I have a good friend who used to be a midwife.
While soon-to-be birthing mothers were waiting for the contractions to quicken, she’d clean out their refrigerator. It was therapeutic for her somehow. Out went the expired salad dressing, gone were the truly dried (more like petrified) dried apricots. Perhaps they’d make a good teething chew one day, but they went into the trash, along with the fridge experiments. Then she’d clean the entire thing and leave it sparkling.
I’d like to think that I don’t go quite that far. But perhaps I take it further. I make the fridge owner stand witness to my rampage.
About every two years I find myself standing in front of my mother’s fridge in my “childhood” home, if it could be called that. I lived here through two years of high school and for a couple of months before moving to Rochester in 2000.
Not only do I make her watch, I quiz her on the approximate age, purchaser and nature of the contents.
This time we found one prime example of a fridge experiment, a true, “we’ll leave it there until it grows.” Neither party could ascertain what it was — some sort of very moldy liquid substance in an old margarine tub. (Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure it was in the fridge the last time I was here – Christmas 1999 – and my mum refused to let me throw it out then, insisting she’d use it.)
I’m generally not one for excessive legislation and government intervention. But, along with the nutritional information and ingredients, my fridge cleaning experience has caused me to strongly favour EVERYTHING having some kind of sell by or use by date (including the year, otherwise it could still be anyone’s guess).
Some would argue that some items, like ketchup, never expire. But when you turn a bottle of Caesar dressing upside down and nothing movies, it’s time for it to be tossed.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to clean my mum’s fridge when I visit. She doesn’t clean mine or hoover the floors when she comes up to Rochester to see me. Perhaps it’s the satisfaction that comes with announcing an expiry date on an item from the previous century. She gets this baffled, I-have-no-way-to-refute-the-wisdom-of-throwing-that-away look on her face that makes it worth while to be in South Florida.
While she still resists, she is learning.
Tonight, back from Publix (the grocery store) with bags and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables (most of which will be turned into juice) and no room to fit them in the fridge, she was much more receptive to my therapeutic ministrations.
“Just throw it all out. I don’t care. I don’t even know what’s in there,” was the tone of the cleaning event. Defeat more than acceptance, perhaps. But out it went.
One group of items stayed, however. The jam collection. I have never seen such an extensive assortment of fruit preserves anywhere, except perhaps the Pittsford Plaza Wegmans. Blueberry preserves, damson plum jam, blackberry apple, marmalade — some homemade, some brands: Bonne Maman, Four Seasons. And she doesn’t even eat jam anymore, she says.
Also impressive was her selection of chocolate — from Belgian truffles to Cadbury’s roasted almond milk chocolate and the Godiva dark chocolate Easter bunny (half-eaten) and companion milk chocolate Easter chick (still wrapped) that I sent her in Easter 2001. Chocolate, fortunately, is practically immortal in the fridge.