Sunday May 27

Amanda-McGuire The inside of someone’s fridge says more about that person than their choice of car, clothes, or music ever could.
 
Our fridge always has craft beer, high quality cheese, and grass-fed meats from a local farmer. There are always containers of leftovers that we pick at until the goods are gone. And there are always fresh vegetables that I try to keep contained in their appropriately labeled crisper drawers.
 
AMR_2 Objectively speaking, our fridge reflects my OCD-ish organizational tendencies and my slight 2012 end-of-the-world paranoia. Hence, the Four Loko stockpile. On a serious note, it reveals our belief in local foods and organics.
 
AMR_3 Whenever I open our fridge, our dog Bleu runs to meet me and sniffs every morsel within reach of his nose. He’s never tried to snatch a locally-made turkey sausage, but I see mastermind plans hatching in the way he wags his entire body when he finds a smell he particularly likes.
 
Bleu’s enthusiasm for the fridge and my food obsession led me to the first 2011 issue of From Plate to Palate—What’s In Your Fridge?
 
For most the thought of opening their fridges to complete strangers is like inviting strangers to root around in medicine cabinets or junk drawers. Fridges often times are private property. But with unabashed pride, the contributors in this issue photographed their fridges and examined the contents.
 
AMR_1 From the pondering of food politics in Cal Freeman’s essay to the list of what goes in Kate Northrop’s prose poem “I love my mother.  I clean out her fridge,” this issue of From Plate to Palate sneaks a peek beyond the refrigerator’s doors. Tenaya Darlington, a.k.a Madame Fromage, shares the ingredients of a well-stocked fridge while Andrea Iglar turns groceries into a comforting winter dinner. Booze-hounds Laura Brennan and Txema Oh lay bare their ice box to humorously reflect upon Dr. Sandra Cabot’s Liver Diet.
 
 While compiling this issue what became clear to me was that refrigerators are more than boxes with motors; they mirror our sentiments on food politics, our emotions toward food, and our survival instincts. And they eerily remind us of childhood.
 
As you ring in the New Year, don’t neglect to give your fridge some attention. Maybe even a good thorough cleaning. You just might discover something about yourself that you hadn’t anticipated.
 
 

 
freeman Cal Freeman was born and raised in West Detroit. He received his BA in Literature from University of Detroit Mercy and his MFA in poetry writing from Bowling Green State University. In 2004 Terrance Hayes selected him for the Devine Poetry Fellowship. His poems have appeared in such journals as Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Folio, Commonweal, The Journal, Drunken Boat, among others. He currently lives in Dearborn, MI with his wife, Sarah, and his stepson, Ethan. He teaches poetry and creative writing at University of Detroit Mercy.
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Refrigeration or Nearness to the Bear by Cal Freeman
 
Freeman_1 The refrigerator has always been a euphemism for white middle America.  Instead of directly acknowledging petty suburban turf wars, it is much more convenient to speak of keeping food in the ice box.  One’s refrigeration vocabulary is always an indicator of social class.  The fridge is sublimated ideology; it is a root cellar without the hirsute roots.
 
When I think of refrigerators, I think first of Willy Loman’s tirade concerning the inferiority of his Hastings fridge, then Shel Silverstein’s  poem “Bear in There.”  The former is a tragic rendering of middle class disillusionment, the latter a humorous doggerel lyric poking fun at middle class anxiety over maintaining creature comforts.
Ours is a Maytag.  We didn’t purchase it; it came with our house.  An uncle who helped us move explained that it was a very good brand.  A retractable arm attached to the top right shelf winds the shelf higher or lower to accommodate taller items on the lower shelf.  When I think taller items, I think bottles of Prosecco, which probably ranks me among the petit-bourgeois mentioned in paragraph 2.  (It also hints at an unhealthy proclivity for booze which transcends class.)
 
My impression that anyone who has driven a teamster truck knows refrigeration comes from the fact that the only two who have spoken to me about it in technical terms are my uncle, Joe Good, a twenty year Hostess driver, and my neighbor, Jerry Nichols, a retired driver of double-hitch gravel haulers.  This is purely anecdotal though and not to be mistaken for empirical fact.  When my father gave me an extra fridge, I put it in my garage and Jerry immediately saw it as a safe haven for his Budweiser against the summer heat.
 
