Monday, March 22, 2004

Care to play?

Every time I visit my dad, I feel like I'm playing a slow-motion game called refrigerator roulette. Unlike most games, this one is played out in small increments over days, weeks, months and sometimes years.

My dad does all of the cooking these days, and somehow, he never has quite got the hang of cooking for two. There are six of us kids and he was a cook in the army, so maybe the patterns of preparing food for a crowd are just ingrained too deeply to change. For whatever reason, he always winds up fixing too much food, so there are always left-overs that get stashed in the fridge. And stashed is the right word.

There have been times when there were so many containers in the fridge you couldn't get to the milk without shuffling for two or three minutes (who says jigsaw puzzles aren't educational?). A bit of this, a drab of that and no dates on anything. When he says, "Hey, I made some stroganoff the other day and there's some left over. You want that for lunch?" you'd better start asking questions--like define "the other day" (when you don't get out much, all the days tend to run together).

I can't begin to tell you the number of things that I've pulled out and realized they were a little too fuzzy for my tastes. Sometimes the freezer isn't much better because leftovers may not go directly there until they've spent a little time in refrigerator purgatory. And since my dad went through The Depression, one of the worst sins you can commit at his house is to throw away food.

To top it off, my dad isn't what you'd call the best dish washer in the world. For one thing, he doesn't see as well as he used to, so that kind of hinders the visual inspection part of hand washing. And everything at his house is hand washed. Sometimes the water is even clean/fresh.

When I get there, I make sure I help to set the table the first day so I can check the plates and glasses before hand. Then I make sure to volunteer to wash up afterwards. Every meal.

This last week, we made burritos for lunch one day. I fixed everything fresh and then my dad reminded me that there was a little bit of the meat/bean goop (mmm...bean goop) in the freezer from when I was there three weeks ago. Three weeks in the freezer. Hey, that ought to be ok, right? Right?

I pulled it out and opened it up, and couldn't quite tell if that gray spot was just a little freezer burn or what. Hmmm. What to do? Can't throw it out. Can't stick it back (since it was specifically mentioned). Can't combine it with the fresh stuff (no reason everyone should die, eh?). So, I did what any good son would do. I served everyone else the fresh stuff and I ate the old stuff.

It is a little unsettling to spend the afternoon hyper-attuned to your inner rumblings.
Oohh. What was that? Was that a gas pain? I'm feeling a little uncomfortable. Am I getting queasy or did I just over-eat? Maybe some of these jelly beans will help...
At least the plate I served it on was clean.

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