Friday, January 04, 2008

Piscining the 'Fridge

Tabasco does last forever, doesn't it?

I laughed like a banshee when Mother informed me
over the phone nearly three weeks ago that she was "clearing out the kitchen" instead of "cleaning up the kitchen". In retrospect, I see that her slip of the tongue planted a seed in my mind. Nearly all of the work of giving the fridge and pantry a full style clearing is in the inspiration, n'est ce pas?

Repeat the mantra: I have a will of steel. Reading the recent article on clutter and health in the New York Times the other day, I realize I have a problem with food clutter, and perhaps it is affecting me, affecting my food karma. I have a problem. This problem is related to my attaching symbolic meaning to food items.

While some people see that two year old unmarked jar containing something close to primal sludge as garbage, I fondly see it as that beautiful evening's successful batch of caramel sauce made with salted butter. While some people see the forest of two full shelves crammed with jars of pickles, sauces, pestos and home preserves with unknown expiry dates as a health hazard, I see that jelly we bought in the Alps, our trip to the food fair in Paris, this gift, that one, the time our friends came and we made those onion preserves, etc.

In other words, I count them as evidence. Evidence that we have lived. I fully acknowledge that I will not ever open these half filled jars, for fear of setting off the next Ebola outbreak. I do know they aren't safe. Facing this logic is the first step in taking care of it.

Today I was on the phone to Fran and said that it would probably take me about 12 minutes to completely clear out the fridge to start anew, what seemed to be the problem? In her girlfriend kind of way, she quietly supported me. "I know it's not easy."

This afternoon, a large garbage bag rolled out before me like a magic carpet. I closed my eyes. The pickle jars cried the loudest. "We never spoil!" they screamed as I pitched them, juice and all, some just jars filled with juice. I didn't even check expiry dates. It had to be all or nothing. A sexy long forgotten jar of salicorne, pickled seaweed from the coast of Brittany, gave me a mournful look as she slid into the sack with the rest. The jellies were easier. Less safe, easier to justify. Oyster sauce and an unknown bottle of small pills were almost effortless. I drew the line at the Tabasco and Sriracha. These things do last forever. Right? When I was done, the sack was too heavy for me to lift. Loic was not going to like this. I had to get it out of the house before he had a chance to ask questions. I just felt like he would be better off spared from the gory details.

I managed to get the laden sack onto the kitchen mat just in case it might leak. I dragged it on the mat through the house to the door. It felt strangely criminal. I wasn't recycling the jars, maybe I should save them. No. I dragged the load into the lift. The jaw-like doors of the French elevator mercilessly closed behind me. On to the bins. In the darkened marble hallway, I gave the lot a big heave and it slid into the bin with a thud. Done. I shook out the mat and went back upstairs.

"It smells piscine here" said Loic, when he came in. This means in Loic-speak that it smells like a swimming pool. Ah, that would be the shelves I soaked in a mild bleach solution before scubbing them. "I piscined the fridge, honey." "Ah bon? What's for dinner?" No questions.



Blogger Wendy said...

Well done you. I'm feeling very guilty thinking about my own cupboards now...

9:13 PM, January 05, 2008  
Blogger Tace said...

This is a sign isn't it? I've been toying with the idea of cleaning my fridge for a while now but so far I've been more toying then doing. If I didn't think about it then I could pretend it didn't need a good clearing...but here you are...making me feel guilty...HAHA So I shall take this as a sign and proceed onwards into the great unknown aka the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.
Thanks for the chuckle!

12:57 AM, January 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Tabasco will get dark and concentrate, yet still be o.k.- my frugal step mother had several bottles she rescued from her brother's house when he passed away. I am sure they were already well aged, and she has had them for 10 since then. Do you feel cleansed?

3:22 AM, January 06, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear Wendy, I hope that you won't take on anything like this until your broken ribs are healed!

Tace, it is a sign... The drawer at the bottom is supremely satisfying - it's the best part. Have fun!

Anonymous, Partially cleansed, I think. I feel like I've taken a step in the right direction. Now to tackle the doo dads.

11:55 AM, January 06, 2008  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

Of course Tabasco lasts forever,,, and all those use be dates are just a guideline. I mean, I once saw a drink by date on a bottle of water!?!?!
That said, I really need to get rid of the stuff with use by dates older than 2007..or maybe 2006. Today is a good day = garbage pick-up in the morning.

9:46 PM, January 06, 2008  
Blogger Lori said...

I, for one, think you have chosen a wonderful way to begin the new year. The best thing about cleaning out the fridge is how fast it goes when one is in the right frame of mind. The downside is the energy I waste opening the door every hour for the rest of the day to admire my handiwork... :-)

5:42 PM, January 08, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

How inspiring! My fridge will not be a problem, but my freezer and yarn stash will be. Kudos for having the courage to write about it!

5:53 PM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger Klary Koopmans said...

I'm putting off cleaning out fridge & kitchen until we move next month.. it's sooooo hard to throw away al those little bottles and jars, and just like you, I look on them as souvenirs, not health hazards!

11:35 AM, January 13, 2008  
Blogger Tace said...

You were right, the drawer at the bottom was the best part...because it was the last. But I couldn't help but cackle to myself as I scrubbed away...because of your reminder to tidy up the fridge the job was waaaay easier then if I'd left it another few months (cough cough or year). haha

12:13 AM, January 18, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I clean it out twice a year...after the winter holidays and just before school teaching begins in the fall...what better way to have room to squirrel new treasures away! Yum!

5:53 AM, January 18, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't clean out my fridge before going to spend a week in Lyon to be with my husband who was having brain surgery. Opps mother in law and brother in law invade to take care of our kids. My brother in law took it upon himself to reorganize...needless to say all the bottles of various condiments, jellies, purple mustards from brive have been discarded. I have also since been advised that yogurts belong on the top shelf, meats in the middle and veggies on the bottom for the proper circulation of air in the refridgerator. I wish I had done it myself. But have to laugh at your post as we seem to have the same problem. Will be coming to Lyon again in 8 weeks for the next operation. Maybe I'll bump into you at the market.

10:26 PM, February 13, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Oh no, not the purple mustards!

11:30 PM, February 13, 2008  

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