Refrigeration’s relationship to the laws of thermodynamics is not an interesting topic, not even for scientists; few seem eager to discuss the machinations of the devices, certainly not the salespeople at the chains where we are apt to buy.  Even if they understood, it would only make them repetitive and boring.  How much can one say about compressor motors that vary little?  Instead, retail makes a fetish of the boxes’ plastics.
 
The truly wealthy seem to like the fridges that blend with the cabinetry, dressed elegantly in oak or mahogany, trying to tastefully escape the semblance of use.  Since refrigerator designers have not yet embraced a deconstructed style with gaping metal and plastic motors and exposed steel thermodynamic heating grates, these aristocratic boxes are probably the most honest refrigerators one can find, an acknowledgement and performance of pure style.
 
Style.  Euphemistic statements about worry over food in the fridge are merely sublimated expressions of lifestyle anxiety.  Middle class worries are not worries over anything as primal as sustenance.  Shel Silverstein mocks us wonderfully when he writes, “There’s a polar bear / in our Frigidaire.”  The bear in Silverstein’s poem is eating all the food, is eating us out of house and home.  “He's nibbling the noodles, / He's munching the rice, / He's slurping the soda, / He's licking the ice.”  That the domestic box could satisfy a bear’s gustatory needs reminds us of our relative opulence.
 
It isn’t that this opulence liberates us from food worry.  We are still anxious over what goes into the fridge, but it’s our lifestyles and not our lives that depend on it.  Our vegetable drawer usually has organic, locally grown stuff, for instance.  We tell ourselves we’ve voted with our pocketbook, thus avoiding the messiness of genuine activism.  We don’t have pop.  Our milk comes from Calder’s Dairy in Monroe, MI just twenty miles from our house.  Our chicken is organic free range.  If you are what you eat, to borrow a pat American cliché, I am the ideology of comfort.  I have stepped beyond the myriad rows of corn into the young professional caste, and I am honing my palate.
 

 
Iglar Andrea Iglar is a freelance writer, editor and musician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She regularly writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (www.post-gazette.com) and likes to read the newspaper’s food section every Thursday. She enjoys growing herbs and cooking meals based on what she finds at the local farmer’s market. She thinks 24-hour restaurants should offer their nighttime customers the same quality of food as their daytime patrons and does not appreciate being served “nite soup.”
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Spinach Casserole By Andrea Iglar
 
It is the week before Thanksgiving and one of the last nights of the season that my favorite farmer’s market is open. With winter approaching, I am in the mood to stockpile as many vegetables and fruits as possible, knowing that autumn produce tends to stay fresh if stored in a cool, dry place. So I bag heads of broccoli and cauliflower. I select Empire and Pink Lady apples, and Asian and Bosc pears. I choose a basket each of white baby potatoes and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
 
In this food frenzy, I fall for a humongous bag of fresh, dark green, crinkly-leaved, crispy-looking spinach. I happily shell out the $2.50 thinking, “I’ll have a spinach salad! It’ll be great!”
 
Iglar_1 When I get home, I clean and trim the spinach and place it in my small fridge, where it hogs most of the top shelf. I suddenly remember grocery-shopping day is tomorrow and think I’d better make that salad pronto and free up some fridge space.
 
But then I realize I am not Popeye; I yam what I yam—someone who can eat a lot more candied yams than spinach salad.
 
I get to thinking how spinach gets lots smaller when it’s cooked. Plus, it’s just another green, so it can be used in a dish the same way I might use peas or broccoli. And how do I use those? In tuna noodle casserole, of course! This idea, combined with the resources available in my fridge and cupboards on this particular evening, led me to devise a cheesy spinach-pasta casserole—sans the tuna.
 
My version was a tad heavy on the spinach (I wanted to use it all up!) but was surprisingly yummy and hearty, and the fellow ingredients did a good job of balancing the inclination of spinach to taste bitter.
 
