Sunday, June 1, 2008

Contrary to popular belief, there are no leftover pygmies

Living with the In-Laws experience. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, and I certainly don't begrudge them theirs. In fact, sometimes their unique habits can lead to exciting adventures. For example:

Mother-in-law is afflicted with the hoarding gene. She has thousands of foil pans, sauces and dressings that go back to Wife's infancy, and a veritable mountain of plasticware. But her true packrat genius reveals itself in her freezer. She is of the "starving children in Europe" generation, so nothing left over is ever discarded. God help you if you throw out that chicken - throw some mayo and pepper on there, and you've got yourself a salad! Leftovers are poured or forked into a burpable Tupperware, sealed with plasticwrap, zipped into a freezer bag, and labeled for future generations. In 8,000 years, when crawdads will have replaced us as the dominant species on earth, they will glean from the ancient writings that within this frozen receptacle was stored several hundred gallons of "Brisket (Passover)," "Brisket (regular)," "Chix soup (boneless)," and "farfel (matza)."

We commoners throw stuff in the freezer haphazardly, and pray it lasts more than a couple of months without getting freezerburnt. But with Professor Father-in-law's engineering ingenuity, food lasts for years in the In-Laws' home. And with the labeling system, Mother-in-law knows exactly what she has, and where it is.

This information is sometimes not shared with the rest of us, however. On Friday I was sent down to the icy depths to retrieve a certain poultry dish. Was it on the bottom shelf? On the door? No one would say. So I packed a headlamp, two pairs of long underwear, a goosedown jacket, GORE-TEX gloves, moon boots with removable crampons (it's a real word, and has nothing to do with vaginas. Look it up if you don't believe me), and seven pairs of wool socks (my tosies are sensitive).

I kissed Wife and Child goodbye, opened the hermetically sealed freezer door, and tromped inside. Within I found a barren wasteland reminiscent of Hoth, or Milwaukee in January. Swirling winds hurled needles of ice at my face and loins. Snot froze on my upper lip.

After wandering for a few hours I found the first of many leftovers. These were remnants of this past Passover, so I knew to I had to delve deeper into the ancient Maytag. The turkey I was looking for had been stored just before the turn of the century, in honor of the Y2K-caplyse. The only information I had to go on was that it was marked as "Y2urkey," and it was "somewhere in the back, near the cocktail weenies." By this time I'd been hiking for most of the day, and I decided to set up camp near a block of ancient cholent. I hacked off some of the kishka outcropping, and settled in for a cold, dark night.

Many storied journeys into undiscovered lands include the appearance and invaluable guidance of secret natives, hidden tiny men and women with wings or pointed ears or forked tongues. When planning for my trek I just assumed I'd find some prehistoric leftover Yeti, or an ancient shaman who worshipped (or worshiped, depending on your browser's spellcheck) the forgotten stack of pancakes on the top shelf.

Instead all I found was Tupperware and plastic bags. My eagerly anticipated meeting with ancient peoples turned into a boring-ass journey into myself, with plenty of time for self-reflection and meditation on the fact that I was walking through a freezer looking for turkey. After many hours contemplating this truth, I learned this: I really don't like climbing into a freezer full of prehistoric leftovers.

Maybe if I'd brought more socks I'd have felt differently. But my toes were icy, so I'm bitter. From now on, Mother-in-law can search her own hidden stores for dinner.

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