There comes a time in the life of every epicurean enthusiast when they must tackle the dreaded task of cleaning out the fridge. It’s a bit like uncovering buried treasure. Really, really unpleasant buried treasure.
Many things in the fridge will quickly and efficiently alert me when their time has come. They’ll smell bad, or turn funny colors or in some way come to my attention with an urgent message of, “Hey – throw me out. No really, it’s time.” Lettuce, for example, possesses a very strident and insistent ability to voice its imminent demise.
Other items, however, are subtle enough to miss. Take pickles. They lurk innocently on the middle shelf of my cold box, carefully sealed and contained inside a glass jar and hidden far back from the front so that the growth of scary pickle-fuzz can go unchecked for an alarmingly long period of time.
Likewise in the pantry, there are sealed cans and boxes of things such as bread crumbs, soup or couscous that appear perfectly fine right up until the moment I pick them up and squint at the expiration date that’s fading from age on the side of an otherwise normal looking package. I am apparently in need of one of those smart kitchens where everything is micro chipped and the kitchen CPU sends a text to my phone when the package of dry navy beans I procured with the intention of making soup is about to petrify.
Regardless, today was cleanout day. I knew it had been coming for a while. I have in particular been eyeing that mysterious and half hidden shelf in the fridge that contains items like jelly for quite some time with a growing sense of suspicion.
Ted and I tackled it together: me planted on a stool in front of the chill chest and he at the sink, running interference between the garbage disposal and an increasingly overflowing trash can.
I pride myself on having, at any given time, a fairly good working knowledge of what ingredients are available in my kitchen and awaiting their turn at being food. Which is why it was such an absolute horror to me to find so much that I’d utterly forgotten was there. The big winner (or loser?) was a can of soup which had expired in 2004. Since Ted and I purchased our house close to that date, this means that I must have packed up and moved this can from my old apartment into the new place – and in all this time still managed never to consider eating it. I also remain mystified as to how I managed to obtain three separate boxes of expired corn starch when I do not (except on very rare occasions) ever bake anything.
I hate throwing away food, I absolutely hate it. People in this bountiful country go hungry each and every day and my own family (although financially stable) doesn’t have spare cash to throw away or waste. Spoiled food to me is just that – throwing away money.
These things are embarrassing to admit, but before everyone swears off ever eating at my house again – no, I am not one of those terrifying food hoarders you see on TV with a fridge full of molding items. When I notice an expiration date I throw away promptly and yes I keep my fridge and pantry free of dust and sticky food debris – it’s simply that I’ve apparently been failing to notice the dates on far too many things.
Also, I obviously have had way too much food in my possession, more than I can eat before it goes bad. This is, in my opinion, inexcusable.
When Ted and I were finished the grim task our pantry and fridge looked immaculate. Neatly organized and free of a single thing that wasn’t fit and ready for immediate transformation and consumption. At first glance the cupboards look a bit bare – but considering my goal to eat more fresh and less processed and not to waste any bites, I think being on the bare side is a good thing. If I need to make more weekly stops at the market to obtain items for that night’s dinner then all the better for it.
Today, it feels good to say that with regards to my kitchen we can safely eat all the things.