Summer means Pantry Pests!

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Beautiful moth (welcome in my home at any time) from Red Tree Designs.

They come in in your flour. They procreate while you aren’t looking. They ignore the baby on board, organic only, no-pesticides-here-please signs littering your life. They make you the most popular person on the block out of thin air.

And now you have to find a way to get rid of them.

At least, after a seven month deployment and an eight month decampment at my mother’s through my recent pregnancy, that’s what we came home to. A newborn, a reintegrating Marine, a new mom, and a kitchen full of meal moths. And let me tell you: I’m not a big fan of bugs.

It doesn’t matter where you buy your groceries or how clean you keep your home (as I keep learning, almost punitively), pantry pests are the peril of anyone who cooks. My stepmom — the family food guru — maintains that they come in and you just can’t help it, they are simply a part of food life. Every other kitchen queen I know agrees. But I can’t help it: “No, no, no!,” I yelp. These critters make my skin crawl.

So we find ourselves in battle again. Them, taking wing to drive me nuts, and me, giving up all things green and calling in the big guns — the exterminator.

A good treatment and a few thorough vinegar and water washes later, our cabinets have returned to a temporary normal, but sanity is still on the loose. And we all know I’m not in this boat alone. How do we keep our kitchens free of pantry pests?

Like every grandmother before her, my grandmother had a trusty pantry pest weapon she swore worked on the winged and wingless alike. She was so evangelical in this truth you’d think she’d never seen a bug in the kitchen in her life: Just put bay leaves in every cabinet.

I’ve bought bay leaves. I’ve laid them out menacingly in every cupboard in my kitchen. I have done this several times in several kitchens. I don’t know if I just repeatedly befriend a particularly herb-adoring breed of pest, but my unwanted visitors always treat those little leaves as festive floral decoration for their favorite encampment. The bay leaves have never served an eviction notice.

And again the bugs lead to desperation, and the desperation leads to desperate Googling. Always be careful when you’re desperate Googling, or you might find yourself doing as I did a few years ago: Deluding Borax soap and scrubbing the life out of every surface, nook, and cranny in your home. The good news is it works. The better news is that if you happen to spill it on your coral, silk tufted sofa (because you make really practical furniture choices), you’ll discover it also cleans your sofa. And then you’ll find yourself spending twenty hours diluted-Borax-soaping your sofa. And friends, Borax is not easy on the hands.

But these bugs are never easy on the soul, either. Maybe I should take more yoga classes and really focus on some sort of inner kitchen peace. Or maybe my husband should pursue a second career with Orkin. Either/or.

Did your grandmother pass on any tricks for getting rid of these pests? Or have you encountered any fool-proof strategies you can share with the rest of us? At the moment, I’m thinking a grain-free diet is our only option. And with my love of pasta, that’s bound to be impossible.

Tell me, valiant kitchen warrior, what tricks do you have for keeping the littlest summer visitors at bay? Or do you, like the kitchen mavens in my life, just accept the occasional creature as an inevitable part of cooking?