Day 1 Task: Declutter and purge fridge and freezer, clean.
So, this task made me cry. Was it the scary, scary cucumber I found at the bottom of the veggie drawer? The massive number of jars, some with dubious origins? Was it the nearly full bottle of expensive umeboshi plum vinegar silently mocking my failure to go macro or whatever that was? No. I cried because the last time I cleaned the fridge was the day my mom died.
Two years ago, my father called at midnight and I raced to the hospital with my sister to be with my family. I sped through the busiest part of town, suddenly sober even though I had been drinking wine with my sister an hour earlier. The streets were empty in the middle of the night, but I wondered why I wasn't getting pulled over. Where were the police? Wasn't this dangerous? Didn't they know my mom was sick?
We were by Mom's side when she died a few hours later. After what seemed like a lot of waiting and a poignantly awkward prayer with the young hospital chaplain, I went home and begged for sleep. Impossible, of course. The sun started to rise and the work began. I knew that by lunchtime, people would bring things — food, drinks, paper products, love and company — and my fridge was a mess.
I cleaned it because I had to, purging and scrubbing to quiet my thoughts, desperate for a purpose. By noon, the fridge was full and we were borrowing coolers. I cleaned bathrooms and made my bed, because there would be guests for days. Two days later, there were around 300 people in our home, coming and going for a few hours of visitation, at least ten of them working to keep things organized in the kitchen. Those are the friends you don't recognize until later, when you marvel at how smoothly things went, how many people ate and drank and how clean the kitchen was when they were all gone. When the house was quiet, I knew what friendship was and it kept me from feeling alone. When I was at my worst, they were at their absolute best.
Anyhow, it was high time to clean the fridge again. Two years is long enough to wallow. (And my mother would hate that I waited that long. She was not one to wallow.) Luckily, I took care of the freezer last week, before I agreed to liveblog The Kitchn Cure. After removing everything, including the shelves and drawers, I scrubbed the inside of the fridge until it looked like new. (Note to Self: Must remind kids and husband that they should tell me as soon as they spill something, so I can make sure they clean it. These unidentifiable, sticky, crusty things are way grosser two months later.)
I threw away some things, consolidated others and composted the inedible cucumber, along with a few other questionable fruits and veggies. I sliced radishes to make them easier to grab and go, and wiped off all the condiment jars to prevent new sticky messes. I realized I keep way too much wine in the fridge and promised to drink it all, at an appropriate pace, without replacing it.
I called Kenmore and ordered a new crisper drawer ($111.38, ours has been cracked for a while, because I kept wine in it), air filters for the fridge and freezer ($56.96) and two products the helpful sales rep recommended — an ice deodorizer ($13.64) and some sort of cleaning brush for the coils ($6.35), which I'll probably use at least once. I declined her offer of a free home siding consultation, though she seemed really nice and her kind voice made me feel better. (I suspect she is the sort of person who brings sandwiches or jugs of ice tea when her friends have a death in the family. She was from Alabama.)
It only took an hour, including the crying, composting and Kenmore calling. I will need ten more minutes to harangue my family about appreciating my hard work and keeping the now pristine fridge and freezer clean. This is a great start to The Kitchn Cure and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, or at least removed from my fridge. I'm feeling pretty fearless about the pantry!
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(Images: Anne Postic)