It came from the fridge

A friend was relating the to-her horrifying tale of a young bachelor trying to convince his girlfriend that mustard counted as a vegetable. I failed to provide the correct response, as whatever she expected me to say, it wasn’t, “Of course he would! What does a bachelor fridge look like? 37 condiments, two sprouting onions, a takeout container of questionable age, a takeout container that’s gaining sentience, and beer.”

But come on – who here doesn’t know a bachelor whose fridge looked like that?

Point of fact: I once tamed a wild and wary half-feral geek by turning the takeout container of rice, the sprouting onions, and a handful of eggs and sauces into stir-fried rice. The friend who’d invited me over was absolutely gleeful, as he’d proven to the roommate that I was a Magical Girl: I could make food appear from nothing edible!

Following on Dave Freer’s post about food as a cultural marker last week, I’ll state that people’s kitchens and fridges are a great way of revealing character, and throwing a few curveballs in to make your reader guess.

For example, I’ve opened a bachelor friend’s fridge and found a cold brew jar still brewing, four bricks of cheese, about fifteen containers of leftovers, cream, half and half, and milk, and a mixing bowl wrapped in plastic with a pound of homemade chocolate ganache.

Do they have six kinds of soda or oddball local beers (or homebrew experiment?) Do you find a ton of vegetables? Someone so harried they put the cereal back in the fridge with the milk?

Show me the fridge, and you’ll show me the character!

19 comments

  1. SWMBO puts almost everything in either the fridge or the freezer. Even things that, IMHO, do not either need or benefit from such treatment such as (uncooked) rice. I suspect this is a habit learned from her mother/grandmother who (2 houses prior) lived in a house that was not precisely pest proof, so stuff not in the fridge or sealed in multiple layers would tend to gain free insect protein.

    About the one thing that is rarely in our fridge (and in my own when I’ve been on my own) is left-overs and take out. Both our families had a “eat what’s put in front of you” rule so plates are generally scraped clean.

    1. The pest thing is definitely a reason to freeze grains, at least for 48 hours. It will kill any bugs/eggs that are in rice, flour, oatmeal etc.

      1. We’d put rice or pasta in the freezer in the Philippines but I don’t think that it kills the bugs, just slows them down. The trip to the PI to reach the commissary shelves seemed to be so long that meal bugs would show up in flour and pasta relatively quickly. I know that I pretended I didn’t notice the meal bugs in baked goods more than once. After all, the oven DOES kill them.

  2. Long-ago girlfriend: “Do you mind if I throw out this old potato?”
    Me: “That’s an apple.”

  3. And it does not have to be different types of condiment. It can be 37 different types of mustard.

    The common denominator of bachelor food is the minimized number of steps required to produce it. So frozen French Fries, mayonnaise and a head of lettuce works just as well, and says different things as a fridge loaded with hotdogs and ketchup.

    More complex things, such as a partially consumed brisket in a casserole with the carvings stuff under the foil imply an older bachelor. They know how to cook now, but it’s still minimum number of steps to food, and no concept of a full meal with a sides and that sort of thing is still completely absent.

  4. I have never had much experience with the contents of the refrigerators of male bachelors, but in the years that I lived in the enlisted barracks, and had a mini-fridge (and a hot-plate and a toaster oven since the chow hall didn’t agree with me) I always had four basic items stocked in said refrigerator. English muffins, sliced deli ham, cheddar cheese and eggs. I was conducing research on how many different dishes I could make with those basic things: cheese soufflé, ham omelet, egg and cheese mcmuffin, toasted cheese on a muffin, ham sandwich… you get the idea,

  5. In grad school, a friend opened my fridge and pronounced, “Yep, you’re from Texas.” Five kinds of salsa, milk, creamer, some veggies, and two blocks of cheese. Tortillas, on the counter, four kinds of dried legumes in sacks in the cupboard. And cereal and oatmeal.

    I cook batches of stuff, so I can alternate, say, curry and New Mexican frijoles for several days. One big day of meal prep, then coast for a while, adding variations to the basic recipe. I put rice and flour in the freezer for 48-72 hours, just in case.

  6. “It came from the fridge”.

    I thought this was gonna be a sci-fi/horror tale. 🙂

    1. I wish I could cudgel my brain into that, but right now, it’s still working on how to describe an exfil through fantastic alien ruins with a mild concussion and ringing ears from CQB without earpro. Balancing sense of wonder with “can’t stop, and everything hurts, including thinking.”

    1. Everyone has a choice, outside of those living in active warzones and refugee camps. Even when I was a kid living on government cheese, people had choices. I mean, our choice might be milk or a pitcher of bug juice (knock-off kool-aid unless there was a sale on packets of the real stuff) instead of expensive things like soda, and the veg might all be reduced for quick sale, but we had choices.

      The Lee family who made it out of China after Tiananmen Square? They didn’t have much more than us, and what extra they had went to bribes to keep the government officials from killing his daughter (they grabbed the son because he was home, but the daughter was out with friends when the police came for them all. And yes, later I got an idea just how connected he was to have two kids instead of one, and just what a comedown in the world it must have been to start as a janitor until his English skills improved.) They didn’t have milk, but there was always eggs, veg, something marinating or brining in a bucket, and jars of home-made sauces, and leftover rice.

        1. The family grabbed the son and paid off snakeheads to be stuck in a cargo container, and dumped in Mexico – yes, even decades ago, *the entire world knew* our southern border was porous and if they could make it to Mexico, they could make it into the USA. They didn’t even have to pay coyotes: when they arrived dehydrated and half-dead in the Mexican port, there were government officials already there. “Senor! Senora! Tiananmen, si?” And they had the US Immigration paperwork ready to fill out, and busses waiting to ship them north and dump as political refugees.

          But yes. It took over 10 years, you don’t want to know how many tens of thousands in bribes, and a long enough track record that the PRC decided he was cowed enough he’d never speak out so they didn’t need her as hostage to his silence, but they did finally release the daughter and let the Lees pay for a plane ticket to bring her over. So many tears. So much joy, and sorrow, for the shell of a woman who’d survived over 10 years in a PRC concentration camp… oh, wait, we’re supposed to ignore that and call them detention centres… was nothing like the bright, vivacious girl they’d had to abandon lest they all be killed.

      1. Milk only if you had a cow. And what is the bug juice that you speak of? What kind of bugs and how many do you need to squash?

  7. Fridges.

    We have two fridges. Plus three freezers.

    (We also have nine people in the house, mode of age 9.)

    The one that’s a vertical split has, from the bottom up:
    cheap fruits and vegetables, the open milk, orange juice or lemonade, snackable leftovers (including pasta that was cooked and doused in oil specifically to make an “I’m hungry” base) and the easily accessed cheese supply, medium sized/hard to snack on leftovers (and half-eaten bowls), a shelf that is entirely taken up with sauces, spices, dips and unopened blocks of cheese in two pound blocks, and “stuff that is open but we don’t want to evaporate instantly” like the sandwich salami and half-used frosting on the very top.

    The horizontal split is drawers only used for thawing meat, gallons of milk, flats of eggs, the big jars of pickles (three flavors), alcohol that has to be chilled if company is visiting, the leftovers that won’t fit in the main fridge, a sun tea dispenser type thing of lemonade, and yogurt if someone’s been making smoothies.

      1. *snickers* Don’t tell them that we didn’t invent adding the dried parmesan while it’s still hot, even if we usually just use garlic salt.

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