Pitzer column: The big chill
By Sara Pitzer
The big chill
This time of year I can’t avoid refrigerator overflow, that point where I can’t put in anything more until I take something out.
I clean out my refrigerator about once a year, whether it needs it or not.
That last part is a joke. My refrigerator needs cleaning again about a week after the first effort. I know not everybody has this problem. I once visited the home of a friend who had only two hotdogs and a bottle of champagne in his refrigerator.
One reason my ice box (as I grew up calling it) fills up so fast is that I don’t like to eat the same thing several days in a row. I know people who make a pot of chili or a pan of lasagna or a kettle of soup and eat that the rest of the week, but my taste buds won’t have it. Consequently, I accumulate containers of everything that can’t be produced in small quantities.
The other thing is that I’m obsessive about having on hand any ingredient I might want, so I pick up an extra dozen eggs, maybe a block of Irish butter when I see it, all kinds of cheese, every oil ranging from avocado to walnut, fresh vegetables, fruit, and extras like pickles, six or seven different hot pepper sauces, and several kinds of mustard.
Goo accumulates on the shelves and the inside door.
My most recent cleaning took me four hours.
First, I removed everything from the refrigerator, setting bottles and jars on the floor when I ran out of counter space. Then I went through the stuff deciding what to keep and what to pitch. Some choices were easy. I didn’t want the jar half full of marble-sized green things growing gray fur. They turned out to be ripe green olives from California. Didn’t keep the white stuff growing its own pink blanket either.
Away with the mushy brown celery stalk, the withered carrot, the wilted zucchini and the lemon with soft black spots on the skin.
Let me observe, at this point, that part of the problem is the dumb design of refrigerators. They’re deep, front to back, so things get pushed to the rear where you can’t see them. It would be better to have a more shallow structure, wider from side to side, so one could see everything in there. Not only that, you have to take the icebox apart to clean it well, and that’s not as simple as it was back in the days of a few metal racks in the main body and one or two simple holders on the door. Now the components are plastic, there are many of them, and they latch together in ways that are not intuitively obvious even to the most determined cleaner.
As careful as I tried to be, I had trouble getting everything back together. And when I was done, there was one part left over. I couldn’t find anyplace to put it, so I’m saving it for the next time when it might be useful if I come up a couple pieces short.
It reminds me of an old cartoon. A woman is standing in front of her fridge with a mop, going at a big puddle, saying to her husband, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m defrosting the refrigerator.”
So, if you see me with pieces of metal and plastic that look like a broken erector set ó I’m cleaning the refrigerator.