A tale of aspirational condiments

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It was time to clean out the fridge.

I just completed an emotional journey.

I cleaned out my refrigerator.

Let me explain.

I finished a draft of my next book, which means that writer hell is behind me, until I get the letter from my editor suggesting changes to the manuscript.

I’m not complaining.

I love my editor.  Her edits improve my books, and she’s the only person in the world I take orders from.

So, every time I finish a manuscript, I feel like the decks have been cleared, and for a day or two, I find myself cleaning everything in sight.

I started with the refrigerator.

You can guess why.

It’s where I spend most of my time.

Yet I’m capable of ignoring parts of it for long periods, and when I started to clean it out, I realized how long.

You don’t want to know.

Or maybe you do, and now you’ll find out.

I wiped down the main part of the refrigerator, which was reasonably clean, but then I started to look at the shelves on the door.  There are four of them, with bottoms that used to be transparent before they were covered with maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, and a yellow liquid I can’t identify.

No, not that yellow liquid.

OK, maybe.

Plus, they were so full that the upside-down ketchup bottle had to be jammed in.

By the way, I’m a big fan of the upside-down ketchup bottle.

Whoever thought of that was a genius.

I spent an entire childhood smacking the bottom of a glass bottle and hoping for the best.

Every bottle in the world should be made upside-down, but I digress.

I started to look at my shelves, and I thought, “Why do I have so much stuff?”

There’s only one of me, and I’m short.

So I went through the jars and bottles to see what they were and why I was keeping them. They were:

  • Maraschino cherries, from the time I was going to make Manhattans and never did.
  • Capers, from the time I was going to make a fancy salmon dish and never did.
  • Baby gherkin pickles, from the time I was going to make a special appetizer and never did.

You get the idea.

My condiments are aspirational.

They’re for the festive fancy life I want to lead but don’t.

They live in a Williams-Sonoma catalog.

I do not.

They entertain frequently.

I nap frequently.

The question was whether I keep the aspirational condiments or throw them away.

At first I couldn’t decide, even though I’ve never ever used any of them.

The only condiments I ever use are ketchup, mustard, A1 sauce, and sweet relish, because all of those taste great on top of a veggie burger, which I microwave.

We’re talking haute cuisine.

Or haute mess.

It goes without saying that all of the aspirational condiments were past the expiration date.

But that never stops me.

I regard expiration dates as negotiable.

Guidelines, not laws.

So at first, I didn’t want to throw them away.

I wanted to keep my hopes and dreams alive.

That lasted a haute minute.

I ditched them.

Sayonara, hopes and dreams.

That’s the story of being middle-aged.

Realizing that the maraschino life will never be yours.

Because the one you have is much better.

Who needs capers when you have freedom, fun, and the ability not to try so hard anymore?

I think that’s called perspective.

And I learned it from the relish.

Either way, I couldn’t be happier.

And then there was another whole category of condiments that is unique to me.

And maybe you.

My neighbor used to make berry preserves and give me some every holiday season.  She called it Paradise Jelly, and she gave it to me every year, in an adorable jar with a red ribbon.  I have three jars on the refrigerator shelves, and when I wiped them down, I realized that she stopped making Paradise Jelly nine years ago, which was the last time she gave me one.

So there you have it.

Every nine years, I clean out my refrigerator shelves.

Whether they need it or not.

Don’t eat at my house — or maybe you should.

If my refrigerator gets you sick, it’s growing the penicillin to cure you.

But I wasn’t sure what to do with the Paradise Jelly.

Did I keep it or throw it away?

Are you kidding?

Of course I kept it. It’s a condiment with sentimental value.

Nine years from now, I bet I’ll do the same thing.

And this is where I tell you that, in the freezer, I have a Tupperware container of meatballs in gravy, from Mother Mary.

I can’t bring myself to eat it.

But I’m sure as hell not throwing it away.

Look for Lisa and Francesca’s new humor collection, “I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool,” and Lisa’s new Rosato & DiNunzio novel, “Exposed,” in stores now. lisa@scottoline.com.