Despite the fact that Old Man Winter has been stalking some areas of our country, freezing the poor pansies and keeping northerners ensconced in wool, spring really has sprung.
In keeping with the season’s theme of rebirth, this is the time of year when we are supposed to experience renewal. For fortysomethings like me, this usually does not mean getting a chin lift or booking a trip to visit the Dalai Lama. Generally, the revival that we encounter comes in the form of, yep, you guessed it, Spring Cleaning.
But before I lift the couch cushions to reveal $3.96 in coins, two ballpoint pens, the DVD clicker we lost two moves ago, and a veritable snack mix of old popcorn, fuzzy gummy bears, stale peanuts and pulverized goldfish crackers….
Before I pull the bed away from the wall to discover a dust bunny large enough to knit into a size 12 cardigan sweater and a pair of knee socks….
Before I rummage through our closets to fill thrift store donation bags with flared jeans, Christmas pajamas, and those silly-looking shape up shoes….
Before all that, I really must tackle the most important job first: The Refrigerator.
Despite it’s perfect chill of 36 degrees Fahrenheit, I know there are food items lurking in the back that are no longer edible. These items were forgotten months ago, remaining hidden behind the OJ and the leftover pot roast.
In order to eliminate these phantoms of the fridge, it’s necessary to empty the whole thing out. I usually begin with the freezer. Hoping to find a forgotten casserole dish of coq au vin to cook for dinner, I usually end up with a dozen or so brownish bricks of unidentifiable meat encased in unlabeled storage bags.
When I threw them in the freezer, I thought the contents would be obvious, but thanks to a thick layer of frost, I can’t tell a turkey leg from a hamburger patty. After I reject the idea of licking each brick to determine the contents, I hedge my best guess, running the risk that I might end up inadvertently cooking Ham Hock Sloppy Joes or Rump Roast Noodle Soup.
Next, I clear out the small shelves on the refrigerator door. For some unknown reason, items such as jelly jars, bottles of dressing, containers of mustard, and jars of pickles tend breed and multiply here. I usually have to take a deep breath, and tell myself that the world will not implode if I throw out the almost empty jar of Apricot spread, or the bottle of Catalina dressing I used a quarter cup of for a recipe last summer.
Moving to the main refrigerator shelves, I like to keep an eye out for things that are so old, they could be mistaken for something else. For example, expired feta looks just like bleu cheese. Expired sour cream mimics small curd cottage cheese, but smells like dirty feet. And interestingly, expired apple juice that makes a “pffzzzt” sound when the cap is opened has the same effect as tequila when ingested.
After a quick poke in the lunchmeat drawer to remove any slippery slices of iridescent pastrami, I usually move on to the vegetable crispers. As anyone who has ever grabbed for a cucumber only to find a log of slimy mush knows, this area of the fridge can be a challenge to even the strongest constitution. Rusty lettuce, milky tomatoes, shriveled apples and blackened cauliflower florets are only a few of the delicacies waiting to trigger a gag reflex.
Once all the odiferous offenders have been removed from our refrigerator, I give it a good scrub with some disinfectant, pop open a fresh box of baking soda and head off to the commissary for replacement vittles. Considering that our military family budget does not include funds for cosmetic surgery or spiritual pilgrimages, a refreshed refrigerator is our best rendition of spring renewal.