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.