Last Sunday, just before my daughter left with her boyfriend to take some things to college, she mentioned that the refrigerator light wasn’t on and the refrigerator didn’t appear to be working.
I leaped into panic mode because:
- Getting anything repaired in Los Angeles is usually expensive.
- Getting anything repaired on a Sunday in Los Angeles is usually very expensive.
- I just bought a plane ticket to go back to visit family for Labor Day, which I probably couldn’t afford, and this was God’s way of showing me that, (in your best God voice) “Yes, it’s true Fran, you probably can’t afford to go anywhere, and I arranged for your refrigerator to break down to beat that into your thick head.”
Thanks God, I needed that.
Then Hamlet showed up. Hamlet was the repair guy from MK Appliance Repair, who not only came on a Sunday afternoon, less than two hours after I called him, but showed me that my refrigerator was not broken! We just had so much crap piled in it, a habit I picked up from my mother, that the air flow was restricted and therefore it wasn’t cooling like it was supposed to. And Hamlet replaced my refrigerator light for nothing!
The whole thing cost me 40 bucks. I almost hugged him, but it would have been a really awkward moment. In my joy, I tipped him five dollars,
The only bright spot in all of this was that Hamlet forced me to take everything out of the freezer so he could check it. It was a humbling experience because the contents of my freezer looked scarily like my mother’s, minus the small package of chicken feet she was hiding. Otherwise we could be freezer twins.
3 separate bags of grated cheese, one with less than a teaspoon of cheese.
Two very small pieces of frozen pie dough that, together, would barely even make a small tart.
4 bags of frozen bananas – some horribly brown, some hideously brown (the ones pictured are the hideous ones)
1 large bag of lemon juice left over from a wedding I catered last January
1 small bag of frozen diced quince from God knows when
2 leftover ham bones (I had to throw one out – it was like Sophie’s Choice for me)
2 bags of chopped walnuts
1 small bag of hazelnuts
1 mostly empty container of leftover pesto
3 bags of Nestle’s white chocolate chips (I’m testing a theory that they last longer if you freeze them after opening them — I’ll let you know the results.)
1 container of chopped peanuts
3 bags of coconut
1 container of leftover peanut butter icing
1 container of vegan coffee icing from a blog over a year ago – Dear God what was I thinking?
2 peanut biscotti – those had to be from Christmas!
1 bag of wheat buns
And that isn’t even all of it. That was just what was in the door of the freezer. I’m sure this proves I have freezer-hoarder syndrome. But, like my Greatest Generation parents, I hate to throw out perfectly good food. If I just baked a ham, I save the bone for soup. I do the same with chicken. If I make icing and have some leftover, I save it for the next cake.
I honestly can’t help myself. I can hear my mom’s voice in my ear. “Honey, dond a trow datta out — dattsa good a food!” I freeze nuts because they last longer that way. I freeze buns thinking I’ll make burgers, then never do. I make plans for baking things that never transpire – that explains the brown frozen bananas. Even as I type this I was thinking about how many eggs it would take to make lemon bars from that lemon juice I found. But I decided to chuck it all since the plastic probably leached into it by now and I’m better off without lemon bars anyway.
The good news is I just made delicious split pea soup from the ham bone that won the Sophie’s Choice decision. Here’s a link to an old blog post with that Split Pea Soup Recipe. It’ll come in handy this fall and winter. I’m also going to wash all my plastic bags, then dry and re-use them. Then I’ll figure out what to do with all the Costco ravioli in the freezer, pick out some recipes for the frozen fish, then tackle the frozen meatball problem, then probably pass out. But at least I’ll rest comfortably knowing my mother’s legacy lives on.
Chas MadonioAugust 24, 2017 at 12:03 pm
Jeffrey Dahmer had the same problem with his freezer – but it wasn’t chicken feet.
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 2:07 pm
Now you’ve gone too far, but I’m laughing, so what does that say about me????
Theresa LoBueAugust 24, 2017 at 9:16 am
Im wondering if there is a support group for children of our parents’ generation. I’m a reformed freezaholic. I’ve taken cues from my daughter who saves nothing and one of my D’sIL who does not use paper towels or baggies. Before freezing something I really consider whether I will really use it within three months. Sadly, I usually throw it out. I now use glassware and don’t use plastic bags in the freezer. I rarely use plastic bags at all. My mom would have loved Costco having had nine children and was the most frugal woman I’ve ever met. Freezer paper, wax paper and aluminum foil were her freezer friends. My freezer is not pristine but it’s no longer a nightmare. I kinda know what’s in it. God Bless Hamlet. Thanks for the memories Fran! I love your writing. Always evokes great memories and paints such a vivid pictures of your mother.
