Thursday, April 22, 2010

Many deep mysteries lurk within the deep freezer

Never mind the deep dark crawl space beneath the stairs of a serial killer's house in a scary movie. Forget the inside of a coffin containing a terrified victim who's been buried alive. And don't even think about what ghouls and demons lurk inside the attic of an old abandoned house built on an ancient burial ground.

The fact is, you haven't seen anything until you've opened my large freezer in the basement and discovered the incredible historic and archaeological artefacts therein.

If you're like me, that large appliance becomes nothing but a graveyard of freezer-burned meat bought on sale, bags of frozen vegetables bought two years ago during a fitness kick that lasted exactly six minutes and nine seconds and prepared meals in plastic containers that you swore you'd remember what they were so didn't bother writing the description on the cover or affixing a label.

I'm pretty sure I hold the Guinness World Record for most containers of frozen soup made from leftover turkey. Over the past couple of years, I've made several batches. I just keep forgetting that I haven't touched the previous batch, so now I have enough frozen turkey soup to supply the International Frozen Turkey Soup Festival, if there is such a thing. (Feel free to have the organizers give me a call if there is.)

And chicken breasts... you can never have too many chicken breasts. Well, actually, that's not true. I do indeed believe that I officially have too many frozen chicken breasts according to an old city bylaw passed years ago when someone was found dead in their house with 500 pounds of chicken breasts in their freezer. They were scared to eat them because they were saving them for a rainy day. Maybe they would lose their job or pension and need to eat from the freezer for a few weeks? Might as well be prepared, eh?

As it stands now, I could pretty much stop buying groceries for several months and just live on the contents of my freezers -- the one attached to my refrigerator and the large one in the basement -- also known as 'the graveyard.' I try to keep as much upstairs in the refrigerator freezer as I can. At least that stuff gets looked at and sees the light of day once every blue moon.

It's the large chest freezer downstairs ('the deep freeze,' as we call it around these parts) that concerns me. While I've managed to label most of the stuff -- and, of course, some of it is pretty obvious -- there are things in there that could be anything from some leftover casserole I made in the 1990s to mystery meat bought on sale when the Clintons were still in the White House... to Jimmy Hoffa.

I'm afraid to thaw the turkey I bought on sale before Christmas. I can't make more turkey soup. I just can't. There are at least 10 to 15 containers of soup there already -- turkey and other kinds. And you know what? I don't even eat soup that often. Sure, I like it and everything, but I just don't eat it fast enough.

Luckily, I had the wherewithal to figure out that writing the contents on the container with a grease pencil was very practical, especially when the food was still hot. The tip of the white grease pencil would melt a bit and leave nice, large, legible writing. (That's my Heloise-style tip of the day.) And it washes off easily, too, whenever you manage to eat the darn stuff and wash the container afterwards.

Before my grease pencil trick, though, I relied on my memory just like I rely on my memory when I buy stuff in bulk stores.

Oh sure, I thought I'd remember the difference between this flour and that flour... this whitish powder and that whitish powder... this greenish herb and that greenish herb. And, you know, for a few weeks, I would indeed remember.

But then, when the recipe I bought it for was made (and inevitably frozen, never to be seen again), I'd end up with a pantry full of little see-through plastic bags full of mystery stuff that all looked the same.

Now, before you remind me that there are tags in the bulk stores for writing down what you're buying, please be reminded that I'm a man. I don't ask for directions when I'm lost while driving, and I don't write down the name of the herb, spice, or other powdery stuff I'm buying at a bulk store. Like any typical man, I rely on my memory and ego. Unfortunately, the memory goes on vacation while the ego has nailed itself to the inside of my brain.

A pantry full of mystery powders, herbs and spices that all look the same. A freezer full of mystery meat, a kabillion containers of turkey soup and leftover mystery casseroles that I neglected to label. The next series in the CSI franchise could easily be called CSI Brian's Freezer.

I was at my mother's the other day and she, too, seems to be afflicted with this disease. She disappeared for a moment and then came to me holding a huge bag of frozen garlic cloves. "Do you want this?" she asked. "No," I answered. "Take it," she insisted. "I said no!" What the heck was I going to do with a huge bag of frozen garlic cloves?

Open a restaurant called Garlic MacGarlic's House of Garlicky Goodness? That was a serious amount of garlic, let me tell you.

Had I taken that bag of frozen garlic home, it would have been just like moving a corpse from one grave to another -- her freezer to my freezer.

I'll end up eating all that frozen turkey soup and freezer-burned mystery meat eventually -- maybe if I develop agoraphobia and refuse to leave the house for months on end. Besides, I'll need something on which to sprinkle all those mystery powders and herbs in my pantry.

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