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My fridge runneth over

There’s a door to my soul that I’d prefer you didn’t open. Some days I can hardly bear to open it myself. I’d rather not confront my unruly psyche. Fears, obsessions, misbegotten dreams…it’s all on display, although exposing the most shameful excesses would take some serious and possibly odiferous digging. But at least I’m not alone. Do you have a fridge, dear reader? Then chances are you’re harbouring a few slimy secrets of your own.

Most of us clean our fridges only once or twice a year, says a story in yesterday’sWall Street Journal. Appliance companies are responding with snazzy new features, from better lighting to bacteria-zapping technology, that purport to save us from our slovenly selves. They’re planning to bombard new purchasers with tips on fridge management. For instance, did you know that overstuffing your fridge will reduce its capacity to cool? Oh, why do I ask? Don’t we all! But I, for one, am incorrigible. It runs in the family.

I’m the daughter of a woman who had a mysterious worry about running out of radishes. On every trip to the grocery store, she’d grab another package, just in case. At the bottom of her so-called “crisper,” you could always find last month’s radishes, marinating in the mahogany-coloured juices of decay. I used to poke fun at my mother’s radish fixation (is any vegetable more useless?). But that was before I had a fridge of my own, with just-in-case bouquets of cilantro going soft in the darker corners. I’ve got nubbins of shallot that I meant to chop into a salad dressing, and dried-out parmesan rinds that are said to punch up minestrone (not that I’ve ever gotten around to testing this theory). My hulking stainless-steel fridge is an energy-guzzling monument to bad planning and good intentions.

It’s not as if I need to hoard food. I have a household of two, steps away from several 24-hour supermarkets. And I’ve never felt the bite of hunger. Yet I’m descended from Russian Jews who had children to feed as famines loomed and death-dealing cossacks pounded down their doors. I’m sure my ancestors never tasted salad, let alone shallots or cilantro. Perhaps my genes remember what my brain does not.

Last year I strolled through laneways in downtown Shanghai where two families share closet-size kitchens and no one has a fridge (or a toilet, for that matter). People go to the market every day for bok choy and tofu, yet they don’t feel deprived. Even in soft North America, where no kitchen is state-of-the-art without the BMW of fridges, a Sub-Zero, there exist a stalwart few who have unplugged their fridges to help save the earth. Vanessa Farquharson, a blogger and author ofSleeping Naked Is Greenhas said she managed surprisingly well by chilling wine in the toilet tank, storing her carrots in a vase full of water (it doubled as a centrepiece) and switching to almond milk, which lasts several days without refrigeration. Need I add that she lived alone? She has since acquired a live-in boyfriend who wanted cold cuts in his sandwiches. Game over.

I wonder what my great-grandmother would say if she could see the bounty in my fridge: three kinds of olives, yogurts high-fat or low, a wardrobe of mustards, peppers from chipotle to Thai, assorted pestos and dressings (none of which I made myself). All this and no jar of homemade borscht? “Tsores mit yoykh iz gringer vi tsores on yoykh,” she might say in Yiddish. ) Troubles with soup is easier than troubles without soup. But I do have some pre-roasted garlic cloves to dress up my organic broccolini, and a bottled miso-lime marinade for my salmon. Lucky me.

Hooked as I am on my overstuffed fridge, I nominate the humble toaster as most loveable kitchen appliance. Click here to find out why. 


Posted by Rona

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