Prior to adding the spinach to the casserole dish, I sauteed it in a skillet with olive oil, and instead of using the traditional onion and garlic, I used dashes of nutmeg, thyme and lemon-herb pepper. I used cream of mushroom soup, but other cream soups such as potato would have worked, too. The sour cream wasn’t necessary but added some flavor and creaminess. Preparation took about 45 minutes.
 
If you end up with more spinach than will fit in a salad bowl, try this recipe or a creative variation.
 

Andrea’s Cheesy Vegetarian Spinach-Pasta Casserole
 
Ingredients:
-Fresh spinach (whatever amount you prefer—or need to use up to clear some fridge space)
-About 2 to 2-1/2 cups pasta (I used medium shells)
-2 eggs
-8 oz. light sour cream
-1 can cream of mushroom soup
-Cheese: About ½ cup parmesan, ½ cup shredded cheddar, ¼ cup four-cheese Mexican blend
-Olive oil
-Herbs & spices
 
Cook the spinach and pasta:
Wash, drain, trim and chop fresh spinach. Heat skillet; add olive oil, herbs and spices. Add spinach to skillet and sautee for several minutes until wilted. (If using a lot of spinach, sautee in portions, adding oil and flavoring as needed, and transfer to a bowl as the spinach is cooked.) In the meantime, boil pasta, drain and set aside.
 
Make the cheesy mixture:
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add some parsley if desired. Add the parmesan, the cream soup, the sour cream, and the cheddar cheese, mixing well as you go along.
 
Prepare the casserole:
Spray a 2-½-quart casserole dish with Pam. Combine the cheesy mixture with the spinach and pasta. Top with the four-cheese blend. Cover and bake 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve and enjoy…and refrigerate leftovers. A Tupperware container won’t take up nearly as much space in your fridge as a humongous bag of spinach.
 

Darlington Tenaya Darlington is the author of the blog Madame Fromage. She is also a guest-blogger for the Philadelphia cheese mecca known as Di Bruno Bros. In her past life, she edited the food section of Isthmus Newspaper in Madison, WI. Now she teaches Food Writing at Saint Joseph's University.
 
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Fridge-ligious By Tenaya Darlington, a.k.a Madame Fromage
 
Darlington_1 I like to think of my fridge as “the afterlife.” It’s full of all the things I could ever want in paradise – from tiny Lady Apples to French cheese – and none of the things I would banish from the universe, such as diet soda or Kraft Singles.
 
I view the fridge as a space that I curate. I have a partner, but he is a cereal man. He curates a certain cupboard, while I take pride in stocking the crisper (with cheese) and lining the door with condiments. As he will tell you, nothing makes me happier than a well-stocked fridge and a Vesuvial pantry.
 
I believe a well-stocked fridge should contain these items: 4-5 cheeses, smoked fish, a quart of raw milk, 2-3 delicious mustards, pickles, apples, greens, a jar of Nutella and good preserves, organic eggs, fresh horseradish, ginger, plenty of olives, and at least one thing you have never tried before.
 
Darlington_2 Should the spirit of M.F.K Fisher descend upon your house, you will be prepared to serve her a sumptuous spread. In the fridge door, you should always stow a bottle of Prosecco and some dark beer.
 
You could say I’ve been pollinated by Michael Pollan – I value locally grown food and the handiwork of food artisans. My cheese bill is astronomical, but I view paying high prices as a form of tithing – supporting the hard work of people who are stewards of the land and of animals.
 
This makes me the kind of grrrl who buys clothes at Good Will and shops at Whole Foods – or a local market, preferably. And that’s fine with me. Like a good cheese, I may look fearsome on the outside, but inside, I am divine.
 


Brennan Laura Brennan is complicated. She is also American, from the East Coast actually,but claims San Francisco as home, THOUGH, she lives in Barcelona. There she enjoys talking about things that cannot be solved, punctuation, drinking too much wine, provocative relationships and Bolets! If tuberculosis…was still prevalent; she’d probably be dead.
 
