A lot of our life as a family evolves around the refrigerator. I don’t know what we used to do before this miraculous contraception. As far as I can remember, we always had one of the white heavy boxes in a corner of the kitchen. I remember that they used to be small once, maybe waist high (the perfect size for an inquisitive 8 year old that could finally open the door). Through the years, they morphed into the big monstrosities of today, chock-full of nooks, compartments of specific temperatures and space for anything you could think of to stuff in there. Furthermore, fridges now sport water and ice-makers, tv-s, sound systems etc.
I am still waiting for the one that will come with a vibrator. or maybe that will be the washing machine. I just imagine my father’s face as he considers the “son-in-law” and offers him a cold one. (if you don’t know this joke, you need to track down your 7th grade cousin and make him tell it to you.)
The one thing that has stayed constant through the years, is the stuff crammed inside this cool temple of goodness. As far as I can remember, our refrigerator has been crammed with different food items, leftovers, drinks and as the years advanced, assorted items like Mylanta, sheer stockings and empty containers which drive my mom up the wall. She does not understand why there is only one pickled pepper in a two pound plastic container, when whoever took the rest could just as easy transfer it in one of the cute little containers she bought at the Korean supermarket.
Another pet peeve of hers is the open fridge door. According to my mom, all calamities in the house come because our fridge door gets more traffic that the subway turnstiles. She’s threatened to put a coin machine to operate it. I am one of the worst offenders. My head is most often inside the fridge than outside of it, sifting for interesting munchies through leftover stews, frozen chicken nuggets, seaweed salad from three weeks ago, kimchi, chocolate, pickled eggplant, red beet salad, leftover pasta, two corn ears, feta cheese, pickled ginger root, bread, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
Whenever she sees me headed for the kitchen, she follows at a discreet distance and then tactfully reminds me to close the door, because power is a-wasting and the meat cannot freeze. Even though the freezer compartment opens separately. Sometimes I humor her and tell her I am closing it right away. I know she is listening for the closing noise. I try to be quiet but she always knows how long the fridge stays open. She keeps her ears primped and possibly recognizes everything I take out by the noise. When her direct approach does not work, mom tries the roundabout way.
“Sweetie, there is pasta and fish from yesterday. Eat it before it goes bad. It is on the third shelf to the right. the blue container. And close the fridge door.”
However, my father is fridge enemy #1. That conversation goes like this usually:
“Don’t keep the fridge door open too long.”
“Actually, close it now or it will break.”
“I am not done looking yet.”
“What are you looking at? You know everything there by heart.”
“So? A man can keep his fridge door open if he wants to.”
“Yes, because I am the one cleaning it not you. The food spoils, the fridge works harder to replace the cold, the door gets loose, the…”
The fridge door closes and my dad goes to sulk in front of the computer. Marriage at its best.
The fridge war is also fought on another front, the positioning. As I mentioned above, we are different adults with different tastes. I buy food because I like their shapes and the names are exotic. And then abandon the containers in the fridge. My mom can’t throw them out because maybe three months from now I will get a hanker for pickled squid and will sulk in front of the computer if I don’t find it. So she puts them in the deepest corners of the fridge, together with the feta cheese and olives which she is trying to hide from us ravenous beasts. She leaves the rice in the front though, together with the beans and yesterday’s chicken.
The rest of the family members fill it with leftovers from different restaurants mom will throw away in another week because none of them remembers what they bring in. My four year old nephew, the last in a long line of repeat offenders, has taken to keeping the fridge door open while he fills his own sippy cup with water, more often than not spilling it on top of the multi-colored and multi-shaped containers. At least, he takes after our side of the family,