Sunday, July 31, 2005

Ice Ice Baby

The strange thing is not that my freezer is full. The strange thing is that it is full of things which are not edible.

For example, the batteries. Am I the only person with six months of dead batteries in her freezer? My freezer is where dead batteries go to wait out Hazardous Waste Recycling, an event which takes place monthly, but usually at the furthest point from me in Los Angeles County. So I wait, as patient as a spider, for them to land somewhere nearby. When this day finally arrives, I will drive several miles to the recycling center, thereby negating any environmental benefit proper battery disposal accrues. Once at the recycling place, I’ll take my place in line amid commercial vans with six years’ worth of hazardous building materials and 18-wheelers piled with every half-empty paint can in Los Angeles. When I roll down my window and hand the attendant two saggy shopping bags of dead batteries, they look like the lumpy plastic sacks one sees at the end of a dog-walk, assuming the dog-walker is a conscientious type. This might explain the odd looks I get from the recycling people. I like to think they are squinting at the sun, and not sneering at me. But until this magical day, the batteries sit uncomplainingly in my freezer, confusing anyone searching for ice.

The last time I made the recycling run, I came back, opened the freezer and basked in the empty space. Within the hour, I tried unsuccessfully to use the TV remote.

Daughter observed “I think the battery is dead”.

I said firmly, “I’m going to forget you said that. Let’s pretend we’re in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and walk up to the TV to change the channels for a few weeks.”

In my freezer, there is also half a Popsicle. Why half? Because some time ago, Daughter ate half a Popsicle and claimed she was full. I had been spending entirely too much time that week eating up her remnants like a raccoon, and declined her offer to share. I instead put in the freezer for “Later”. Immediately thereafter, Daughter declared this particular brand of Popsicles weird and has refused to eat a single one. So, at least once a week, I open the freezer (usually to put in a dead battery), and I stare at the Popsicle, lying sticky and unloved in a plastic Zip-lock bag.

“When my hands aren’t full, I should just throw that away,” I think virtuously.

I then shut the freezer door and forget all about it.

But the bulk of our freezer is taken up with…cheese blintzes. Didn’t expect that one did you? Frankly, neither did I. For about six months, every time Consort went to the store, he would traipse through the Frozen Foods section and apparently think, “Wow! Blintzes! I was just thinking of blintzes!”

Of course, what he should have been thinking was, “Quinn whines whenever she sees me cramming more boxes of dough-covered cream cheese into the freezer. I must stop buying blintzes.”

It’s not like he’s Jewish and I am depriving him his culinary heritage. It’s not even like he eats them. I’ve known this man for a decade and I have seem him eat blintzes once. I have seen him eat venison more often than blintzes. I should be grateful he doesn’t have a side of Bambi in there.

I suspect some vestigial hunter/gatherer instinct is at work. A persistent urge emanates from somewhere in his lower brain-stem which translates into: “Bring down slow-moving dairy product and drag it home!” The consequence is me staring bleakly into the freezer and thinking, “I really want to create some room in this freezer. We’re either getting blintzes or AA batteries for dinner.”

I pulled out the box with the lightest freezer burn and said hopefully “We’re having a treat tonight!”

Daughter, knowing my ways, looked suspicious, thinking I had found some new way to slide kale on to her plate.

“It’s dinner. But you get to put jelly on it!”

Yeah, I know. This was a new low.

I scraped a bit of ice off the blintzes and popped them into the oven. A half-hour later, I looked in on them and saw they had turned a pleasing light brown. This was a hopeful sign. I’m a Los Angeles native, and we firmly believe appearance is everything. I slid two out on to a plate, garnished liberally with strawberry jelly, and served them to Daughter. I then went to get us drinks. When I returned, Daughter had a spoonful of jelly with an atom of something whitish-yellow on top.

“Please eat some blintz as well.”

“I did,” she insisted, gesturing to the dot, which she had returned to the blintz untouched. “But I don’t like it. It tastes like hot cheese.”

Well, there’s really no arguing with that.

“Also,” she added thoughtfully, “it tastes like dust.”

I don’t know how she determined that without ever letting a bite pass her lips, but I tasted my dinner, and dust was the best way to describe it. There were abundantly inedible.

