Do you do the deep freeze dip?
Owning a second refrigerator or free-standing freezer is a luxury–certainly one of those first-world privileges many of us take for granted in our homes.
In my girlhood days, our family’s small chest freezer stood at the bottom of the basement stairs, a straight shot down from our kitchen–affording easy access to ice cream cartons, sausages and other mealtime basics for a hungry, active foursome.
On hot summer days, I welcomed the accelerating coolness experienced with each descending step; my bare feet slapped the cold concrete floor before I reached the freezer and stuck in a sweaty hand to grab an icy Popsicle or orange Push-Up.
My late mother-in-law had a jumbo-sized chest freezer in the basement of her Rochester home, and she kept it stocked with items I found both familiar (spinach squares, English muffins, orange juice concentrate, Swanson’s potpies and TV dinners) and new (phyllo sheets, puff pastry cups, Tupperware containers brimming with sourdough starter and baggies filled with summer garden-fresh pesto sauce).
One common element of each freezer I’ve encountered, and this absolutely includes my own, is the presence of mystery food–things that have been stashed there, unlabeled and undated, because OF COURSE one will remember what they are and when they were placed there. The truth is, the items’ identities and ages have been long since lost to the land of ice crystals and shrunken, dried out cells of edibility.
Shy away from the unknown? No, not I! I’ve broken out more mystery packages than I care to count, first thawing the suspicious parcel, then, if its form and flavor are failing to readily reveal themselves, heating up the item in question to see if it will shout its name out under a bit of cooking torture.
This method has yielded both success and failure on a case-by-case basis.
Sadly, memory fails me in conjuring up specific examples, but suffice to say that “mystery meat” isn’t a concept confined to school cafeterias.
My spouse recalls his father returning from male-bonding fishing trips and depositing packets of various fish species with his tolerant mother–who promptly dropped them in the aforementioned freezer, where they sometimes lingered indefinitely, suspended in frozen animation, too often destined in the distant future for the dump.
Unmarked bags of spaghetti sauce, ready-to-eat barbecue or thaw-and-heat chili have the misfortune of looking agonizingly identical, my mother points out from a few experiences with rapid menu adjustment.
The refrigerator contains its own share of mixed up leftovers–my dad swears he once bit into what he thought was an egg salad sandwich, only to unpleasantly discover he’d made himself a more unusual POTATO salad sandwich–but the freezer lends a definite je ne sais quoi to food products.
And that brings me to my own most recent frozen fumble.
On a recent morning, having driven three young scholars at three separate moments (6:55 a.m., 7:16 a.m. and 7:42 a.m.) to two different schools after tossing granola bars, fruit, juice and maybe a Pop-Tart or frozen waffle their way, I returned home, anticipating a handful of quiet minutes to consume a bit of breakfast with a second cup of coffee before embarking on the day’s tasks and appointments.
Hmmmm…there was some granola in the cupboard, and a partial cup of yogurt…how about throwing in a little fruit to round it out?
I opened the freezer and unearthed a bag of previously opened mango chunks beneath a package of hash browns. Sitting down with my coffee, bowl and spoon, I anticipated the taste of tropical sweetness combined with creamy yogurt. Yum.
But an unfamiliar flavor greeted my tongue as I took the first bite. Not as sweet as mango; earthier; stringier; could it be…BUTTERNUT SQUASH?
Why yes, it could. Days (okay, maybe weeks) ago, several sneaky squash squares had tumbled from a split sack in the freezer. Seeing the orange cubes, I’d accidentally chucked them into the mango mound rather than back with their root vegetable mates.
Time to clean the freezer–because Vitamin A by any other name does NOT taste as sweet.