There’s something wrong with my fridge –it hides things in dark little shadowed corners behind the jars of long-ago opened jam and the cheese with that little fuzzy stuff on it. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to design something with no hideouts –something that automatically shoves forgotten tenants to the front every once in a while. Not that I’d use them, or anything, but it would be fun to try to identify some of them, and maybe try to remember why they were still there. Food lessons are important.
I have the most trouble with yogurt, I think. I buy those little plastic tubs that promise reduced fat, reduced calories, and are on sale. I only go for the ones that are made without sugar –although I rarely have the patience to read through all the other ingredients they use instead. But hey, everything’s a chemical. Anyway, the idea is that I’ll eat them instead of the chocolate-chunk muffins and the peanut-butter-and-raisin cookies I also put in the same shopping cart to tease them. For some reason though, the fridged yogurt always hides behind more brightly packaged things and by the time I find it, it’s several months past its best-before, so it becomes a Sophie’s Choice. And loses.
Last night, I noticed some bagels skulking back there like a gang of street kids in a poorly lit alley. Two of them were huddling together for protection, so I decided that I might as well eat them if I could get them out –carpe noctem, I suppose. My 3AM fingers, like my toes, were already cold, but, nonetheless, they bravely worked their way around a semi-solid container of cream that I couldn’t for the life of me remember buying, and several plastic tins of margarine I had seen on sale and decided to stockpile in case I ever ran out –oh yes, and the partially-eaten apple I had carefully wrapped in layers of cellophane for safety so it would be ready for use if I ever remembered it. Unfortunately, even through the wrapping, I could tell it was already soft and disgustingly brown –the stuff of nightmares- so I left it for another time, another emergency.
The bagels were, shall we say, crisp and although I attempted a cursory, exploratory bite, something in my mouth warned me I might lose a filling if I persisted. So I raided the cookies I keep hidden in the cupboard under the sink instead, and toddled off to bed again.
In the morning, having dreamed of throwing bagels on a hockey rink in what I can only assume was a neurological proxy for hats, I felt guilty about the fridge. Guilty about the waste. I was about to do something about it when I noticed a memory on the bottom rack: two bottles of beer I’d been given by a friend returning from Britain last year. I’d fed her cat –or that is, I would have, if I’d been able to find it. She gave me the beer anyway –it was a special brand not available here, and she didn’t like it. I don’t know if her cat ever turned up.
But, I suspected the beer was an punishment –it was a craft lager called Toast, made from discarded bread -old crusts found in the back of somebody’s fridge, perhaps. Anyway, the brewery was attempting to do something about food waste that couldn’t be recycled through food banks and the like.
So, to exculpate my fridge, and get an expert opinion on the future of breaded beer, I decided to visit Brien. He, as my regular readers will know, is a porch person. I do not know if he actually lives there, but in truth I’ve never seen him anywhere else. When he is not watching Sheda, his cedar tree, waving at him in the wind, I usually see him wrapped in his seat on the porch, a can of beer in his hand, watching the world walk past. The yard is a mess, but he feels it scares off burglars; I have long since given up telling him that it also discourages visitors.
“You always make it, though,” he used to reply with a smile, and hand me a beer. I think he figured it was a sort of consolation prize.
Today, though, I had to be wary –the Toast was in glass bottles, so I threaded the labyrinth of broken sidewalk shards with extra care -and he noticed. Of course.
“Wearing new shoes, or something, G?”
“Huh?” I said, risking a glance at him snuggled under his Hudson’s Bay Blanket on the porch. The bottles were already clinking like they were toasting one another. Any misstep and he’d have to call 911.
“You’re walking like you’re just learning…” He narrowed his eyes mischievously. “So, be careful you don’t break those bottles, eh?”
The man is uncanny. “I don’t know what you…”
“The beer bottles you brought for me to try,” he interrupted -somewhat impatiently, I thought.
My mouth fell open and I stopped just before I attempted climbing the loose boards on the steps to the porch. “Brien, how did you know what I was carrying?”
He twinkled his eyes –I’ve never been able to do that- and shrugged. “They don’t put milk in bottles anymore.”
“You don’t drink milk, Brien…”
“Exactly,” he responded and reached out his hand to receive his gifts.
I reached into my jacket and extracted the two bottles as carefully as I could.
“Hmm,” he said, examining the label of one as if it were a fine painting. “Toast, it says. Craft lager… and it’s brewed with bread.” Then he chuckled at the notice below it: much kneaded. Clever,” he continued and handed me the other bottle.
I climbed the wooden steps carefully, and sat down in the chair beside him.
“Are you trying to tell me something, G…”
I shook my head. “I’m trying to ask you something, Brien.” He blinked slowly. Warily. Brien is always suspicious of questions. “I saw them in the fridge and I wondered if the brewery is on to something.”
A truly enormous grin slowly spread across his face. “Actually, you found them somewhere in the fridge…”
I raised both eyebrows to suggest surprise –I’d seen an actor do that on TV. “Why do you say that?” I said, trying to sound insulted.
“First of all, it’s only made in Britain, so that woman with the dead cat must have given them to you…” He almost winked –Brien doesn’t even know how to wink. “And secondly it’s…” He checked some printing on the other side of the bottle. “It’s over a year old.”
“We don’t know if the cat is dead!” I felt I needed to clarify that. “And anyway, I kept the bottles in the fridge, eh?” I wanted him to know I hadn’t just put them in the cupboard with the cookies, or anything. “I was saving them for a special occasion…” It was a bit lame, but the words just sort of tumbled out of my lips.
“You discovered them last night when you raided the fridge, right?”
There are no flies on Brien. “How…?”
He shrugged. “Did you ever find those bagels I gave you last Christmas?”
I shrugged and blushed -it was like he’d been peeking through the window or something. “I found them way in the back last night…”
He nodded like a teacher about to listen to an excuse. “Still able to eat them…?” His eyes gripped tightly on my cheeks as I shook my head. He put the Toast bottle down gently and handed me a can he’d stored under his chair. “Don’t put this in the fridge, eh?”