Saturday, January 19, 2013
I bet if we had that team of scientists, they'd just end up eating all my ice cream. (Taking Stock.)
Our freezer is a continued source of irritation, and unhealthy breakfasts that help offset the irritation... to me.
We have owned this freezer since our ill-fated trip to replace our old refrigerator, a trip we took in the middle of a summer heat wave when Sweetie was pregnant with Mr F and Mr Bunches and so I and then then-13-year old Boy were in charge of selecting a refrigerator and, as a lesser-included task, were in charge of knowing how big of a refrigerator to select, a task we undertook by having The Boy stand next to our old refrigerator and then having him stand next to potential replacements.
The result is this refrigerator, which has "side-by-side" doors, a feature I used to associate with high class, luxury living; the people in John Cheever stories, the happy ones who gather on the veranda at 5 for highballs, I imagine, would own side-by-side refrigerators, sleek black ones like this.
The reality is that only suckers own refrigerators like this, as the side-by-sideness makes it virtually impossible to fit anything in the refrigerator, especially in the freezer side, which also has ill-fitting shelves that generally come loose from their moorings and so are always tipping precariously to one side or another, threatening to dump ice cream onto the chicken patties or whatnot.
The refrigerator, and freezer, have the added detriment of being skinny-but-deep, so that food can get lost behind other food and difficult to get in or out of the freezer, or find behind leftovers in the refrigerator. So it's hard to keep food in there, and harder to get it out. (The fact that this build of refrigerator is so inconvenient is what caused me to come up with genius idea number 59 on my list of 1001 ways to make the world better.)
In other words, I hate our refrigerator and would like to throw it out, but I'd just have to get a new one and I don't feel like spending money unnecessarily... on that. I'll spend money unnecessarily on lots of other things, but not on a new refrigerator.
But let's really get down into the freezer and see just what's so terrible about it.
1. Sausage and egg and "cheese product" breakfast treats. If you ask me, the hallmark of any advanced society is how many edible things they can make that require the ingredients to be in quotation marks or described as product on the label, and these breakfast treats hit that mark perfectly. They are my breakfast of choice, and probably a big part of the reason I spend most of my life struggling with chest pains. But totally worth it.
These little gems just need to be popped into the toaster and eaten after about two minutes, and can be safely carried with you to the car in case you are running late, and the "cheese product" that fills the gooey interior -- the interior is 98% "cheese product" and 1% sausage and 1% egg -- is delicious and hardly runny at all, plus even if it does drip it remains remarkably consistent when it does. Once released from the interior of the treat, the "cheese product" is sort of like warm Play-Doh, and easily scrapes off a tie, your suit coat, your iPod, Mr F's forehead, etc.
If there is a downside to these, and there really is not, it's that if you cook them even a little too long, they retain that heat for an incredible amount of time. If you overtoast them by 10 seconds, the cheese hits a temperature of one zillion degrees Fahrenheit, and stays there for weeks, so that even after the outside is cool to the touch and you sit down to eat one and read Wonderella, you are going to burn the skin completely off the top of your mouth and you'll feel like one of those Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark... but, conversely, if you cook them even a second too little, the cheese in the interior is a cold hard lump.
When I win the lottery or everyone in the world goes and buys one of my books, I will use the money in part to fund a specialized team of scientists to do nothing but monitor the cooking of my Breakfast Treats.
2. Our ice dispenser no longer works. Our freezer has an automatic ice maker and dispenser. Or it had those things and now lacks the latter.
If you ever want to know just how useless you are, try existing in modern society when something goes wrong. One day last year, our toilet got clogged. I went up to it and tried using the plunger to fix it. Then I flushed it a few times. Then I tried plunging it again. Then I looked inside the tank. Finally, I lifted the seat up and down a few times just to see if that was the problem. It wasn't.
"I have exhausted my skills... as a lawyer," I told Sweetie, and so we called a plumber who came and told us the problem was that we had flushed a jump rope down the toilet, and by "we" I mean "Mr Bunches" and by "flushed a jump rope down the toilet" I mean exactly that. $800 and a new toilet later, I was feeling a lot less competent than even usual.
So when the ice dispenser stopped working earlier this year, I was at first going to simply ignore it, because my rule is that we fix only those things that need fixing,which is why we still have a nonworking grandfather clock bolted to our living room wall. (I think of it as a still life.) Ice dispensers don't need fixing, in that ice can still be dispensed the old-fashioned way, which is to dig your hand into the ice and grab the cubes out and pretend that you didn't do that because if everyone knows you did that then they know that you have touched a lot of those cubes in there, and if you think about it, that means everyone who gets ice did that, which means that following the rules of those old after-school PSAs, when you get an ice cube in our house you are kissing every person ever. Or something like that. It's probably okay. Doesn't ice make things sterile? Or at least too cold to infect you?