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 2:04 pm
You have inspired me!!! I am not a fan of plastic and am not sure why I never thought to do the same and just get rid of it! I don’t need it! Well, maybe plastic wrap –but even that could probably be eliminated if I just use the glass bowls. I know they sell them at Costco. I am so glad you took the time to write!!!! Thank you for the idea. There is hope now, even for my freezer! Can’t wait to see you at the wedding!
Ann ZuckermanAugust 24, 2017 at 8:57 am
I am buying you a bag of chicken feet first chance I get! Loved this, Fran.
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 2:07 pm
Anne, I love you but only give me the chicken feet if you want to hear me scream. They totally gross me out – eek. I think my mom boiled them, but just the thought of it is pretty disgusting. Although, the humor factor might be worth handing me the bag.
Chas MadonioAugust 24, 2017 at 8:07 am
This blog could have been written by my wife. She hates to throw anything out – not just food but ANYTHING!!! And her mother never threw anything out, so now we have all Nancy’s stuff plus all her mother’s stuff. If there is one thing we have, it’s STUFF.
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 2:01 pm
Stuff can be good. At least you are prepared for anything! Know what I used to do to my mom? I used to take out a bag a week of broken plastic crap she had jammed in drawers, and she never knew the difference. I’ll bet Nancy’s stuff is nice though– you probably shouldn’t do that to her! I’ll be home for Labor Day and Christmas- hopefully we’ll connnect on one of those trips!
lafridayAugust 23, 2017 at 11:44 pm
:). My mom NEVER threw out ice cream even when it was icy and gunky on top. Did you ever see Albert Brooks’ “Mother?” Debbie Reynolds (who played his mom) called it the “icy protective coating.” I gave my mother the stink eye as tears rolled down my face from laughing so hard. Now I know when I am missing my mom I can come down and stare into your freezer.
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm
Yes! The icy protective coating, I know it well. Once you get past it, it’s OK. God help me! Thanks Linda, for sharing and please feel free to come and stare at my freezer any time you want!
NicolAugust 23, 2017 at 10:03 pm
I am in the middle ground of this group. I do throw things away after a while, but I am also a saver and I loooove extended leftovers. My two favorite takeaways from this, aside from all that we learn from our parents and grandparents, are that now I just want to nickname you “wheat buns”, and there is a repair man out there named HAMLET! Thanks for always sharing your stories, Fran xo
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm
You are the only person I would ever let call me wheat buns, just so you know! If you ever have a problem definitely call Hamlet, he is awesome. MK Appliance Repair, the man is wonderful.The number, if you ever need a repair is 818 434-7730. I love extended leftovers too! I don’t have the energy to cook every night!
Bernie TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 9:20 pm
Fran since I bought a vacuum packer the foods can last a lot longer in the freezer and taste very fresh with none of that ice on them . Their terrific for keeping nuts fresh! oops. I usually vacuum food the minute I get home stuff I’m going to freeze. That would be a nice gift for someone to get you for something. They do say a little bacteria is good for the immune system . I can’t believe I wrote you something nice!
Fran TunnoAugust 24, 2017 at 1:55 pm
Don’t worry, word won’t get out that you were nice to me! You know, I’m not that crazy about plastic and I think we all need to use less of it, so I’m leaning toward Theresa’s only using glass in the freezer plan. You never know how much of what’s in plastic leaches out into whatever it’s surrounding. But I’m happy to hear that you are keeping your nuts fresh- its so important as we age. xoxox
Catrina woman (@Catrina_Woman)August 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm
I was raised by two German women (Nana and Mom), who drilled in me “waste not, want not”. My husband came home once to find me absolutely beaming because I had taken 4 donated oranges and made orange curd, orange simple sugar and candied the peels. Zero waste!! (And yes, my freezer looks suspiciously like yours did)
daedae51August 23, 2017 at 4:49 pm
OMG we are related! (I’m Danish, Irish Scottish). The freezer in my frig and the full freezer downstairs are not something I would want a repairman to see, lol. I have slowly been trying to work on pantry and freezers, sigh…..it’s quite a job. I had to laugh about the artichoke. The first time my late husband saw my mother serve a salad for the whole family he was speechless. It was in a soup/cereal bowl, we weren’t big salad eaters, lol. Salads got a bit bigger after that. Oh yes the OCD in me won’t let me just throw things out if they are in recyclable containers so that makes things even more work. I’m 66 so I’m not sure I will get this all done in what I have left of my lifetime.
