What Your Fridge Says About You
Whenever I'm in someone else's kitchen I take the opportunity to snoop their refrigerator. It says a lot about the life they lead. Is it full of take-out containers of decaying chicken balls? That person doesn't cook, entertain or have custody of children.
Is your fridge full of perfectly stacked storage containers, complete with best before dates along with a schedule for consumption? I bet a stay-at-home parent lives there and you reside in the ‘burbs. You also take 7-layer dip to those weekly pot luck dinners.
Or is your fridge full of triplicates, five different kinds of cheeses and overflowing with random ingredients that don’t seem to add up to anything good to eat? Then you’re overworked, overtired and as you raced home from work you made a quick stop at the grocery store but couldn’t remember if you had tomato paste so you bought yet another tube.
Whatever’s in yours, it might be time to take a closer look. Because if you like the taste of food, you need to give this workhorse of your kitchen a regular once over. Personally, I like my messy desk and I loathe the idea of re-organizing my closet. But when it comes to my refrigerator? Well there I get a great deal of satisfaction from quarterly clean outs.
So here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of your ice box:
1. Start by pulling everything out to see what’s gone bad. Unless it’s on a piece of cheese or some salami if it has mould you must chuck it. (In those cases you can just cut the mould off.)
2. Consider all those condiments. I’m a sucker for condiments and at any one time I have six different kinds of mustard on the go. And some of those sauces may have been in there for months or even years. While many of these products may “keep” for a long time, that only means they won’t spoil. Once you crack the seal they begin to lose flavour after just a couple of months. And that just doesn’t cut the, well, mustard. So unless you know you’re going to use it quickly, buy only small bottles of condiments.
3. Shop your fridge like you shop your closet. There may be that bottle of oyster sauce that you bought for a single recipe and used one teaspoon before sticking in the fridge. Why not use that as your inspiration for what to cook tonight? Got two open jars of capers? Fry them up and add to scrambled eggs, grilled salmon or ceasar salad. But be honest with yourself, if you’re not going to use it soon then pitch it. It’s cathartic. Today I threw out a half empty jar of sundried tomatoes that I don’t remember buying. I don’t even like sundried tomatoes!
4. When choosing a recipe from your favourite book, make your shopping list and then hit your fridge and cupboards to see what items you can cross off before you leave the house. (New fridge technology means that soon you’ll be able to do this remotely!) That’s how you don’t wind up with yet another bottle of Tabasco.
5. For cleaning your fridge, remove shelves and drawers and wipe down the inside of doors with a warm cloth, including the side stripping that seems to collect crumbs (although how they get stuck in there is a mystery to me).
6. Do not use strong cleaning products as the odours will be absorbed by foods. Instead use mild detergent or baking soda mixed with water and vinegar.
7. Always allow glass shelves to come to room temperature before running under hot water.
8. Before returning all those jars to the fridge wipe down all containers and jars, including the inside rims.
9. Remember that air flows better when there is more space. More air flow equals fresher food longer.
10. The ideal temperature for a fridge is 35F to 38F.
One last tip: If you’re about to put your house on the market and you’re preparing for the open house, don’t forget the fridge! Remove everything. Make sure it’s sparkling clean and stock it with only a bottle of champagne, some fancy water and a few lemons. Because selling anything requires a certain amount of window dressing. Then you can crack the champagne when the bidding war’s over.