I recently had a prolonged period without power. Thanks, Sandy! Life without TV, heat or lights can be challenging in more ways than one might expect. I ended up having a minor epiphany about my place in the universe while performing one of a blackout’s more mundane tasks.
It turns out a Kenmore side-by-side filled with rotting food gave me pause for spiritual reflection. I realize that’s a pretty sad commentary on my existence, but maybe it’s time we all faced the fact that maybe I’m just not that deep of a guy.
On the top shelf in the back, I found some barely-used good intentions in the form of containers of brown rice flour and blond miso among others. They were purchased with the idea that I’d eventually start eating healthier. The packages sat there for who-knows how long, eventually becoming hidden behind flashier, less healthy items. With them out of sight, I could forget about my whacky ideas of good-nutrition and focus instead on finding yet another lime to put in yet another cocktail.
I fought the urge to pledge a healthier diet once life got back to normal. A cold house, dimly lit by lilac-scented candles from the clearance bin at Bed, Bath and Beyond is not the setting for making hollow promises. I tossed those healthy ingredients in yet another trash bag and tried to move forward, all too secure in the knowledge that I’d lied to myself and spent perfectly good tequila money on cold-pressed walnut oil that I would have never gotten around to using.
On the shelves of the door stood countless bottles and jars of funky, exotic ingredients which I used for my foodie endeavors. At times I liken myself to some sort of chef, and when I try something new, it usually involves buying weird, dusty jars from the “International” aisle at the grocery store, or better yet, going to the Asian grocery out by the highway, and hoping for labels in English. I have to push aside my lingering fears of inadvertently buying some sort of Malaysian Flavor-Paste which includes equal parts mercury and poison blow fish.
As often as not, my dishes are good, but not good enough to have a second time any time soon. So my jars of fish sauce, tamarind concentrate and pomegranate molasses huddled together behind the Sriracha and stone ground mustard, in the highly unlikely event I’d ever use them a second time. Each exotic jar was like some pathetic character actor in a repertory theater just waiting and hoping for a new play which featured a one-eyed redhead with a lisp. Even if I did need some Thai curry paste, it’s doubtful that I’d be positive as to whether or not I actually had any at home, and I’d probably end up buying another bottle of it. This is likely why I had three nearly full jars of horseradish to toss out. I briefly wondered if this was how people got their starts in becoming hoarders.
I threw out limes and flat bottles of bitter lemon and tonic water. Into the trash went cocktail onions, green olives stuffed with gorgonzola and a jar of something called “Tomolives”. While I could argue that the limes are often featured in my Asian and Latin dishes, the rest of these items were nothing more than once-cold evidence of my ongoing love affair with alcohol. My major appliance had turned into a disapproving old teetotaler, rolling her eyes and shaking her head at my sinful life choices. I’ll admit now that I was relieved that there were no micro-brewed India Pale Ales in the fridge, becoming skunked by the lack of cool air blowing across their quirky labels. I braced myself for the coming dark days, wherein my drinks of choice would have to be served without ice. At least I’d be drinking alone in the dark, like a true alky.
The freezer had its own share of shelves and racks filled with disappointment and regret. To be honest, by its very nature, the freezer was already littered with emotional landmines, with Zip-Locks of unrequited love and lost opportunities. A half-filled baggie of left-over wonton wrappers mocked me as I pulled it from the coated-wire shelf. Bags of frozen chicken lay in silent testimony to my lack of eventually getting my money’s worth from the family-sized packages I’d bought instead of the single serving ones. Unidentified frozen objects, no longer frozen, came into focus for what they were – forgotten, lost opportunities. Apparently candle light does not make everything look more romantic. The formerly frozen chunks of ginger were meant to make my cooking life easier, but were now mushy reminders of things I never got around to. The once-frozen ginger would have been less heart-wrenching to see, had I not thrown out a slightly fuzzy hand of ginger from the crisper drawer in the refrigerator side just minutes earlier.
Suddenly, it was over. With nothing left to toss out, I pulled out the shelves and washed them – feeling nearly as wrung out as the soapy dish towel I held. In an emotional haze, I dried the shelves and tried to put them back into the same slots they had originally occupied, though without the food to put back in, the precise locations were less than critical.
I stood back at last and checked my work. The doors were swung open to keep the inside from getting musty. In the dim light of the kitchen, it looked much newer than the ten year-old I knew it to be. Without a single thing in it, the fridge was a blank slate. I felt my spirits rising. If the power ever came back on, I could do it right this time, buying things that really mattered and avoiding the pitfalls which I’d just experienced.
Luckily I already know which part of the Asian market to go to to find the Malaysian Flavor-Paste.