Pioneer Post – Becoming Our Parents

We have an old refrigerator. It’s not stainless steel, French door or bottom freezer but it has an icemaker I never hooked up because I am paranoid about hoses and connections springing leaks. Late at night, I hear this robot sound when it cycles. We fill the trays the old-fashioned way from the kitchen sink, dripping water on the floor.

On a REALLY boring day, before a foray to the grocery store, a quick reconnaissance of the depths of the fridge is required. This can be scary.

The initial exploration involves probing the freezer in an attempt to ascertain potential resources. This journey though poorly lit depths, extracts various zip locked bags.
Remember the mystery meat you used to eat in the cafeteria in high school or college? Chicken breasts, fish fillets (I think) and old packages of partially consumed bacon or breakfast sausage emerge. These items don’t have handy expiration dates stamped on them. If they can be identified, would they be palatable? I don’t want to know.

Then there are various ice cream containers. The Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra purchased for an intimate dinner party is now covered by a protective coating. The frosty patina is meant to preserve the flavorful bouquet of caramel and chocolate. The sorbet secured for more delicate tastes on the other hand, is a nice counterpoint to the heavily armored creation of the boys from Brooklyn. The veneer here also must be penetrated to serve.

The top two trays of ice cubes are usually in pretty good shape. They will chill the warmest Diet Coke or Pepsi Lite. The bottom tray holds dime sized chunks of ice ideal for cocktails for elves.

Various bread bags scattered among the debris are subjected to further exploration. We bake our own bread and when it is fresh, it is wonderful – no preservatives foul the whole-wheat taste. Unfortunately, if left on the counter too long during warm days, the bread becomes a manufacturing facility for developing antibiotics. In order to prevent this, these provisions take up residence in the freezer where they are buried. Months later, the warm, welcoming smells are long gone.

After excavating the overhead unit, it is time for a strategic tour of the beverage shelves and bins below. This is the most hazardous part of the mission.

Beer in the back of the fridge is not the good stuff. That takes up residence in front. The space in the rear is also the resting place for flat bottles of tonic water. Those gin and tonics were really good last summer weren’t they? They share space with partially frozen prune juice carafes. I mean, it is winter after all.

It is now time to rappel down to the lower bins. Taking the less hazardous route, shuffling and rearranging the fruit bin first, reveals some fresh, some slightly dehydrated and some unidentifiable produce that may have graced a chilled glass of lemonade. Time to pitch that!

A lateral sashay to the veggie bin reveals more desiccated occupants, along with flaccid celery, white rimed carrots and peppers and zucchinis with no backbone. My god it’s been a long time since I was down here! With this done, the grocery list can be updated and the next adventure in commodity purchasing undertaken.

Years ago, my wife and I undertook a similar foray when we decided to clean her parent’s big chest freezer in the basement. We sorted the various packages, laying them on the floor in the rec room, reclassified and tossed the unusable. At one point, we came across four or five Virginia Slims cigarettes tucked in amongst the standing rib roasts. Giggling, we extracted them from the frost at the bottom and concluded they were there, preserved in perpetuity in case there was a nuclear holocaust.

When I look at the stuff that emerges from our fridge now, my only conclusion is that we have become our parents. Who da thunk?

Author: Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

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