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Thursday, 01 December 2011

Refrigerator Memories

By Barbara Sloan

The other day I was asked, “How often do you clean your refrigerator?” I wanted to say, “None of your business!” but I thought that would be rude. Instead I said, “Whenever it needs to be cleaned.”

Someone once said that the reason refrigerators were invented was to have a place to store your leftovers until they spoiled. My refrigerator would qualify.

Questions I ask myself to determine when it needs to be cleaned include:

Is there room left to store more leftovers?

How long can I stand looking at the white circle under the cardboard box of milk when I take out the box of milk for my morning cereal?

Are there other spills and dried on food that didn’t get completely cleaned up when the spill happened?

Are there crumbs on the shelves??????”

Given this background, I ask myself, “Am I just too lazy?” My answer is, “No, there are too many more things that would be more fun and interesting than cleaning the refrigerator. It can wait one more day when I have nothing to do.”

An honest answer would be, “I HATE CLEANING REFRIGERATORS.”

Today, is the day!! My guilt and aversion to mold has overcome my hate of the job.

I begin the job by taking everything out of the pockets in the doors. There were two items that brought back memories. The first item was the three bottles of maple syrup stored in the door waiting for the next time we have pancakes. One was Aunt Jemima’s Original. The second was Aunt Jemima’s sugar-free.

The third, my favorite, was REAL maple syrup from a sugar bush here in Michigan. The other two were for the kids and grandkids who grew up on Aunt Jemima’s or were dieting or had Stage 2 Diabetes.

EVERYONE ELSE IN OUR FAMILY used one of the first two when grandpa fixes pancakes for a Sunday breakfast get-together. I grew up with REAL maple syrup.

Every spring my Dad would arrive home with a quart of the treat. Everyone in my family loved that maple syrup. I don’t think Aunt Jemima’s had been invented yet.

The only cold cereal at the time was Wheaties, more expensive than the simple pancakes we expected for breakfast. Of course my mother made them from scratch. We all liked the special treat of REAL maple syrup because our usual topping was the much cheaper dark corn syrup or molasses, not nearly as sweet or tasty as the REAL thing.

The second item in the door that brought back memories was the box of butter. I refuse to buy oleo just because my grandchildren grew up on it. At one time it was thought to be more healthy than butter. It has always been cheaper.

We lived in the country on a small farm. Most farmers, including us, kept a few cows and chickens to provide their own milk and eggs. My mother belonged to the extension club sponsored by a local agricultural college. One of their missions was to promote pasteurization in the rural areas. I was probably eight years old when I heard my parents discussing the issue of pasturing our milk before it was used.

My mother attended Extension Meetings each month. These meetings were sponsored by the government and produced by state land grant colleges for persons in rural areas. She came home from the next meeting which was titled: “Make Your Milk Safe.” I heard her tell my dad, “That’s not so hard. I think I will begin doing our own pasteurizing.“

My dad brought in about half a pail of milk after chores, one of which was milking our old Jersey cow. The following morning my mother heated the raw milk on the stove to a certain temperature for a certain length of time. When the milk cooled, the cream still came to the top.

We collected the cream and later churned it by hand. I am sure one can find the how-to details of this activity in a Fox Fire book. Better yet, some readers will remember making butter when they were young.

Fortunately, the government took a proactive approach to preserve the farmer’s ability to use the food they produced by educating them on how to protect their health through pasteurizing their own milk. Can’t help but wonder how the government would handle such a health issue today.

I must get back to cleaning my refrigerator. I have only taken the items out of the pockets in the door. I wonder what other memories are lurking on the shelves.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


One day,out of the clear blue sky, my husband came into our den while I was watching Judge Judy and casually asked me," Hey, Nance,do you like olives?"

"Oh, they're OK. I can take them or leave them",I answered.

Then he got to have his gotcha moment as he said," If they're just OK and you can take them or leave them, why do we have 8 bottles of olives in our refrigerator?"

