By Joe Rector

I opened up the refrigerator door the other day, got a whiff of something foul, and slammed it shut. Sure, I should have completed a search for the offending item, but the truth is, I was afraid of losing my lunch by playing detective. The refrigerator in most homes can often produce some unpleasant and downright scary items.

When my brothers and I were young, we consumed milk by the gallons. My children drank a fair amount of the stuff too. These days, Amy and I drink milk or use it for other things occasionally, but nowhere near as often as we did a few years ago. Yes, we both like a bowl of cereal for breakfast sometimes. I’ve poured out a heaping bowl of cornflakes and covered them with Splenda. Then I’d reach for the jug of milk to pour on the flakes. That first bite has sometimes ruined a whole day. Soured milk on cereal produces a disgusting taste, not to mention a load of disappointment.

Milk sometimes arrives at home already in a foul state. I’ve learned to remove the lid and give the container the “sniff test” before pouring it out. That nauseating smell hangs in the nose for an eternity and proves to be a good diet aid since I lose my appetite after inhaling. Even worse is pouring out the milk into a glass, only to have it flow with chunks included. Some people can drink buttermilk, but to me, it’s no better than a glass of spoiled milk.

We eat well; my dear wife is a wonderful cook. After many meals, she shovels leftovers into containers with the express purpose of serving them the next evening or taking them to work as lunch. Amy knows that I am not a fan of leftovers unless they come from Christmas dinners and include turkey, ham, and dressing. The rest of the stuff doesn’t pique my hunger.

We often forget that those leftovers are in the fridge. Amy gives most things a week before removing and dumping them. However, sometimes food items hide behind other things and manage to survive for too many days. When they are discovered, the lid is removed. A glob of something that was once a part of our meals is stuck to the container. A stinky liquid might also cover the bottom of the plastic, and hairy-looking mold covers the top of the stuff. I joke that we’ve grown enough penicillin to cure all sorts of illnesses.

Most of the time, I finish a drink that I have. Amy or the kids when they are home will place a half-consumed bottles of coke or sports drinks in the refrigerator, and we all know that none of them will ever be finished. A while later, the drinks are removed, and they have lost their fizz. A complete waste of drink and money goes down the drain.

My daddy drank an occasional beer…only when we boys were gone on vacation or out of the house for extended periods of time. Somehow, he managed to hide remaining cans in the back of the refrigerator. If we discovered them, Mother would swear she bought them to wash her hair, something I never bought nor understood. At any rate, she’d take one of the bottles to the bathroom, hang her head over the side of the tub, and pour the beer over hair that had just been washed. The stuff “glunked” from the can and never showed even a trace of carbonation. It was as flat as a board, proof that it had stayed longer that its shelf life.

We still cram leftovers into our refrigerator with a vow to consume them the next day. All the while, I know it’s a lie because the appeal of a recipe dims over a 24-hour span. I like hot food, not stuff that’s been warmed up in a microwave or re-heated in a sauce pan. That means Amy does a better job of cooking portions that we will finish off the first time. Neither of us wants to take on cleaning the refrigerator and find mushy scraps of foods, and we sure don’t like discovering flat beer and soured milk.