The other day my daughter called me for advice. This happens less often than you might think – she’s a very capable and self-sufficient adult, something I’m grateful for since I’ve never felt like much of a fount of wisdom.
It seems her refrigerator was on the blink, and she’d had to move all the food from the upstairs fridge to the one they – thankfully – had in the basement. This event coincided with a major trip to Costco, the ultimate big box store for everything, where you can only buy toilet paper in hassock-sized units, and butter in four-pound blocks.
My three grandsons had formed a brigade of food transportation, helpfully carrying the purchases from the minivan and then down to the working fridge. Somehow there was enough room for both the upstairs food and the bounty from Costco. Excellent.
That is until the next day when she went downstairs for milk and discovered that someone (or that mysterious person from her own childhood, somebie, a close relative of not me) had failed to close the refrigerator door.
The night before.
So there I was on the phone, 200 miles away, weighing the risks of semi-thawed chicken legs and room-temperature yogurt. Not too taxing, since I wasn’t the one who would be eating it, but then again, I didn’t want my advice to be the factor that wiped an entire branch of the family.
And I’m probably not the best person for the job. When in doubt, I just check the smell of things instead of their expiration date, operating under the theory that big food companies have really planned on a few days of wiggle room in those dates they print on milk jugs and hot dog labels.
There are some people who are less flexible about food; they refuse to eat leftovers and become short of breath at the sight of anything unfamiliar on their plate. But then my parents were foodies long before anyone knew what that meant.
Sunday morning at our house usually included grilled kidneys or maybe kippers and eggs. My annual request for my birthday dinner was always lamb curry with the accompanying sambals of crumbled bacon, chopped peanuts, and chutney.
My southern heritage added ham hocks and collard greens, or steak with red eye gravy like my grandfather would make when he was out checking the oil wells in Oklahoma. Fried chicken meant that my sister and I always received our favorite giblet – the heart for me, the liver for her. And then we had our own family quirks, like peanut butter, mayonnaise and lettuce sandwiches. (Try it. You might be pleasantly surprised. Just remember to use iceberg lettuce for the crunch.)
I spoke with my daughter a few days later and she didn’t mention any midnight runs to the emergency room, and stomach pumping didn’t come up once in our conversation, so I guess the crisis was averted in spite of my help.