Fran TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 6:49 pm
I love it! Too funny. I know about the salads. I remember thinking, I could eat that entire salad my mother-in-law just sat down for a party of six! Yes to the recyclable containers too! I’m most of the way through all the plastic bags I said I’d wash! Thanks for always reading and taking the time to respond with such great stories!
daedae51August 23, 2017 at 10:03 pm
I wouldn’t miss one of your posts, love them, even when I don’t comment.
Matilda NovakAugust 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm
i love you, Fran. Reading your words makes me smile from the inside out. i’m so glad you write, and cook and love food like you do….PS– i’m more convinced than ever that Hungarians and Italians are related.
Fran TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 6:46 pm
Thank you so much Matilda! It does my heart good to know that even though we don’t get to see each other, we can still stay in touch via blog posts and food! I have no doubt that we are probably ALL related somewhere down the line. I just found out my ex husband had an ancestor in the 16 to 1800’s who was supposedly 100 % Italian. Who knew?
Donna TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 9:51 am
Praise God, the truth has finally come out! Thank you, Frannie AND Carolyn, for saying what I’ve held in for 48 years! Your brother Bernard has the same sickness … I’ve experienced every example the two of you described. Can you imagine how hard this clash of cultures might be for me, coming from a home where most meals were a meat, a potato, a salad, a vegetable and a dessert. My father wouldn’t eat leftovers because they might be spoiled from sitting on the counter for a few hours, especially foods with mayonnaise! Our fridge and freezer were kept spotless and organized by my OCD mother! Bernie still struggles with throwing out foods that expired five years ago, often just moves them out of my sight to the cellar. Nothing is thrown away, God forbid, and that includes eye drops that expired seven years ago … you name it! What is the lesson I’ve learned over the years from this sickness? Bernie and his immediate family have been and still are healthier than I am or ever will be! So there you go! But, Frannie, please throw out that teaspoon of grated cheese! Donna
Fran TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 6:42 pm
Hmmm. What are the health benefits of not worrying about whether your food will kill you or not? I’ll have to look into that. Honestly, I have eaten things I’ve left out for more hours than I should and I’m still alive and reasonably healthy so there may be some truth to your theory donna. I did throw out the little bit of grated cheese, but I tasted it first to see if it was OK. Storing in plastic bags in the freezer is not good, If you have to store stuff, do it in Tupperware! It’ll taste better! Remember that Bern!
Fran TunnoAugust 23, 2017 at 9:38 am
Oh My God, Carolyn I love you!!!! So true. I totally get it, my mother-in-law once served one artichoke to 6 people for the dinner vegetable, and I was so shocked, I had to call my mom and tell her. She replied: I can’d a believe it. Wasn’t she ashamed offa dat?” That’s the Italian way. Abbondanza, right?
CarolynAugust 23, 2017 at 6:59 am
Greetings from another Western PA Italian. OK, I laughed out loud when I read this. My husband refers to this predilection as the “Italian sickness” — which includes other symptoms such as overflowing pantries of dry goods and cans. Overflowing to the point that stuff falls out when you open the door and then you have to move certain items to the basement kitchen annex. “Who needs 10 different shapes of pasta in the house at the same time?” He’ll just never understand. The other Italian sickness symptom which he still doesn’t get even after 30+ years is the need to cook WAY TOO MUCH food for any family gathering, including making several entrees, multiple side dishes and always some form of pasta and red sauce with multiple meats in it so that EVERYONE GETS TO EAT WHAT THEY LIKE. During his childhood, his German mother made one thing and if you didn’t like it, you didn’t eat that meal. And she didn’t care. To Italian ears, that sounds like child abuse to me. As my Nonna used to say, “If you run out of any dish that you’re serving, then you didn’t make enough!”
I’m going to have him read your blog so he knows it’s just not me.