But rather than simply leave it be, I remembered that I am a man, and not just any man but a man who went to school for decades, practically, and a man who owns several tools including at least three completely different kinds of screwdrivers, and so I decided to take a look at the ol' ice dispenser and see if I couldn't fix it.
After all, if a guy who once built a loft for his bed in his basement using nails so that he couldn't take said loft apart and remove it from his basement and get it to his dorm room where the bed to be lofted was couldn't fix an ice dispenser, who could? (Answer: anyone but that guy.)
So one night late last year I got the essential things you need to fix something: an assortment of screwdrivers, some duct tape, my laptop to log onto Netflix and watch Archer while I worked, a soda, and Mr Bunches. And we set to work.
First, we looked at the ice dispenser.
Then we opened and closed the door a few times.
Then we looked again at the dispenser.
Then we pressed the lever to see if any of that had helped.
After a few rounds of that, and of giving ice cubes to Mr F so he could suck on them until his mouth got too cold and then go throw them on the floor to create tiny slippery patches of water, we got serious, and figured out that you can entirely remove the ice-holding bucket if you first pull the refrigerator out from its cubby and angle it so that you can open the door wider, so we did that because if you're going to fix something you've first got to take it apart, and you've got to do that quickly before Sweetie catches you taking apart the freezer.
Once we had the cube-bucket out, we dumped that in the sink where Mr F could more readily get the ice cubes, and we looked at the bucket.
Then we looked at the door, and the empty spot where the bucket used to be.
Then we closed the door and pressed the lever to see if that did anything.
Eventually, I was able to work out this: there is a motor in the ice cube dispenser that, when you press the lever, it clicks another little lever which then turns the motor on which spins a copper rod on the bottom of the bucket which turns a sort of corkscrew inside the bucket and that corkscrew pushes ice forward into the hole from whence it is dispensed.
I also, and I don't say this to brag, figured out that the motor wasn't working.
And with that, I considered only briefly taking off the back of the refrigerator to see if I could look at the motor, but gave up on that because (a) I didn't have the right screwdriver handy and I think Mr F took it, and (b) by then Sweetie was getting suspicious.
So we put the bucket back and now the ice dispenser doesn't dispense ice unless you take the cubes yourself out of the bucket and put them in the little hole and then close the freezer door and press the lever, which is more work than it's worth for everyone but Mr Bunches, who loves to do just that and so we go through a lot of manually-dispensed ice these days.
Here's the real problem, though: I thought the ice dispenser was an unnecessary luxury, and I always hated it. It was slow and you'd get about two cubes at a time and if you wanted more you'd stand at the freezer for what felt like hours and so I almost never used it, opting instead to just grab my ice the way my pioneer forefathers did only they had to shoot a bear first but it's pretty much the same thing.
So I never really used the dispenser, and I shouldn't mind that it's gone at all but I can't get past it and everytime I look at the refrigerator I feel a gnawing sense of unease and a vague bit of anger, and I wonder who I can sue.
3. Mounds ice cream bars. I'm not sure how these ended up in our refrigerator. Sweetie does the grocery shopping and these just turned up one day, and then one night I said to her "I'm going to have a Mounds bar" because after you've been married for as long as we have that's pretty much all you have to talk to each other about, what you're going to eat. It's worse than that girl in Our Town feared.
"You are going to love them," Sweetie said, "They taste exactly like the candy bar," and here's the weird, wonderful thing: They do. It is 100% like eating a bigger Mounds candy bar that got its act together and stopped settling for just being nougat and worked its way up to ice cream. Something about the Mounds flavor translates perfectly to ice cream, and it made me grateful to live in the era I do, that I could see this come to pass. Plus, Sweetie and I have had, like, three conversations about that so it's really improving our marriage.
4. A stack of Mr Bunches' breakfast treats. Related to the sausage treats at #1 are Mr Bunches' fruit-flavored breakfast treats, which make the short list of foods he will eat: Raspberry, or blueberry, or cherry flavored only, Mr Bunches eats about 1 of these a day, and he is more demanding than you might expect. One day, I had to make six blueberry treats before it met his exacting measures, not too much brown, not too little brown. The five previous ones got bagged up and saved for "leftover night," which we never have anymore because Oldest Daughter comes by once a week and takes all of our leftovers unless Sweetie intercepts her, as she did this week when Oldest tried to get away with 10 leftover chicken patties.
Mr Bunches will also only eat the breakfast treats if you cut them into twelve squares -- three across, four down the size -- of about equal size. He'll let you vary those squares a little, but not by much. That team of scientists can work on those in their spare time.
