Okay, let’s be clear. I love having a self-defrosting refrigerator. If anyone tried to remove the one in our kitchen, they’d have to pry the ice cube trays out of my cold blue fingers first.
But there’s no question that there is a small benefit to being forced to defrost the freezer once a year or so. At least it gives you an opportunity to find out what’s buried back there behind the ice cream and bags of frozen peas.
Otherwise, some people—I am, of course, speaking theoretically here—might never get around to cleaning out the freezer. They could just leave stuff in there for years and years. Or at least until their hands are forced by outside factors.
Such as the chance to buy a lot of high-quality meat at an unbeatable price. With the cold, hard reality of two coolers full of beef sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, suddenly there’s a real need to conduct a freezer excavation.
The benefits of this project aren’t limited to making room for some scrumptious steaks and getting rid of unrecognizable frozen blobs of ancient leftovers. There is real scientific knowledge to be gained.
For example, whipped topping, left in the freezer in its original container for, oh, a couple of years or so, tends to shrink. It turns into a lump of something vaguely cream-colored with the consistency of old spackling compound. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to put this on a piece of pumpkin pie.
Given enough time and judicious doses of freezer burn, a bag of frozen zucchini and a bag of frozen tomatoes become almost indistinguishable.
When freezing leftovers, it’s a good idea to write the date and a brief description on the bag. Something like, “broccoli-rice casserole that nobody liked anyway.” That way you’ll know exactly what it is when you throw it out a couple of years later.
If you have overripe bananas you want to use for future banana bread, it’s fine to just toss them into the freezer, peels and all. But if you never quite get around to making any bread, the bananas eventually mummify. Except for the shape, a desiccated banana with its innards collapsed and its peel black and shriveled tends to bear a strong resemblance to National Geographic photos of bog bodies.
Unfortunately, these scientific observations are based on a very small sample. For statistically significant results, I would have to become more like one of my late relatives. I’m not going to name him, just in case I might have inherited some of his hoarding tendencies. When he moved out of his house, the unfortunate family members who got stuck with the task of cleaning it out found stacks and stacks of stuff like decades-old new shirts still in their original packages.
And frozen food. At the bottom of his big chest-type freezer were ten ice-covered hearts. Before you start imagining CSI episodes or gory thrillers, let me hasten to clarify that they were beef hearts. Presumably, they went into the freezer at different times over at least a ten-year period, whenever he got them from friends who were butchering their own beef.
The hearts, like pretty much everything else in the freezer, went straight to the dump. A shame, in a way. It might have been a perfect chance to study the relative rates of freeze-drying mummification in bovine tissue. Oh, well, just another lost scientific opportunity.
Which I need to be careful not to recreate in my own small freezer. Excuse me while I go thaw out a couple of steaks for dinner.