I made her some edamame and considered my options. These were the least elderly of the blintz boxes, so it wasn’t as if the others would be better. And yet, some part of me cannot throw food away. I understand intellectually that the victims of civil war in the Sudan neither need nor want frozen cheese blintzes in dented cartons, but somehow my hand will not release the boxes over the trash can.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration. Not everyone has blintzes, but I bet nearly every person over a certain age has something in their freezer they would just like to see…leave.

Perhaps one winter Sunday afternoon you cooked a vegetable soup which was supposed to make two quarts but actually made twelve gallons, and you froze it thinking you’d eat it some rainy night, but the recipe turned out to be really gross and, unless you were on Fear Factor, you wouldn’t eat it again?

Perhaps your sister brought a honey-baked ham to your house for Easter even though you told her several times that you had everything made, and she said “Oh, just freeze it for all the other times you don’t cook”, and you can’t thaw it and eat it, because it would prove your smug, Martha-Stewart-wannabe sister right?

Maybe you have seven pounds of chicken parts because you had convinced yourself you’re going to make stock, which is so economical and much more tasty than the canned stuff, but you need to buy a stock pot and the one you like is eighty dollars and half the size of your stove?

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning, approximately, “Delight in another’s misery”: I am now introducing Schadenfreezerfreude: delight in the miserable contents of another person’s refrigerator. Of course, this would require a certain degree of public exposure, something most freezer failures typically lack.

To this end, I propose we create a common trading floor for unloved freezer food. Here’s a sample trade: a turkey leg from Thanksgiving, 2003 for two pints of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey with debilitating frost issues. Since no sane person would actually eat the food they got, it would be for novelty purposes only, to see something new in the back corner. Also, since the new owner would have no long-lasting emotional relationship with the food (and I use that word loosely), they would be far more inclined to accept the inevitable and actually throw the benighted object away.

Who knows, with all the extra room in the freezer, I could start storing something useful in there.

Like vodka and boo-boo bunnies.


P.S. If you need it, here is the hazardous waste recycling schedule for Los Angeles (http://www.lacity.org/SAN/hhw-ewaste-schedule.htm)

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family had a single can of cranberry sauce that had long ago expired (I'm talking years before), yet we held onto it anyway. It actually proved quiet usefull. By leaving it in the back of the cupboard, we never needed to try to reach for what was back there thinking it was something we needed. We always knew it was that darn can. Plus we never needed to feel the guilt of having let it go bad.

So, I say, save the blintzes for the back of the freezer and consider it a new shelf!

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I just cleaned out my refrigerator yesterday, and threw out 2 big trash bags of old food. Not just the produce that had deteriorated into an unidentifiable state, but things like the half-jar of sauerkraut I bought 6 months ago to make 2 reuben sandwiches. Try to make yourself fling it, Quinn - it's incredibly liberating.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

But...

the Sudanese children...

want saurkraut!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Okay, Quinn, JUST YESTERDAY I threw out a box of Trader Joe's cheese blintzes. They tasted terrible the day I brought them home from the store, in a pregnancy-induced fit of desiring a warm cheese blintz.

Now granted, I'm in prime nesting mode, preparing for the big bang in T-minus eight weeks, but Melissa is right, it was exhilarating to declare those blintzes to be dead-to-me.

And if I remember corectly, the Burbank IKEA still takes dead compact flourescent lights and dead batteries. There is a bin near the returns section.....

5:31 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

I have been reading your blog for about a month now. I saw "The Babysitter" then and wondered what you were doing. I saw you in "Listen to Me" which is one of my favorite movies. I love you in that and I loved Jami Gertz. I think you are very funny and real. I loved reading the post about you and your daugther being in the bookstore. People watch Entertainment tonight and all those shows religiously thinking they know who the famous people are. Funny, they are all real people who put there pants on the same way. You are refreshing and I always look forward to reading your daily posts. Thank you, Jen

9:36 PM  
Blogger trish said...

I have eyeliner, some rolls of photo negatives, nail polish and small quantities of fungus in my fridge.

The joys of single life.

8:38 AM  

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