The Full Fridge Fantasy


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.



17 thoughts on “The Full Fridge Fantasy

  1. amommasview

    Great post. A full fridge is what I like to. Grew up totally different to you. Our fridge was always full and lots of stuff went over because my mom just forgot about it. I hated the waste. I try to keep on top of what’s in our fridge as I would hate to waste food. Still sometimes I just don’t want what is in it…

    1. Teri Post author

      The waste that comes out of my current fridge makes me crazy, but not enough to keep me from stocking it. I am so hopeful when I’m at the grocery store, as in “of course I will be able to eat 12 tomatoes by Saturday!”

  2. Les Brady

    To call me a finicky eater as a child would be a gross understatement. I’m sure our fridge was always packed, because my mom cooked family style all the time, whether there were the three of us at the table or us and six other relatives; she didn’t make a steak for you, but a platter of steaks, and you just forked onto your plate as many as you wanted.

    But my overactive imagination and acute gag reflex kept me from enjoying so many of her dishes. Her pizza, oh, yeah, I was all over it. “Pane e sugu” (bread and tomato sauce, in Sicilian) was great, too. Other than that: peanut butter; Pop Tarts; Libby Land TV dinners. That’s probably why I was so fat.

    My mom would sigh and roll her eyes if she could see what I eat now, which is pretty much anything (although I still haven’t tried durian, but I’m down with Thousand Year Old Eggs). Living alone, I rarely have what you’d call a full fridge, just because if I fill it I have to cook it. Once a good friend of mine came to visit for a weekend and, after seeing my near-empty fridge, sent me a $50 gift card to Safeway, he was so concerned I didn’t have the means to stock up.

    My lasting food memories are a combination of the joy of New Year’s Eve cold-cut sandwiches at my uncle Ernie’s house, and the shame of not being able to eat my mom’s Thanksgiving day stuffing because it was brown and steaming and looked like… know.

    Today my fridge *is* full because I did a middle-aged maneuver and forgot that I hadn’t bought eggs and tomatoes, which I’d also forgotten four days ago, so now I have three dozen eggs and two dozen tomatoes. But, I’m making tomato sauce now, which will last for varied meals throughout the week. Too bad it’s not Easter so I could color the eggs, but I’ll make them deviled and give them to neighbors…

    And I thank the universe that my greatest food problem is that, because of my lapsed memory, I actually have too much.

  3. Averil Dean

    My mom and I were just talking about that. We were very poor when I was young, but my mom had a way of making sure we never realized it. She could make a meal out of anything, and whatever was left—little bits of meat or veggies or pasta—would go into a mess of goulash at the end of the week. Later on, when we were doing better and had a little more money, she’d make chicken curry or these creamy open-faced crab sandwiches on English muffins. Very 70s, all in shades of mustard yellow.

    1. Teri Post author

      I remember the days when I just wanted enough money to buy the name-brand milk, or the Kraft mac ‘n cheese. My grandmother used to make what she called “Spanish Rice” but I was really old before I realized there was nothing Spanish about Beef, White Rice, Tomato Soup in a skillet — it was just a way to make a little meat feed 10.

    2. Pamela

      My mom made use of Triple Coupon Day at the Kroger, so we always had tons of food available even though we didn’t have much money. I can still remember my mom in her nightgown early in the morning at the kitchen table. She would be going through the paper and clipping coupons carefully and then arranging them into a file-box. That silver file-box would go with her to the store. She was systematic about how she used everything in it.

      She’s not broke anymore, but I have a feeling she still has that silver box with plenty of coupons filed alphabetically inside of it.

  4. koehlerjoni

    I feel anxiety when the fridge starts to get empty as well. Maybe it’s because I’m subconsciously expecting the grown kids( and their spouses and friends) to drop by unexpectedly. I also think it’s nice to have a clean fridge with everything organized, only liquids on the top shelf. My family can never get this straight.

    1. Teri Post author

      When my kids were still at home, there was nothing I liked better than when they had friends stay for dinner. Loved that.

      1. koehlerjoni

        Me, too. Except there were a couple of times that the friends showed up for food and my kids weren’t even home. I loved sitting at the kitchen table and talking to my kid’s friends.

  5. Paul Lamb

    I’m striving to have my refrigerator as empty as possible (otherwise I will eat the food). Had to do with a 32-year-old son living with me now.

    1. Teri Post author

      When my husband travels I feel guilty stocking the fridge, but I know if I don’t I’ll get too much take-out. Always a conundrum!

  6. donnaeve

    I was the picky eater in my family. I’m actually not sure how I survived – neither is my mother. I remember playing all day outside, and coming in to eat, and sitting in the chair, facing my mother, and slowly (yet very steadily) sliding down the seat, inch, by inch, by inch. Until all she could see were my eyes – at table level. I stared. She ate. I stared some more. She would finally say, “Oh, just get up and don’t complain later if you’re….”

    I was already gone.

    My husband loves a full fridge. And cabinets too. I’m constantly getting on him for 1)buying in bulk, (it’s only the two of us!), 2) buying more of something he “forgot” we had it. The other day after he went grocery shopping we ended up with three boxes of lasagna noodles, four containers of bread crumbs and about six different versions of Paprika. I give him a list every time he goes, and finally I (almost yelling) said, “Don’t buy it if it’s not on the damn list!” 3)Cooking like ten are coming so we end up with more food than we’ll ever eat – even if we eat it for DAYS.

    Recently he was gone for almost a week. When he came back? The fridge had one container of milk, two eggs, a jar of pickles, a bottle of OJ – almost gone…and condiments. That was it. Of course that spurred a frenzy at the grocery store. (see above paragraph)

  7. Catherine

    Well I confess my fridge is mostly empty (come on, you’ve seen how skinny I am!) and this is because I can’t stand my local supermarket and my sons eat everything I can buy within hours. It’s just constant replenishment. I don’t think I have good fridge memories. I guess the fridge is just not part of my life!
    But then if you were to ask me about my shoe cupboard..

  8. Shruti

    This remind of me my aunt’s fridge (my mum’s sister). Its always overflowing. So many things stacked inside. She has 2 sons who are ALWAYS hungry! And then its at our house. I literally have to search the insides of our fridge to find something EATABLE. Because we are ALWAYS out of things. The only thing we always have is milk and sometimes eggs. I really never understood why was mom was so keen on keeping limited stocks of everything. Maybe because shes never home and even dad and then I REALLY rely on our fridge so much as other families do…*Sigh* But I love a full fridge 🙂 It gives me a feeling that we have enough. That I don’t have to brainstorm about what snack to eat, I can just find it somewhere inside it. Thanks for the beautiful post. It really overwhelmed me.

Comments are closed.