Yesterday I squared my shoulders and flung the fridge doors wide. It was time to face the ugly battle. That’s right: Armageddon’s got nothing on a funky taco salad.
(Side note: If Widdle and I ate all the food in our fridge, freezer and pantry before buying more, we wouldn’t go to the store for a month, maybe longer. Sure, we might end up eating grape jelly on fish sticks, but you get my point.)
Anyway, I’m bad about cleaning the fridge because, as many of you know, I hate to housekeep. I have no knack for it. I’m not slovenly—you won’t find a book, shoe or picture out of place in our house—but I am…. unaware. It does not occur to me to dust the blinds and baseboards now and then, until Widdle says, “How about dusting the blinds and baseboards now and then?”
Nor does it occur to me that the fridge should be cleaned, until I stroll in the kitchen and actually see, say, maple syrup dripping out of it. (I also didn’t know fresh chicken had an expiration date until—my hand to God—I was 26 years old. It’s a wonder my ex-husband lived to divorce me.)
Widdle helpfully points out neglected tasks, and sometimes leaves pithy notes on the dining room table. Well, in the dust on the dining room table.
But I digress. When it comes to cleaning, let’s just say I grimly plug away, if only because it makes my husband happy. I do my best.
Back to the fridge: It’s crammed to the gills with leftovers, vegetables, fruit, coconut milk, eggs, iced tea, fruit juice, butter, bacon, yogurt, sauces and condiments. Shelves and shelves of condiments. How much horseradish do two people need (when one of them doesn’t even eat horseradish)?
Then there’s what I privately think of as the ethnic corner. That’s where you’ll find ginger dressing, tahini, duck sauce, Italian and French salad dressings and a large bottle of teriyaki sauce. We have never, not once in eight years, cooked anything using teriyaki sauce. Which makes it doubly suspicious that the seal is broken and roughly a quarter-cup is missing. Is Widdle secretly spicing my food with sodium?
No time to worry: I begin pulling out bottles, containers, jars, plates and jugs, stacking everything on the washer and dryer. Then I throw half of it away because it’s either expired (see delayed awareness of the concept, above), dried-out, discolored or involuntarily moving (see funky taco salad, above).
Next I fill a basin with water and detergent and attack the sticky shelves on the door. This takes about 20 minutes. Then I remove all the interior shelves, scrub them in the sink, rinse, dry and replace them in the fridge. This takes about 30 minutes. After that, I remove the vegetable crispers and clean them in the sink. This takes about 15 minutes. By this time I’m jittery about everything that’s been sitting at room temperature for the past hour. What if it spoils and we both get ptomaine poisoning? That would be delicious irony.
Finally, the job is done. I carefully return all items to the fridge. It’s a lot less full than it was—but sparkling clean! I feel very proud. Until Widdle comes home and says, “Looks great! What about the freezer?”
You know I’m going to jump on that tomorrow. Along with the baseboards.
Julie R. Smith, who thinks if God wanted us to live in spotless houses, He wouldn’t have created grime, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.