Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thawed Circumstances

Our deep freeze packed it in yesterday.

As unpleasant as it was, it could have been much worse; the girls and I had just come back from buying groceries, arriving at home just as Audrey returned from school, just a little before 1:00.  The plan had been to do a quick stowing of the supplies, and then pop over to Jack's Burger Shack in St. Albert for lunch.

Fenya called me downstairs to say there was a leak by the freezer, and that she had heard water and ice hit the floor when she opened the lid.  When I opened the lid, there was a bit of aroma, but more jarring was the absence of cold air rising from the chest itself.  "The freezer's stopped working," I told her.  "Go let mum know and then come back down."  It was still cool inside the chest, but a long ways from cold, and had probably only stopped working the evening before.  Thank goodness we hadn't decided to go camping right after school had let out!

It's of importance to the story that you know I am the primary grocery purchaser in our household, and over the years, I fancy I have gotten rather decent at it.  I don't scour competitor ads and do my week's shopping at four different shops or anything (too lazy by far), but I have become rather adept at spotting deals, which is a bit of a necessity when you shop at Safeway.

I shop there regularly, mostly to accumulate Air Miles, but also because the staff are quite good, but there are lots of things I simply will not buy there unless they are on sale.  One of these things is meat.  I will diligently scour the clearance section of the cooler and the most heavily discounted cuts, storing them in the freezer until needed.

With the freezer now critically out of action, I looked into a soggy pool of bargains, perhaps 6 inches deep in water tainted by the four frozen lobsters I had picked up at half price some time ago, but had not yet gotten around to cooking.  Packages of 50% off chicken thighs (for stir fries and curries) peeked up from the mess, and I knew near the bottom was a whole frozen turkey I had been saving for the summer, because turkey leftovers are awesome, especially when cooked on a cool day and then eaten over the following week.   I abhor waste, so I was not looking forward to jettisoning 8 - 10 cubic feet of groceries, much of which was meat.

Thankfully, Audrey's level head came into play while I was looking for suitable tinder so I could burn the lot of it.  Checking the turkey, she said, "It's still frozen solid, and a lot of this other stuff is double wrapped in Ziplocs; we can recover a lot of this.  Glory and I will start re arranging the fridge freezers while you and Fenya sort this out."

And just like that we had a plan.  Fenya ran to the garage for a garbage bag, but I found one of the oversized Ziploc storage bags instead, which seemed a prudent choice, since garbage pick-up wouldn't be until Thursday.  The lobsters and a Costco-sized bag of now-soggy french fries were the first entries, followed by three waterlogged boxes of frozen pizzas.  "Careful!" said Fenya as I extricated them from the water and ice that made up the bottom third of the freezer, "When you turn that over you're dripping like, death juice everywhere..."  And just like that, the gruesome effluvient had a whimsical name, and the task became lighter as a result.

The wax-paper-wrapped roasts and steaks we had bought from Audrey's folks the last time they had butchered a cow were still frozen, but having been at least partially saturated with death juice, they had to go, as did the packages of cellophane wrapped apples we had cored and sliced from the big harvest, what, two years ago?  Can it really have been that long?

The discordant sound of footsteps thumping down the stairs heralded Glory's return.  "Mum's got the upstairs freezer ready, and sent me down to get stuff," she said in a tone that had me half expecting her to salute and say "Colonel Audrey sends her compliments, and reports that the storage areas are at your disposal."

I nodded and pulled the 13 pound turkey from the bottom of the fridge, checking to make sure the wrapping was all intact, which it was.  I gingerly handed it to her, and said, "This needs to get wiped down before it gets stowed anywhere, right?"  She looked a little puzzled, until Fenya said, "It's covered in death juice."  Looking into the detritus of the freezer, she wrinkled her nose, but nodded and then trotted up the stairs with the frozen bird held a generous distance ahead of her.

A short while later, we had re-frozen everything we could, and recovered as much meat that had thawed but was still cold and securely packaged so it could be cooked and re-frozen.  Fenya and I had the grim task of doing up the zip on a bag that probably contained 25 pounds of saturated organic matter, much of which was protein, but were able to do so without too much difficulty.  "How are we going to get this out of the house without dripping death juice everywhere?" Fenya asked.  I pointed at the black garbage bag she had brought over initially, and said, "In that."

She and Glory held the bag open while I maneuvered the grisly package into it, then Glory went out to grab another bag from the garage, just to be on the safe side.  After wrestling it up the stairs in as orderly a fashion as I could while not allowing the sides of the bag to touch me (which was pretty challenging, given my nearly total lack of any sort of upper body strength), I wrangled it into the garage, noticed that were was still liquid seeping from the bag or condensing from it in some fashion, and called the girls to the garage so we could add yet another layer of bag to the agglomeration.

"Please tell me we aren't going to leave it in a hot garage for a week," Glory intoned.  Truth be told, that had been the initial plan, since animals or birds were likely to be curious about such a bag left at the curb for a week, but that plan was based on my faith in complete Ziploc integrity, and I had become somewhat apostate in that regard, having had to shoo Nitti away as he tried to lick up a puddle of the now ominously named death juice from where it rested it on the sidewalk while I got the door to the garage open.

"One more bag," I said instead, and then dragged it over to the curb.  Fenya suggested dousing the bag with Bitter Yuck, a product designed to keep pets from chewing household items (or themselves) by coating them with an acrid, foul-tasting spray.  I thought this was brilliant, and after doing so, supplanted it by putting a generous coating of permethrin based insecticide on the bag as well.

Back in the basement, Audrey had brought down the bleach and rubber gloves so she and Fenya could sterilize the area and clean the freezer itself.  By the time they were done that, we remembered how hungry we were, and that we had intended to be eating lunch an hour ago, so we postponed the remaining recovery and made our way to St. Albert.

40 minutes later, we were sitting at a picnic table by the Sturgeon River, eating our cheeseburgers and sharing on order of 'Jacked Up' fries.  My Hangover Burger, served between two halves of a grilled cheese panini in lieu of a conventional bun, was a perfect overlapping of savoury flavours, much needed protein, and comfort food.

I told the girls I was proud of them, and they looked at me a bit quizzically.  "I'm serious," I said; "Once we knew things had gone off the rails, you guys were right away looking for ways to help, making good suggestions, and never complaining."  Glory started to open her mouth, but I cut her off.  "Okay, maybe about the fact that death juice is gross, but no one questioned that, so it doesn't count. But you need to know," I continued, "that a lot of people, and not just kids, I might add, would have either tried to step aside out of the way, or waited to be told what to do.  You guys are awesome."

Audrey nodded in agreement as she washed down her BBQ Crunch burger with a swig of root beer, and the girls beamed a little as they polished off the fries.  On our way home, we priced out some freezers and found an upright one on sale at Leon's that should be delivered Wednesday.  A couple of hours after that, I had finished cooking up the salvaged meat, and simmered up some chicken in a tomato chili sauce so we could have it over rice while we all watched James Bond in Die Another Day together that evening.

It's fair to say it's not how anyone saw the first day of the girls' summer vacation going, but like I said, it could have been so much worse.  And like Fenya said, any opportunity for family bonding should be cherished, even in less than ideal circumstances.

And no one in our house is likely to forget what `death juice is anytime soon, either, which makes me smile.

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