Jessie Raymond: Broken fridge prompts new lifestyle


Lately, I’ve been embracing my European side.

Why not? I have ancestors from Europe. I’ve been to Europe a couple of times. And, if pressed, I’d be able to identify up to three European countries on an unlabeled map.

But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken it to a new level, starting with eating European-style. Or at least grocery shopping European-style, meaning almost daily.

It’s not so much because I want to be seen riding down a country lane with a baguette sticking out of my bike basket, although I think it’s a look I could pull off. It’s more because our refrigerator has died.

I should have known something was up a few months ago. Every couple of weeks, I’d open the freezer and find the Ben & Jerry’s either the consistency of a creemee or, more often, firm but perfectly level and granular, sure signs it had melted and refrozen.

Each time, I’d chastise Mark for leaving the freezer drawer cracked open. He’d always deny any wrongdoing, but why would I believe him? This is the same person who cut his finger the other day and said he “didn’t think” he’d left a Band-Aid wrapper on the counter. The man is a pathological liar.

The ice cream thing kept occurring, and the more I accused Mark, the more strident he got in his denials. Eventually, as the problem got more frequent, I knew in my gut Mark wasn’t at fault. But yelling at him was cheaper than calling a repairman, so I stuck with it. 

Finally one day, I woke up to find condensation on everything in our not-very-cool fridge. Bracing myself, I opened the freezer to discover that the Phish Food had become less ice cream and more chocolate shake (and delicious, but that’s beside the point). The refrigerator had had a literal meltdown, and this time it did not recover.

Later, moving the essentials into a borrowed dorm fridge, I noticed we had a startling number of condiments, most of which I wouldn’t have room for. I had to give some careful thought to which items would make the cut.

I turned to Google with questions: Does mustard have to be refrigerated? It depends. How about strawberry jam? Yes, unless you like mold. When and why did I buy galangal, and is it more deserving of fridge space than the capers whose presence I also can’t explain? I have no answers to those, but I will now bombard you with cookware ads.

It took five days to get a very busy repairman to come perform exploratory surgery on — and then solemnly pull a sheet over — the fridge. We are now observing a 12-day mourning period while we wait for a replacement.

I almost made Mark lug in a full-size loaner to get us through, but I’m finding we don’t need one. What I thought was going to be a hassle has turned out to be more of a fun exercise in saving space.

I began cooking smaller portions to avoid leftovers. I crossed watermelon off my shopping list. I jettisoned the celery. 

I started buying small amounts of groceries every day or two. And when I (naturally) vented to the checkout clerk about how my appliance woes required frequent shopping, she said, “How European.” 

Yes, that was it! I wasn’t a poor loser without a working refrigerator; I was a cultured woman who demanded only the freshest food. How European, indeed.

In that spirit, I went full continental. I gave up our top sheet in favor of a duvet. I started smoking  — Gauloises, of course. I even tried serving two-hour dinners at 9 p.m. (but had to stop because Mark and I kept falling asleep during the antipasto). 

I was enjoying my new European lifestyle so much, I hardly missed having a full-size fridge.

Until things got worse.

A few days after the Big Thaw, the motherboard of my laptop spontaneously combusted. And shortly after that, our hot water heater gave its two weeks’ notice. With these added disasters, neither of which I’ve been able to plausibly blame on Mark, I’m stressing out.

Sure, we’ll have everything repaired or replaced soon enough. For now, however, all I want to do is light up another Gaulois and pour myself a nice soothing pint of Phish Food.

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