I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my refrigerator lately.
I remember when I was in college: my roommate and I had one of those tiny dorm refrigerators. We had typical college dorm stuff in there: leftover pizza, pudding, cheese, cans of pop…you get the idea.
When Jim and I got married, he was in the Navy and out on the ship a lot. We were also on an extremely tight budget so as I recall I had the following in the refrigerator: cheese, jelly to go with my peanut butter sandwiches, ketchup, bread, and milk for the endless supply of Kraft macaroni and cheese I kept in the pantry. (Man, I ate a lot of Kraft mac and cheese back then.)
Of course, when we started our family our refrigerator began to fill up. We had baby food and milk and cheese (of course, always cheese) and containers filled with leftovers in there. That was also the time period when our refrigerator suddenly became home to a larger-than-average variety of condiments. More on that later.
When the boys were in the single digits, I remember our refrigerator being stuffed with things like—yeah, yeah the milk and cheese and containers of leftovers—LUNCHABLES. They were crazy about Lunchables, the pizza variety and the nacho variety specifically. (They never liked the lunch meat varieties much; otherwise I would have created our own homemade Lunchables with circle crackers and lunch meat cut with fun-shaped cookie cutters.) I used to catch Lunchables on sale and buy ten at once, honestly. And they didn’t last long.
A year or two ago, Dylan made the comment to me that he couldn’t believe they actually used to eat Lunchables and that made me laugh because looking back, I probably should have bought stock in Oscar Mayer. Between Lunchables and the way Dylan used to request that I write “No fillers” on his hot dogs just like they did in the commercials, surely we were an unofficial Oscar Mayer ambassador family before that was even a thing.
Refrigerator-wise, I approached the teenaged years with much trepidation. I had heard horror stories from friends about how much money they spent on food for their growing boys, and I had a feeling that even though our boys were picky in certain ways, they’d outgrow that soon enough.
The years of teenaged boyhood in our house featured the most ridiculously overfilled refrigerator, nearly all the time. It was full of just everything, and everything was precariously stacked until I was sure it wasn’t all getting the proper air flow it needed. When they were teens Jim and I used to joke with them that “we’re not going to keep buying all of this food if you’re just going to eat it.” They ate constantly, and our food budget was insane. INSANE.
Then the boys went off to college and, gradually, our refrigerator began breathing a sigh of relief. (Figuratively. I think.) It was still mostly full but it wasn’t overstuffed. We always had cheese and lunch meat and eggs and turkey bacon and salad ingredients on hand, sometimes leftovers, and of course a door full of condiments. Over the last twenty years I have often worried that the various mustards, ketchups, hot sauces, and other miscellaneous food flavorings would eventually pull the door down but what can I say: condiments are a thing here. When the boys would come home for a visit I’d head off to the store, filling a cart with all of their favorite foods and voilà; for a weekend the refrigerator would be working its hardest once again.
Fast forward to this year. It’s a necessary thing when you’re moving to another state, to go through everything in the refrigerator and the pantry, tossing, donating, and taking very little with you to the next place.
Living here in Knoxville, it’s just me about half the time because of Jim’s travel schedule, and sometimes I’m traveling too. Our refrigerator, I noticed recently, is bizarre. When we’re both home we eat a lot of salad. When we do cook, we cook enough for just the two of us and rarely have leftovers. The condiments are still there, fast and furious. Let me show you.
The rest of the refrigerator? Well, it’s full of…liquids.
Like everything else in my life, this refrigerator has evolved to match our circumstances. I’m not sure what future life stages will hold (for me and my kitchen), but I’m enjoying this one immensely. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting thirsty.