by Jay Jamison
There it stood menacingly, like a white monolith out of some sci-fi movie. It just stood there and hummed, challenging me to dare invade its inner sanctums. After putting it off for a very long time, the moment had finally come when I simply had to clean out the refrigerator.
As with any expedition involving possibly dangerous pathogens, I went through my check list: bleach, check; ammonia, check; Lysol spray, check; rubber gloves, check; hazmat suit (just kidding). Next came the task of emptying the contents of my refrigerator. All the stuff that was in current use was on the front edges of the shelves. This stuff was not very concerning.
Pulling away the current use stuff, another world opened before me. Like an intrepid bio-archeologist exploring the artifacts, or a tomb robber of old, I plunged in. Some jars had labels that identified the contents, but there was often considerable doubt about the dates when some of the jars were last placed in the fridge. I found one jar that I’m guessing was once sourdough bread starter, which led me to wonder, when was last time that I attempted to make sourdough bread?
I was raised in a family where my parents were products of the Great Depression, thus making it a crime to throw away perfectly good food. Very often, I’d cook up a dish but couldn’t (or shouldn’t) eat it in one sitting. So, in accordance with my parents’ wishes, I put the leftovers in small containers and placed them in the refrigerator. Many of these leftovers remained in the fridge, like ancient mummies in a forgotten tomb.
The discovery of these artifacts often required a pause in my sorting, to figure out what they were. An understanding of forensic biology often comes in handy when trying to identify the remains of meals that I refused to throw out. A slice of leftover meatloaf shouldn’t be blanketed with green fur. Strawberries, in their little clear plastic containers, looked like mummified cranberries. The list goes on, and as time went by, ancient leftovers started to crowd out the food that was “current” and in need of refrigeration.
I discovered an open box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, possibly dating from the Clinton administration. Long ago, advertisements urged us to keep an open box in the fridge to keep odors at bay. It seemed to work, but the faded “replace by” label on this box of baking soda seemed to have a date possibly written in Roman numerals. Yeah, time to replace it.
If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why I’m writing a column about cleaning out my refrigerator. Just consider if I’d decided to write some commentary about national or international controversies, currently alarming everyone in the news. Imagine how dispiriting that may have been. When comparing these alternatives, it may occur to you, as it did to me, that writing about cleansing a refrigerator almost seems uplifting by comparison.