Today, I decided to use a few extra moments at my parents’ house to check out their refrigerator. I do that from time to time to keep them from eating food that might kill them. I never know what I’m going to find, or whether it’s going to ooze out onto the kitchen floor under its own power. It worries me that Dad, who can’t see, won’t know the difference between a new tub of macaroni salad and one from, say, last August, until it is too late.
We could chalk it up to my mother’s dementia, but Rick and I can both remember looking in the fridge as kids and seeing cases of Tab and Fresca (remember Tab and Fresca?), but no milk. Tubes of slice-and-bake cookie dough, but crispers full of rotting vegetables. Deli drawers from which the safest bet was individually wrapped slices of “American cheese product,” because in my mother’s kitchen, preservatives are your allies and pasteurization is your friend.
After scanning for invasive species growing on the items on the main shelves, I turned my attention to the bottom shelf of the fridge door. (It’s a side-by-side model, and it’s been years since any effort was made to access things below hip level.)
Nothing I found was younger than 2007. The median expiration date was probably 2003. For those playing along at home, here’s what I threw out: a big bottle of Bloody Mary mix, two open jars of shrimp cocktail sauce, two open bottles of hot sauce, one jar of withered capers and another of rancid pine nuts, two open bottles of lemon juice and two of lime juice, and a near-empty bottle of balsamic vinegar. Dumping all that stuff down their garbage disposal was really, really satisfying. So satisfying that I don’t mind filling up my own recycling bins with the huge bag of jars and bottles I brought home.
It’s no mystery why, in my own home, I am pretty vigilant about what’s in the fridge and when it needs replacing. There are never two of the same thing open at the same time, and all the condiments are from the current decade. When we use something up, its replacement gets brought up from the pantry and it goes on the shopping list so the pantry item will be replaced. As long as people put things on the list, the system runs like clockwork. Sometimes they put olives on the list right after I’ve bought olives, just to plague me, because I hate olives. But other than that, clockwork.
Now please excuse me while I go check my pine nuts.