’s not just sweet things, either. The same thing happens with sesame seeds; though that’s less disastrous, as I generally only need a few tablespoons at a time. Also brown rice. I buy brown rice regularly, and in theory it should last forever because Helpdesk Man has an abominable, privileged distaste for brown rice. But it doesn’t. Could he be pouring it down the sink in the dead of night? Possibly; but he likes sesame seeds, and (as much as one can gauge something this personal in a mere eight years of marriage) has no particular animosity to icing sugar. There’s no pattern here. There’s no motive.
However, I am a blithe and Pollyannaish soul; so rather than angst over the insoluble mystery of it all, I have decided instead to view it as a probably universal and timeless phenomenon. There was probably a housewife in Crete two thousand years ago who kept running out of olive oil; or an Egyptian housewife whose fig-jar was perpetually barren save for a few oldish withered ones clinging to the side. And thus I am part of a great, cosmic sisterhood of domestic incompetence, and that is a comforting thought. Though it doesn’t tell me how I’m going to ice the rest of these blasted biscuits.