Copyright 2002 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner


                                             Exploring the Arctic Wastelands

     The weather has been hot, and I've been using a lot of ice cubes.  This doesn't sound terribly exciting, but then again,
you haven't seen my refrigerator.  Opening the freezer door usually causes an avalanche of frozen baggies and boxes to start
sliding toward the floor, while I scramble madly to stop their plunge.  It's a chilling experience, but quite refreshing on a hot
day.

     Ordinary households have one, maybe two refrigerators, and some households have a freezer, too.  I'd guess that
almost everyone's fridge has a few mystery items and science projects in it, as well as those "condiments" that no one uses
but that have not yet gone bad, and so no one ever throws them out.  How can you tell when a jar of olives is no good
anymore?  But I have five, count 'em, five refrigerators, and a freezer, so my capacity for cooled clutter is much higher than
most people's.

     Granted, one of the fridges is the little "dorm cube" variety, belongs to my brother-in-law, and usually holds nothing but a
few beers and a soda or two.  Another is a tiny glass-sided display fridge, on semi-permanent loan from a friend's carry-out;
all it contains are a couple cans of pop, a few bottles of hubby's rarer home brews, and some stray bottles of beer left
behind by departing friends who didn't kill off the six-pack they brought with them when they came for dinner.  Then there's
the antique fridge a friend gave us, already tapped to hold a keg, that houses hubby's "ordinary" brew in a small keg, a
couple trays of ice cubes, and whatever temporary two-liters of pop we're using downstairs of a given evening.

     The freezer is also downstairs, and therefore not particularly handy to use.  It's holding ice packs for some coolers and
gallon milk jugs full of water that act as thermal mass so the freezer doesn't have to work hard, that would come in handy in
case of a power outage or a water boil advisory, and that hubby uses as giant ice cubes when he's cooling a freshly brewed
batch of beer before pitching the yeast into it.  I think there's a couple cans of orange juice concentrate and a box of cocktail
weiners in barbecue sauce down there, too; it's been a while since I checked.  I should use the downstairs freezer to store
some of the long-term items from the freezers of the upstairs refrigerators, but somehow I never get around to making the
transfer, and that's why I create an avalanche any time I need an ice cube.

     The Red Room fridge isn't too bad, because that's our theater room and I don't actually cook there.  A keg of home
brew, its CO-2 tank, two bottles of beer, several bottles of pop, mixers, and water, a partial bottle of homemade wine and
two dispenser boxes of the commercial stuff (a red and a white) are pretty much all that it contains, except for two stray
bottles of mustard, a shaker of parmesan cheese, one bottle each of soy sauce, hot sauce, and balsamic vinegar, and a
container each of fruit dip and veggie dip, all refugees from several meals and munches that never made it back to the front
fridge.

     The Red Room freezer provides overflow space for stuff that won't fit in the main kitchen freezer, and, as such, is
actually better organized, because we tend to use that stuff first, if only because it's easier to find.  Ice cubes, a sports gel
pack, and frosted mugs are par for the course.  Several bags of frozen vegetables, a pot pie and frozen fish will all get used
as soon as the weather cools down a bit, and the hot pockets will be gone by next week.  Granted, the raft of smoked
salmon and the bag of cocktail shrimp have been in there a while, and who knows how old the carton of lemonade mix is?  
But the two Cool Whip containers, heavily frosted, contain "stock" of unknown vintage, that I plan to use for soup during the
winter, and the three small plastic bags of shrimp tails are part of a collection I'm working on; when I have enough, I'll make
a shrimp stock to use for bisque.  I'm planning on it, you betcha.  And, as of last night, there's a partial box of ice cream, that
we'll use for root beer floats.

     As one might expect, the main kitchen fridge and freezer are the worst of the lot, if only because they are the most handy
to where I cook.  A quick scan of the fridge revealed eleven kinds of hot sauce, seven bottles of assorted soy, barbecue,
marinade, and terriyaki, six mustards, eight salad dressings, ten relishes and pickles, seven miscellaneous bean pastes, curry,
and horseradish, seven syrups or jams, two jars of maraschino cheries, eight bottles of beer, two bottles of wine, three kinds
of vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, and one jar each of capers, pesto, and artichoke hearts.  Add all that to the usual
margerine, cream cheese, butter, milk, eggs, lunchmeat, cheese, leftover tomato and onion slices, baked potatoes, roast
beef, sour cream, tortillas, and pet food, and you'd think it's pretty crowded in there, at least until you looked in the freezer.

     I'm not going to look in the freezer; I don't have the energy to dig through it right now.  I know there's a box of Bisquick,
a bag of flour, and a carton of oatmeal in there; I keep freeze them, along with the imported paprika, so they don't sprout
moths when I forget them in the back of the pantry cupboard.  There's half a dozen sorts of home grown hot peppers and
other bags of vegetables, a loaf of garlic bread, sausage, ham hocks, biscuits, waffles, fruit slices, juice mixes, hamburgers,
ice packs, and ice cubes.  There's a bagel that I found a staple in when I cut into it, and meant to take back to the store (that
was a few years ago, and I really should just pitch it!)  There are bags of shrimp tails that haven't made it to the other
freezer, and bags of bacon rinds that I use for extra flavoring in this and that.  There's a lot of stuff in my freezer, but it would
all fit nicely if it weren't for the bones.

     I have bones in my freezer, bags and bags of bones.  Chicken bones, mostly, but pork bones, ham bones, and beef
bones, too.  We have pets, so I never threw bones into the trash where the animals could dig them out, but froze them until
trash day.  Then I saw a cooking show about how to make stock from bones and vegetable trimmings, so I started boiling
the bones and making stock before I threw them out.  Right now, I probably have enough stock in the freezer to last until
2007.  Then I noticed that boiled chicken bones are soft enough to grind up in an old crank-style meat grinder, so after I
make stock I grind the bones, add stale cracker or bread crumbs and an egg or two, and make dog biscuits.  Dogs really
like these biscuits, but the weather has been too hot to make them, and my freezer has filled up with bags of bones that
cause avalanches when I go to get an ice cube.

     A good but domestically impaired friend of mine has been after me for years to come visit her and clean out her fridge;
she doesn't have the time or the inclination to do so, and its so full, it makes mine look like Mother Hubbard's cupboard.  
Just a week ago I got rid of a whole grocery bag full of leftovers that had been left over for too long (I'd been to several
parties, and my hosts had been overly enthusiastic about how much they sent home with me), but as I write this there's still
some cantaloupe and cole slaw that should just go away.  You can laugh, but at this very moment, your fridge probably has
a few unknown substances and containers that you're afraid to open in it, too.  It's hard to throw food away, even if you
don't want to eat it, but every so often we need to bite the bullet and clean the fridge, even if it means exploring the arctic
wastelands.