Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Technical difficulties

Remember how a couple of months ago I did that Eating Down the Fridge Challenge? And blogged about how fun and interesting it was to not go shopping for a whole week, and get creative with what was on hand? I even got to talk up limp carrots in The Washington Post!

Let me tell you, it’s a different story when you’re doing it for real.

The fridge had been acting strange for quite a while—mostly making loud grinding noises, running the motor more often than seemed strictly necessary, and randomly freezing items that were not in the freezer. I put it down to an over-reaction to the dog days of January and February, and did what I always do when machines start giving me trouble—turned up the radio and ignored it.

Irritated at its complaints not being heard, the fridge decided to take things to the next level. Which meant that I noticed that, instead of things being randomly frozen, everything in the fridge seemed to be getting warmer and warmer. Then it started to smell a little funny.

Of course, by the time things had reached this stage, it was 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, the voicemail was on at the repair place, and we had guests coming for dinner.

Faced with the prospect of no way to fix this suddenly-dire situation for a minimum of 36-48 hours, I panicked. Then I took a few deep breaths and thought about what people used to do to keep food fresh before they had fancy modern refrigerators. Then I went to the supermarket and lugged home a 10-lb. bag of ice and nothing else, having determined I wasn’t putting anything else in the fridge until I knew what was wrong with it. (All the while giving thanks that at least the freezer seemed to be working fine through all of this, so in a pinch I could stick things in there…assuming I could find room for them.)

The next several meals were a medley of culinary triage as I plowed through containers of leftovers and bags of produce, trying to determine what was usable and what had been lost, making several horrifying discoveries along the way. (Who knew that much mold could grow that fast?)

The repair man (aka Fridge Guy) showed up promptly on Monday afternoon. We took everything out of the freezer (no small task) so he could get to the motor, and he started poking around while I hovered off to one side, hoping that it would either be a simple repair job or the refrigerator equivalent of totaling your car. Please please don’t let it be something that’s going to leave me in this lukewarm limbo for a week while we wait for a part to come in….

Fridge Man pulled his head out of the freezer. “The defroster for the motor is broken, so it’s clogged up with ice and no cold air is getting into the fridge. I can fix it, but it’ll take a week for the part to get here.”


He continued, “But if you defrost the freezer for 24 hours, you should be able to get the motor working again to cool the fridge until I can get it fixed.”

Even worse! I’m going to lose everything I still have in the fridge, and the freezer stuff—my last hope—is all going to thaw out! Disaster! I could have cried.

But I had no choice. It had to be done. Monday night after dinner, I packed all the freezer stuff into the fridge (spreading it around in the hope that, as it defrosted, it would give off enough cold air to help keep the fridge stuff from going off), pulled out a few things for Tuesday and put them on the porch overnight (with nighttime temps in the high 30sF/single digits C, I figured it’d be okay), opened the freezer door, switched off the power, and declared the fridge off limits for 24 hours.

It worked out okay in the end. All the frozen stuff, plus the ice, did keep the fridge stuff cold enough not to spoil. And, since apparently I subconsciously view my freezer as an arsenal for making dessert, all the thawed-out stuff just meant that I had to bake even more than usual.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Or maybe a butter lining.

Fridge Disaster Bonus Baked Goods
Here are links to some of the goodies I made to use up my forcibly defrosted freezer stash:

- Chocolate & Zucchini’s Berry Banana Bread (defrosted bananas, raspberries (instead of cranberries), and butter; I made it as muffins and they were devoured at a preschool birthday party in the park)
- 5 Second Rule’s Blueberry Corn Muffins (defrosted blueberries and butter; made a tableful of small girls (ages 2-8) squeal at playdate snacktime)
- Mother’s Day Apple Pie (piecrust; made one overstretched mother very happy)


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