Carpe Diem: A Lesson in Refrigeration
It struck me as I was throwing out a ziplock bag full of once-frozen strawberries that had now turned a bag of red liquid with bits of mouldy berries floating in it. I had frozen them last season in the hope of conjuring up an Almond and Strawberry Tea Cake off season or making virtuous smoothies of them; it is almost time for strawberry season again, and here I was—holding a bag of unused strawberries, saved for almost one entire year for the perfect occasion—and never used.
The universe is my witness—I have spent much, much more money on food and books than I ever have on clothes, jewelry, travel, or anything else that fits the “indulgence” definition. And suddenly, in just 48 hours, I lost tens of thousands of rupees in food. Just like that.
Out of the blue, my refrigerator slipped in coma. It is a young one—only about three years old. 500 liters. For 36 hours after making the complaint to Samsung and following up god knows how many times and recounting the problem to every new over-eager call center executive I spoke to, I never heard back from them or the service center or the mechanic they had assigned. By the time I completely lost it and yelled on the phone and asked to speak with a senior executive (none were available, as usual), and a new mechanic finally turned up, diagnosed the problem and sent a separate team to fix it, it was almost three full days. Vegetables, fruit, and dairy went bad at lightning speed thanks to the sudden heat wave we’re experiencing in Mumbai right now. I remembered how my grandmother used to say they had to boil milk several times during the day and keep it in the coolest spot in the house in trays of water to prevent it from spoiling, and I did the same with a prayer on my lips. In 2017. Not that it helped.
But this is not about terrible customer service. There were greater valuables in that fridge—three types of sourdough starters, which I am still bringing back to life, about 20-odd bottles of jams that I had made over the past few years in varying stages of aging (in my world, a small jar of a 3-year old apricot jam or 4-year old marmalade is very, very precious), black cherries in syrup, a wine jam, fruit soaked for Christmas, cheeses of the perfect vintage, imported curry pastes, wonton wrappers, unusual bread flours, chocolate, and god knows what else. That day, as I threw out all those precious cheeses, cold cuts, and berries, and wiped the condensation off the jam jars, I realized what a hoarder I had been. Priding myself on collecting these artisanal foods for years, saving them for just the right occasion, and never deeming any occasion fit enough for them! And here I was, losing them one by one.
I didn’t set out writing this piece to bring in a metaphor for life, but it is quite obvious, isn’t it? We live most of our lives saving money, food, wine, and our selves for better times, better celebrations. We convince ourselves that every day is not worthy of celebration. That we must struggle and suffer the mundane in order to “deserve” an “occasional treat,” in order to justify an indulgence. That is how most of us bred in the urban middle class think. Our fables and epics, our grandmothers’ tales and our middle class moralities preach the vice of hedonism and the virtue of sacrifice. And then, one day, when the fridge dies on us, we wonder what we did with all that we had.
This afternoon, I popped open the vacuum seal on the last bottle of my 3-year old apricot jam and ate a spoonful. I may have shed tears; happy ones.