Some people call them science experiments. Some call them wasted food. I’m talking about forgotten food items in the fridge that turn to snot.
A cabbage, a pint of strawberries, a bunch of cilantro. Store in a corner, under other bags and containers and behind jars and forget. Soon you have an alien something oozing a toxic goo, crawling and dripping on the walls and shelves. You don’t want to throw it out—after all, you just bought it last week. You can cut away the brown parts of that cabbage, the soft parts of the cucumber, scrape off the layer of mold on the cheese, maybe microwave the heck out of that old slice of pizza and it’ll still be good, right?
I knew the lone carrot had been in the vegetable keeper for awhile. But root crops keep forever. Whenever I opened the vegetable drawer I glimpsed the carrot, slowing losing its orange color, turning filmy grey, then brown, with a black shriveled tip and little white hairs growing all over it. I pulled it out, admired its transformation, marveled at its flaccid flop. It was once a sturdy root of the earth, bursting with crunch and flavor, dripping with carroty goodness. I put it back in the veggie keeper and invited friends for a gathering. Admission was an item past its prime from the fridge. My carrot was the best. Everyone else was too embarrassed to reveal the gruesome things they’d grown in dark places in the icebox.
Mushrooms are my downfall. When I buy them at the store, I plan how I’ll use them within the next couple days—in eggs, soups, in a stir-fry. I drop them in the vegetable keeper and forget. Days later I open the drawer and see them, no longer wearing firm white flesh, but instead contracted and greying, like an old man who’s tired of life. I’ll use them tonight, I say. Two weeks later I pull them out of the veggie keeper, intending to slice off the slime and save a tenth of what used to be edible. Into the compost pile they go. Mushrooms are too expensive for such nonsense.
Which brings us to the compost pile. It’s not a true compost heap—more of a scattering of kitchen scraps. I toss inedible greenery, peels, the white parts of jalapeño peppers, bruised and dented bell peppers, shriveled tomatoes, withering lettuce leaves, apple cores, mango seeds, and avocado pits in a spot near my garden. My heap of decaying treasures attracts the resident packrat and lures him/her away from my garden tomatoes and kale. The pile never composts. It just disappears. Until I find discarded eggshells and corncobs and pistachio shells in the packrat den somewhere else on my property.
Ahh, the fun of old food in the fridge! Works of art, objects of reflection. fodder for the local packrats. I’ll never stop cultivating fun stuff in the fridge.