By KIM POINDEXTER
Regardless of who does the cooking in any household, I’m of the opinion that the husband always has the most intimate relationship with the kitchen refrigerator.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with the “Dagwood sandwich,” either. Most men can rummage around in the fridge and come up with the accouterments for a sandwich – even the namesake comic strip character, who never seemed to lift a finger that didn’t involve a knife in a mayonnaise jar.
I’m talking here not about what husbands take out of a refrigerator, but what they put into it. These are the things that often move in permanently – things that, like in-laws, often start stinking when they’ve overstayed their welcome. Things that occasionally grow a life of their own and go “bump” in the night.
My husband is a pickle fan. In our home, the noun “pickle” is not confined to culinary items that start their life as a cucumber. He also likes pickled beets, pickled okra, pickled garlic, pickled asparagus, pickled broccoli and cauliflower, pickled eggs, pickled pigs’ feet, and most of all, pickled peppers. In the pepper department, we must also have every type known to humankind: jalapeño, banana, chili, serrano, habañero, cherry, and as of late, peppadew. If possible, the peppers should be broken down according to spice level: sweet, medium, and hot.
I believe I can safely say we have, at this writing, about two dozen jars of various peppers in our fridge. Pigs’ feet, I’m happy to report, are not among the current offerings. Some of the jars have twins living in other parts of the fridge. This usually happens when Chris forgets he has a particular jar of peppers, purchases a new one, consumes part of the contents, and then puts the rest in the fridge – not realizing that a forlorn container of like-minded peppers has, over time, been consigned to the slums in the back. Only a blanket of mold will get the back jars a plot in the garbage-can cemetery. It takes a long time for mold to develop in a jar of hot peppers, but in our home, it has happened often.
My husband also collects sauces – mainly hot, but sometimes sweet. He may have started with the staple of Tabasco, but he rapidly expanded his entourage. We have as many bottles of sauce as we do peppers, but most of these are in the door of the fridge, which probably explains why the door lists like a leaky boat when you open it.
The pepper parade and sauce assembly have a decided down-side: There’s precious little room for anything else in the fridge. Every excursion to Reasor’s has to be tempered by the knowledge that if the perishable tally constitutes a volume much bigger than a breadbox, a dilemma will ensue. This is partially solved by the customary stacking and cramming, which substantially shortens the shelf life of anything on the bottom berth.
There’s also a problem with the fruit and veggie keepers. Fresh peppers – not the pickled kind – tend to camp out there. The other day, I noticed a 2-pound bag of Anaheims, the purchase of which I had not sanctioned. My husband also loads up on fruit every time Reasor’s has a sale, so may bring home a bag containing eight or nine peaches, a caboodle of cherries, or a passel of plums. But he often forgets about these until they have become waxed soft, fuzzy, blue and oozing. I object on the grounds that fresh fruit, even on sale, is too expensive to waste, but as is the case with wives since time out of mind, I’m rarely listened to. Another keeper conundrum: The Italian parsley always winds up in the basement, under the bag of peaches, which substantially shortens the already-meager lifespan of this tender herb.
Ultimately, because our fridge is so crammed full of stuff – both edibles and anything-buts – we can’t pinpoint the culprit when something goes bad enough to emit an unsavory odor. At the moment, there’s a decidedly unpleasant smell that wafts from the freezer every time I open the door – which wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t eventually permeate the water in the automatic ice-maker. Foul-flavored ice is not conducive to a tasty drink, even if alcohol is factored in. At this point, we suspect a tiny bit of liquid from some trout may have leaked out and wreaked havoc during the auto-defrost cycle.
I’m glad my son isn’t a regular reader of my column. If he knew the chore we have lined up for him when he arrives for the weekend, he might just stay in Norman.
Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.