Cold Reality

Nan Riley Flanagan has been a teacher and writer since her graduation from Duchesne College. She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband and daughter.

Just wait until I get my hands on him, the creative genius who plots and plans the ads for today’s refrigerators. I say genius singular, not plural — there could surely be only one such combination of archfiend and fond dreamer whose work results in my complete frustration.

Understand, I have no objection to the color pictures of the outsides of the refrigerators: the fridge done in American Western decor, with the accompanying model dressed as a contemporary Annie Oakley, or the one with the Spanish wrought-iron influence, the model a charmingly feminine bullfighter. What really reaches out and grabs me is the picture of the box with the open door.

Look at those shelves. Invariably there are several sherbet or parfait dishes loaded with some luscious heaped-up cordon bleu concoction. There is also a molded salad — not just a plain old ring mold, but one of that unusual Raymond Loewy type of melon shapes, or a writhing fish, or a tiered monument. And one ham, beautifully glazed, probably with nectar and ambrosia. (Now, about that ham. It is reposing gracefully on a large platter, circled by enticing accessories. Said accessories are best with hot ham. What does the cook do? Cook the ham, put it in the icebox with its surrounding delights, and then before she serves it take the ham out of the box and reheat it? She’ll have to wash the platter again before she can serve her meal, and I am just uncharitable enough to enjoy the thought of her hasty last-minute efforts.) The chocolate cake with white and yellow icing is quite evidently the masterpiece of some modern-day Renoir.

The fruits and vegetables are always in season — in their own season, that is, whether there are winter grapefruits and summer watermelons pictured together, or fresh raspberries and Rome Beauty apples as a colorful duet. Celery, radishes, carrot sticks have been freshly bathed, toweled, and manicured.

Take a look at those bottles of lemon juice, soft drinks, ketchup, salad dressing, fruit juice — all full. How about that stick of butter on the butter shelf? It is whole, entire.

Now for the other side of the coin. My side, and a dull side it is. Let me open my refrigerator to you. Perhaps you will shriek, as a friend of mine did once when she was helping me entertain at coffee, “Look at that neat-neat icebox!” I was flattered momentarily, until I realized that shelves so nearly empty could be nothing but neat.

The coffee can contains bacon grease — I like to fry chicken in half bacon grease and half butter. That egg yolk in the small custard cup — the egg yolk that looks, and is, slightly crusty on top — is left over from the recipe I used day before yesterday that called for one egg white. I intended to add it to several (whole) eggs to scramble for breakfast yesterday, but we decided instead on basted eggs. The three tablespoons of oatmeal were left from last Friday (the container got pushed behind the coffee can, and I just this minute noticed it).

Those three small white plastic cartons hold about a half cup of soup each. I thought I might combine them, but somehow the mixture of cream of potato, vegetarian vegetable, and Scotch broth leaves me cold.

I must insist that both of those halffilled jars of preserves arc really edible — one we decided we didn’t care for, but how can I throw out a forty-three-cent jar of gourmet black raspberry preserves just because the seeds are so big?

The jar with the three stuffed olives in it is for a friend of ours. Occasionally she has a martini with us, but her idea of a martini is an olive surrounded by almost anything liquid, one to one, two to one, or fourteen to one. The brine in that jar is beginning to look a little doubtful, but then brine always looks doubtful . . . doesn’t it?

Oh, the typewriter ribbon? Well, that’s a spare I bought a couple of weeks ago, and it might dry out before my old ribbon needs replacing.

There are a few other small treasures — my grandmother would have called them “teenty-tonty bits.” I come from a family noted for being saver-uppers of string and putterawayers of paper bags. I might be able to do something with that bit of leftover roast. It does seem a shame to waste it, and perhaps with some artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sherry, slivered almonds, and a few other ingredients, I could whip up something delectable. I wonder if it would possibly stretch to serve two?

The imported pickled herring and the anchovy-stuffed olives are what Spouse picked up last time he went out for a loaf of bread. The two half-filled ketchup bottles have me puzzled: why two? That round mass in the corner of the bottom shell could be a weary kernel of lettuce wrapped in a voluminous tea towel, but it’s just a little ironing I didn’t quite get to. (That was the day I decided to make sour-cream coffee cake and had to borrow the sour cream, the walnuts, a minimum of cinnamon, and the flour.)

The new refrigerators are beautiful, but I might as well face the fact: my family doesn’t need a new refrigerator; it needs a new me.