5. Generic Neapolitan ice cream: Mr Bunches bought this the last time the boys were in charge of grocery shopping; he likes to buy stuff and so I had to steer him towards things we might conceivably use. When he agreed he would buy ice cream, I pointed him to the rack of cheap, 2-for$4, gallons of ice cream because if we get the big buckets they're a pain to fit into our freezer and we don't actually eat ice cream all that often, so we end up with this bucket of ice cream hidden way in the back that everyone forgets we have for years.
Mr Bunches picked this flavor out, I think, because he saw it on TV. He doesn't actually eat the ice cream. If you really push him he might touch it with his finger, but he won't eat it. The only ice cream he'll eat is soft serve vanilla from Dairy Queen or McDonald's. But he will make shakes using a blender, which benefits me greatly.
6. More of Mr Bunches' breakfast treats. We never know which ones he'll want, and he only rarely allows substitutes. If he wants blueberry, you'd better have blueberry because otherwise he might get really upset. He's getting better about substitutes, but he's not perfect yet.
It's for that reason that Sweetie and I almost never eat any of the boys' foods before they give up on them; we might, if we cook a breakfast treat wrong, eat it, because Mr Bunches will never eat that. But we both figure this: If I eat a raspberry treat, and then we run out of them and Mr Bunches wants one, I'm going to feel really guilty. And even if there are 10, 15 raspberry treats in there, we can't be sure that he won't go on a raspberry run, eating nothing but those for two days, at the end of which we might fall one short on the supply-and-demand chain, and have an upset boy, which, sure, you could say we could shrug it off but imagine seeing Mr Bunches ask for a raspberry breakfast treat and you tell him you're all out and he could have blueberry but he says he wants raspberry and the more you explain that you don't have that, the sadder he gets until he sits down and says
"I'm crying. Can I have a towel?" and you give him a paper towel and he dabs at his eyes, which aren't really crying but he looks like he could...
...and all the while, you're remembering how that morning you had a raspberry breakfast treat. Do you want that on your conscience? I don't. At least, if I haven't eaten them and we run out, I don't have a double-load of guilt about just what a terrible parent I am.
7. Mr F's french fries. On his iPad, Mr F has an app that helps him communicate; he has pictures of things that he can press and it'll say the words, and he's supposed to use it for asking for things, and we make him live by that.
One of the things Mr F really likes is french fries -- of almost any sort -- and so we have a picture of the french fries on there, alongside other things that Mr F likes which get cooked in the oven, like pizza and chicken nuggets.
Mr F, though, is both lazy and impatient. So when he wants something from the oven, he sometimes tries to just hit the first picture he sees.
Chicken, he'll tell you and I'll get it out but he'll shake his head and hit chicken again and again until I pull out the pizza or french fries or whatever he really wants and he nods, and then I'll say something like "If you wanted french fries, why didn't you hit that button? Hit french fries," to which he'll hit the button that says chicken again and walk away.
He couples that with being completely unable to wait 10 minutes for these things to cook, going and opening the oven again and again and demanding that we give him some of whatever we're cooking, so what happens usually is that we'll get out some french fries and put them in the oven and then we have to get him to wait until the thing that's cooking is at least warmed up a little so we can give him one to tide him over.
8. These are just bagels. No funny story or weird memory. Sometimes a bagel is just a bagel.
9. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream: So maybe I eat a bit more ice cream than I actually think I do, because I realize this is the third ice-cream related entry on this list, and I also realize that I ate about 1/2 of this canister last night alone. I didn't set out to eat 1/2 the canister, it just worked out that way, because I thought that if I ate it directly out of the bucket -- it's okay, I'm the only one who eats this particular brand of ice cream in our house, it's called Everything But The... and is primarily made of frozen candy in ice cream -- it might help me eat less, because when you scoop ice cream out of a small canister and into a large bowl, it always looks like so little that I invariably put more into the bowl and only then realize that I've pretty much put the whole thing into the bowl.
So I figured that if I just ate it out of the canister, it wouldn't look like so little in the bowl and I wouldn't overdo it, but then I realized at one point I was about halfway through the canister, so I ate just a little bit more and put it back, which is both a failed experiment in portion control and a demonstration of incredible willpower, when you think about it, because a lesser man would have, at that point, said, "well, I'm more than 50% of the way through this at this point, no reason to quit now" but instead this guy told himself to call it a day on the ice cream.
(Also, this guy secretly figured he would have some more later on while he watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which he taped for free off one of those movie channels last week that was having a free weekend, thereby getting around Sweetie's refusal to put this guy's movies higher up on the Netflix list,only this guy fell asleep before getting around to that, so there is still a half-tub of ice cream and an unwatched Narnia movie, which means this ought to be a great Saturday.)