Watching a horror movie about a giant vegetable devouring everyone in your hometown except your in-laws is one way to spend a quiet evening. Its quite another to become acquainted with the weird intruders that have invaded your home and nested very comfortably and rent-free in your refrigerator. They live a lush life among those of us who live alone, cook a lot and have many leftovers. My seven cats dont care for "human remains," and as I usually cook for twelve people at any given time, I often have much to store in my trusty, dusty fridge. It takes the same effort, same amount of pots and the same time as if I was cooking just for myself; so why not pretend theres a party? Sometimes I eat the leftovers the next night; sometimes the night after that. Other times, I just freeze them. (After all, you never know when the Army, Navy or Coast Guard may stop by for a snack.) Im no Boy Scout, but no one can say that I am not prepared!
One of the problems with leftovers is that after a day or two I forget they are there. They are only brought to my attention if I am searching for something in the fridge and I happen to fall upon something that looks a little strange or hear a little muffled cry from the wilds of the back shelf. If I feel brave, I unwrap the foil. I am always amazed that the smell alone has failed to notify me of its presence. How can I accept the fact that penicillin has already been discovered and that is not likely I will grow another miracle drug from the back shelves of my frigidaire?
I dont mean to do it; I really dont. Its almost as if one hand cooks and the other puts the uneaten food away. I cant say why I wait so long to clean things out either. Its a new and different sort of tunnel vision, except theres no tunnel. It goes something like this:
If I dont see it, its not there. If its not there, I dont have to clean it up!
About a month ago I was looking for a carrot in the vegetable drawer (It was either the vegetable drawer or a new and undiscovered rain forest.) and I found this shriveled greenish thing with flaccid appendages lying under the bag of carrots. It turned out to be a very old head of lettuce, but for a while there I was thinking about The Thing That Ate Cleveland and where he or she was living these days. It was squishy and yucky and I almost threw up when I threw it out. How could I be this way? Do I lead one, two or even three lives? If I do, at least two of them have to be inside the refrigerator!
Perhaps another obstacle lies in the fact that appearances are deceiving. The refrigerator always looks so clean from the outside. (My tunnel vision again.) Most of them are white as the driven snow, but even the other colors are always so shiny and sparkling. (Mine was white, but drifted, as Mae West once said. Now its black.) Why clean something that already is or at least looks like it is? The answer, alas, lies within. For it is there where the vegetation has gone awry but not away and the sandwiches converse with you as they did in that television commercial for orange juice a few years back. But that fridge is so clean. The shelves sparkle and shine and everythings so neat and organized that the food smiles back. One thing is certain. That refrigerator is not in my house!
Lets put our heads together and see if we can come up with some resolution. The first question has to be: How do you know when its time to clean out the refrigerator? It will let you know is the answer. Trust me on this, for I know little else. One clear indicator is when the door will not open or close easily. If you ignore that sign from the refrigerator deity, things will only get worse. Soon friends and neighbors will notice vegetation where there used to be enamel and porcelain. The huddled green masses now yearning to breathe free are not anywhere near The Statue of Liberty. They are reproducing in your kitchen!