Ogara Txema Oh is very tall and has exceptional patches of grey in his beard and hair, and a little extra fur on his cheeks that is not alarming, but does build character. Due to his strong Basque accent, Txema sounds more Transylvanian than Spanish when he speaks English. Txema lives the parallel lives of a technical professional, and a literature obsessed modern day drunkard with a nice collection of blues and jazz. He has lived in many locations in the States and Spain, and now resides in the City Center of Barcelona with a little white dog named Aprika who really needs a bath. Once when he was a young teen he stole money from his Grandmother… and still feels bad about it. Txema’s Bio by Laura Brennan.
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Liv-or Di-et by Laura Brennan
A brief account of two foie addicts making an attempt at recovery.
 
My flat mate Txema Oh and I are both known for our ecstatic (and sometimes destructive) love of food & wine, so after a very... intense late summer/early fall, we decided it was time to take a break from the Jamon Bellota, Basque cheese , crianza and dear God—the gin tonics.
 
Brennan_1 After considering several options, we decided on Dr. Sandra Cabot’s Liver Diet. The diet is suppose to last around two months and consists of primarily fresh fruits and veggies, legumes, fish, nuts and lean meat. All the while avoiding processed food, anything from a can, animal fat, cooked oil and ALCOHOL.
 
Though we managed to pick the worst time of year to be interrupted by food holidays, we did to stick to it for around three weeks and felt amazing! My double chin went away, and his skin changed from a kind of yellow/grey shade back to his natural Spanish olive complexion.
 
We have hopes of getting back on track in January (when no one is roasting goose or handing over baskets of wine, cheese and pate).
 
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Letter to Mother by Txema Oh
 
Dear mother,

You will be happy to know that he who writes is healthier than ever, or at least than in his whole adult life.

Of this I must be thankful to food.

I have been put on a strict cleansing diet, if you can believe that. And I assure you, it is not fiction, but fact.

Ogara_1 Mother, in my kitchen, the plates, once full of matches and ash, proudly present lively salads and soups.

The counters, where empty bottles of wine stood, are now lovely gardens of spices, roots and jars full of nuts.

Mom, on the fridge’s shelves, there are no more notes to the police with the name and phone number of the transvestite who is coming to visit me on call, in case they find me lying bleeding and dead on the living room floor.

Or a note to Siobhan with "Ali and friend: (number)" written on a post-it and stuck to the door.

Carrot and celery leaves hang through the cracks with grapes, tomatoes, mangos, turkey and bass.

And there are no more vials of morphine on the door compartments... now I use chili paste for kicks.

Hurry and read this letter maw, because this is only going to last the month of November.

Mother, I love food. And I look forward to loving yours when I come home come at Christmas time. My hands don’t shake any more now—see. They just tremble in anticipation.

Love.
 

 
Northrop Kate Northrop’s first collection of poems, Back Through Interruption (Kent State University Press 2002) won the Stan and Tom Wick First Book Award.  Her second collection, Things Are Disappearing Here (Persea Books 2007) was the runner-up for the James Laughlin Award and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.  Her new collection, Clean, is forthcoming from Persea (April 2011).  Northrop teaches in the MFA program at the University of Wyoming.  (More information available at www.katenorthrop.com)
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Northrop_1  
I love my mother.  I clean out her fridge. By Kate Northrop
 
What stays I place on the counter: bottles of salad dressing, wiped clean; jars of mustards, one of mayonnaise, also cleaned; rolls of film; six-pack of low-fat yogurt; a jar of pickled okra, still unopened.  Yeast packets, juice.  Bottle of chardonnay.  What goes goes into the sink: a blue plastic container, saving Bernaise (from the holiday) so old the surface cracks and fissures; a Ziploc, ripped, with cheese inside, a piece of Brie furred over in mold, a chunk of cheddar, its yellow edge darker and moving inward, like a shadow crossing a building.  Oh Hallelujah, little garbage disposal.  And the rest, it’s good-bye, good-bye, good riddance, into the trash: ancient tubes of anchovy paste, tomato paste, hardened into sculpture, the edges sharp enough to cut you; the butter’s crumpled wrapping; the package of demi-glace.