A few weeks ago, my fridge went empty.

My husband was traveling and it was just me and dogs and I was basically down to almond milk, kale, yogurt, strawberry jelly, coffee creamer (aka goat milk), and the few ingredients it takes to make spinach quesadillas.

I loved it.  And yet it totally stressed me out.

I’m a person who needs a full fridge.  Really full.  The full fridge gives me comfort.  The full fridge lessens my anxiety; anxiety I don’t even know I have until the fridge is full again and — like that cheesy but true line from Waiting to Exhale — I exhale.

I grew up in a food-less place.  When I was 5 and 8 and 10 and 13, it was normal to have a small, old, groaning Frigidaire in a rented half-house with a bunch of white potatoes and some onions and milk and a carton of eggs in tow.  This looked normal to me.  And I appreciated it.  I never panicked about it.  I could work with it.  In Summer, when my mother was at work, I would start my day around 9 am by turning on the TV to reruns of All in the Family and Alice and One Day at a Time, and I’d cook.  I’d plop a bowl in my lap on the couch (during an All in the Family rerun) and I’d peel the potatoes and then slice them thin-ish; then I’d chop up some onion and slap some lard in the skillet and toss in some salt and pepper, and fry.  Sometimes I’d stir in an egg.  A big treat!  And I’d add milk to the egg to “stretch” it.

I got good at timing.  I would, for instance, time the frying so it was between shows and/or during commercials.  I could miss the beginning or end of Alice, but I could never ever miss the entirety of One Day at a Time with my favorite ’70s mom Ann Romano, that single tornado of a woman, raising her daughters, with the lessons to be learned.  Ann and Julie and Barbara.  Alone in the world.  Kicking ass.

Whenever I got the chance, I looked in their TV fridges.  They weren’t as empty as mine, but they weren’t full, either, and I remember loving this about them.

In those days, my mom and I ate most of our real meals at my grandparents’ house.  Ham and Beans.  Chicken and Dumplings.  Fat Back and Saurkraut.  Hot tamales from a can.  Tony’s Canadian Bacon frozen pizza, but only as a late night treat.  Cheese grits.  Shit-On-A-Shingle (hamburger gravy over white bread), which was especially satisfying because it meant there was enough money in the family for hamburger meat.

These days, I stare into my full fridge — with its kale and yogurt and goat milk, and all I could ever want in the whole wide world — and all I want is some fried potatoes and onions.  Some ham and beans.  Tamales.  Shit on a shingle.


Tell me about your favorite food memories.