I grew up, until the age of 17, on raw whole milk from our own cows, and lots of butter, and cream. Now, many nutritionists and scientists are saying they are all better for you than pasteurized milk and even the healthiest of margarines. Who knows? They will change their story tomorrow, probably.

Barbara - I love it! The refrigerator was invented as 'a place to store leftovers until they spoil'!

It's no wonder that you put off refrigerator purging. It must take you forever, musing over events surrounding each hardened bit of jam, dried up morsel of meat, squishy tomato, out-of-date container of curdled cream, and curled brown leaf of lettuce.

This was great! - Sandy

I remember once when my mom ran out of milk. She used to have a box of powdered milk that she could quick mix up in order to "pretend" that we had milk to put on our cereal in the morning. I always knew it was a "fake milk morning" when the milk at the breakfast table was in a pitcher instead of a carton. Love your stories! They have an extra special place in my heart!

I grew up on skim milk, although I didn't know it at the time. Our milk was delivered in bottles, pasteurized but not homogenized, which meant the milk fat separated and floated to the top. That layer of gelatinous fat creeped me out, and I wanted none of it. Even when the milk was shaken to distribute the fat, I would carefully spoon out the swimming yellow bits and scrape them onto the edge of my plate. No evil cholesterol for this kid. :)

I remember a time when I took every shelf and bin out of the 'fridge and carefully washed the inside with soapy water and rinsed it.

Now I wipe up a spill when I see it. I have had my new refrigerator 3 years and have yet to remove the shelves and bins. How things change with the changing body.

I’m not found of cleaning in general, but I do like a spotless refrigerator. Not only do I keep it clean, but I routinely look to see what’s in it; check dates, and rotate accordingly. Hmmm……

I too hate cleaning the refrigerator, but once I found, hidden under junk in one of the door shelves an envelope. In it were 10 $100 bills. I had forgotten that 2 years ago I had hidden that extra cash there when we went on a trip. I still con't clean the frig often, but also don't hide money in it anymore.

I love this trip down memory lane using the refrigerator as the starting point. Mine is full of memories too - if I ever get around to cleaning it out. Thanks.

Refridgerator cleaning is like an old detective story, old tastes and flavours covered in mould,like left over food scraps in Mickey Spillanes office let alone the crime scene. BUT remember the days before refridgeration if you dare, ice chests and coolgardies Oh! dear their hidden surprises if the iceman did not cometh..

Yes, I remember getting our milk from a local farmer in a big glass jar. The cream would be up high in the neck of the jar and the skim milk down below was almost blue. And my mother also kept powdered milk for when we ran out. I hated the "cow milk" as well as the powdered--how spoiled I was! It makes me wish I could tell my mother how much I love her and appreciate how hard she worked to feed us.

our frig. holds the family secrets......what r the secrets. can,t tell you,i will tell you this. we hide things in there. Before i sound like a person on hoarders.....no dead owl. or beloved weiner dog is lurking in our freezer. now the outside i will disscuss ,both sides are plastered with our lives. the front would be to but nothing sticks on the stainless steel. i few people i know look at the sides of my refrigerator to gage the state of my mind.....they don,t say this but i imagine it to be true...hence the sticker on there that says[DON,T BELIEVE WHAT YOU THINK] i have a picture of 2 people together i had a falling out with one so there face is cut out of the picture and only their childs picture remains...i still like the kid. I have a picyure of Frank Zappa on the toilet, he looks like my husband in days past.i have a ex RAY of my back...kind of interesting and a sona gram of the at the time unknown love of my life. my grandson Isaiah.my Grandmother that offered uncondional love as long as she lived next to her my beloved grandfather that we were both scarded of and amused by.my husbands first little baby footprint , next to it his mothers first comunion certificate MAY 7 1933. a picture of my mother my too brothers and i all huddled together in the surf at the beach. a real seahorse.....my daughter on a horse. it,s like a road map of my life. the inside is a secret the outside is a news letter. I am leaving this spelling errors and all.....I know it drives the gramaticly correct people crazy....go a little crazy people it,s good for u.

Hi Kim,
Great story. It's true, the frige is like the photo album & diary all in one.
Love, mom

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