October 24, 2007

Month-Old Onion Rings and Frozen Corn Dogs

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When the cupboards are bare, the fridge is barren, and the fruit bowl completely is empty, that means it is time make a Wegman’s run. On Monday night I went on a fantastic “Supermarket Sweep”, rocking out in my new Heely’s (Yes, they make those rollerblade shoes in adult sizes.) But, to my surprise, when I returned home, my apartment was in a full blown crisis. The fridge was stuffed to the gills with rotten food, a family of fruit flies had spontaneously generated, and according to my visiting sister, the whole place smelled like “Stale beer.”
Before I continue, some of you might bring up an issue of jurisdiction here. What gives the world’s best and only Snack Food Columnist the right to write about a messy apartment, or a fungus filled frat-tastic fridge? The answer is simple. Some snacks, like a fine wine or an aged cheese, get better with (moderate) age.
Chinese spare ribs for example, taste their absolute best after one day in the refrigerator. Anyone with an ounce of human decency starts a Chinese food meal with boiling hot won ton or egg drop soup, which burns off your taste buds, destroying any chance of enjoying the rest of the meal. This is why some Chinese places are forced to pump the food full of MSG, you literally cannot taste the delicious General Tsou’s chicken without it. After one day in the fridge, however, your tongue has a chance to recover, and the full flavor of the ribs have a chance to be exposed. By full flavor of the ribs, I mean that the fat congeals and the ribs toughen up, which for some reason makes them 30 times more delicious.
“But wouldn’t the fat un-congeal in the microwave?” Not when I use my patented technique of being too hungry and lazy to heat them up! Several leftovers taste better when they are not heated up: mashed potatoes, chili, honey-Dijon chicken pizza, and penne a la vodka are some of my favorites.
But this fridge fiasco wasn’t about food that was still safe to eat. This was about assigning blame to various roommates for leaving behind their food for weeks (my discount donuts) and even months (Ron’s bell peppers.) This was about getting rid of spoiled milk in three separate containers, and teaching Brett that he can’t keep a Subway sandwich fresh for more than a week. This was about throwing rotten eggs out the third story window, and checking to see how gross Matt’s Wingz got after a month of storage. Most of all, this was about team work, and Lee did a very good job cleaning out the whole fridge while the rest of us watched.
Our communal fridge wasn’t just for skunked beer, half-empty cartons of orange juice and four varieties of olives. We had some office supplies stored in there! Brett had left behind his LSAT snack pack, which at one point included grapes, but two and a half weeks after the test contained only a bag of sharpened pencils, some shriveled spoiled raisins and a Timex watch.
But how can you avoid your food going bad? Simple! Some of my favorite snacks can keep for months without going bad. For example, nuts and dried fruit will keep for a long time if properly stored, and both taste delicious. Some dried fruits and nuts are so delicious; I call them Crack Snacks tm. Honey roasted peanuts and dried pineapples both fit into this category. They are so delicious that once you open a package it is almost impossible to focus on anything else except eating more of them.
Other snacks that don’t go bad are frozen treats like ices, ice cream, pizza bagels, and frozen dinners. (Healthy Choice frozen dinners are low-calorie and count as snacks.) One of my favorite new additions to this category is a frozen corn dog with honey mustard flavor “baked” right into the chewy dough. This treat may seem too disgusting to believe, but just because they took non-kosher processed pork product, lathered it in honey flavored corn meal, deep fried it, flash froze it, mass packaged it before I heated it up in my dirty microwave on a paper plate doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious.
Other snacks that don’t go bad are microwave popcorn, maple syrup, wasabi peas, jelly beans in a jar, refrigerated string cheese, and pickles. I try to have some or all of these things on hand, in case of a rotten food snack emergency. I also always try to keep at least two liters of emergency seltzer, and a gallon of iced tea.
But what did we really learn today? We learned that rotten food isn’t going to get any less rotten if you push it to the back of the fridge. We learned that fruit flies don’t require actual fruit to live and thrive. We learned that sell by dates were created for a reason, and that Brett recently drank from a pitcher of fruit juice left over from my birthday more than a month ago. We decided to eat Hal’s birthday cannolis while their purchase was still in recent memory. As we stood out on the porch, we chomped on fresh cannolis and debated if the label “cheese filling” was really accurate. (It is, think of cheese like a cheese Danish, not like a Kraft American single.) We reflected on our disgusting ways, and vowed to keep the apartment fresh and clean from there on out. No longer would we let our food rot, allow our milk sour, enable our veggies wilt, or stand idly by while our juice fermented. Sorry guys, but I had my fingers crossed.