Fresh Is Best

30/Jan/2002

The Mothership is closer now. Before we had a buffer zone of 2.5 hours, but now she’s moved to Goulburn so she’s a mere hour away. Close enough to swoop in unannounced for a routine inspection/nagging session.

You may recall the last time I helped her move. Well, she went off to a patchwork class and I did the moving. After that ordeal I vowed next time she moved, she was on her own. When I move house, I take it as an opportunity to purge unwanted items. But Mum doesn’t do that. She brings everything. Last time she didn’t even empty the fridge. We discovered this gruesome fact over a year later, on Christmas Day 2001. Rhiannon went to make the pasta salad and found in the fridge door the salad dressing from Pasta Salad Christmas Day 2000.

I fear for my life when I open Mum’s fridge. You never know what buried treasures you’ll uncover. The problem arises because the woman buys shitloads of food, but never gets around to cooking it. So it sits in the fridge slowly morphing into a museum piece. One cannot just pluck something from the Mothership Fridge and eat it. There’s a lengthy examination process, in which you check for expired use-by dates, wacky odours, strange growths, etc. Then you have to interrogate The Mother. A typical scene:

RHIANNON: Mum, when did you buy this cheese?

MOTHERSHIP: Last week!

R: Last week as in the week just been, or 1986?

M: Last week as in LAST WEEK, you little smart arse!

R: It smells funny.

M: It does not smell funny!

R: It doesn’t look so good either. Have you go any other cheese?

M: You two are so obsessed with freshness!

But we have good reason to be obssessed, especially after the Gravy Incident. Mum wanted to prove to us once and for all that she could actually cook, because we didn’t know, having cooked almost every family meal since we were seven years old. She got out the pots and pans and roasted us a chicken and some vegies. But she was spent from all that effort and asked Rhiannon to make some gravy. Her ill-equipped kitchen could only offer us a box of Gravox.

Rhiannon was stirring away at the stove when she observed: “Hey Mum, this gravy looks kind of lumpy.”

“Nonsense!”

“It does, I tell you. It’s got flaky bits in it.”

“Oh! It must be that new onion gravy stuff. It’s onion flakes.”

“Are you sure it’s not old?”

“Yes I am bloody sure! You two are obsessed with freshness!”

It wasn’t until she’d poured gravy all over my food that she noticed the gravy was actually MOVING. “Oh look! There’s weevils swimming in the gravy! Ooops!”

Of course everyone else’s meal had been spared from the bug bath but mine. Grrr.

And then the Orange Juice incident, again Christmas 2001. I live for Orange Juice. Mum’s too stingy to buy fresh stuff but she does keep some of that long life Berri stuff for me.

“Mum, this orange juice is brown.”

“What?!”

“Shouldn’t orange juice be orange?”

“That’s long life juice! I only bought it the other day!”

“Bloody hell! It expired in May! Are you trying to kill me?”

“There’s nothing wrong with it. You’re obsessed with freshness!”

Then there’s the organic vegies. She has a friend with an organic vegie farm. She calls us up all time, “Do you two want some organic vegies? They’re organic, you know! Organic! So fresh and tasty! ORGANIC!” But the time she gets down to Canberra to deliver the booty, they’re not so fresh and tasty. The bag of Organic Mixed Salad Leaves have become a bag of Organic Green Sludge; the carrots have taken on a deformed twist; the Fresh Organic Lemons are mistaken for limes because they’ve turned powdery green from age.

A particularly disturbing moment was when I went to make some guacamole, and digged through the pantry for some Tabasco to give it some kick. The Tabasco use-by date was June 1982. The current year was 1999.

But just like the bargain shopping, it seems Mum inherited it all from her mother. When I was I kid, I once found a can of pineapple in Nanny’s cupboard that had a faded green price sticker that read 5d. Decimal currency was introduced to Australia in 1966!

My sister and I chose to stop the insanity there, and take a minimalist approach to fridge stocking. Two or three items per shelf at the most. And the orange juice is always orange!