The secret hiding in my fridge

The secret hiding in my fridge

Welcome to the inside of my fridge. This is just one shelf in the door – the full horror of the experience would be too much to subject you to.

This is a household containing four averagely-responsible adults. Between us we owned seven tubes of tomato paste (I found another one after taking this photo). Seven.

On the same day there were four jars of mayonnaise in the fridge (and I can’t stand the stuff, so I know for certain none of them was mine), and three bags of carrots, all weeks out of date. The kiddy-pack of yoghurt drink beside the tomato paste was far out of date (presumably because none of us had suddenly had a toddler in time for them to drink it) and the carton of soya milk was left over from a dinner party weeks ago – because none of us went vegan in time to finish it up.

The amount of food the four of us waste in an average month is shocking, and I’ve been feeling convicted about it ever since writing this post for LICC.

Stockpiles and shalom

In my article I talked about grain mountains, stockpiling food in advance of Brexit, famine, and the biblical concept of ‘shalom’. That word is often translated ‘peace’, but not just in the sense of quietness and calm. Shalom encapsulates a deep, all-embracing justice, when every part of life is operating in harmony with God’s design.

I raised some questions in my post to help readers think through what shalom might mean for their kitchens:

  • Do I/my family eat for nutrition or for indulgence?
  • Do we make time to appreciate our food, acknowledge its source, and enjoy the process of sharing a meal?
  • Do we steward our excess well – whether that means freezing leftovers or inviting those in need to share in all God has blessed us with?

I was deeply challenged by my own questions. As a single person who works from home, I can basically eat whatever I want whenever I want to. If I’m too lazy to cook, I can go to a takeaway, eat out, or just pick up my phone and have a meal delivered in 20 minutes. I can have my main meal at 11am, then cereal at 3. I’ve got better over the years, and these days often even incorporate vegetables into my meals – by choice! But in general, my eating is driven by my appetite, not by any kind of healthy nutritional plan. I barely notice what I’m eating most of the time, even if it’s what I’ve been craving all day. I just shovel it in and get on with my life. And my fridge is constantly full of rotting leftovers that I really did intend to eat the next day, but I fancied something different, so left them, and then forgot them.

For most people in the world, such an attitude is inconceivable. I’m pretty sure that when I was growing up my parents didn’t have the luxury of leaving food to go off, if we even had leftovers in the first place.

Good intentions

So after writing that article, I went downstairs and gathered up all the wrinkly tomatoes and hairy carrots that had been sitting in the fridge for far too long (apologies to my housemates if you were keeping any of those as scientific experiments or something), and made a big pan of soup that I froze in batches. I then actually gave some thought to my week: when I would be in, what I might fancy, how I could make the leftovers from one meal into something interesting for another.

Great intentions, but already, just a few weeks later, my standards have slipped – I’ve got most of a loaf of bread going mouldy by the bin, and a few too many different packets of leftovers on the go. And I can’t say I’ve exactly savoured every meal.

But why does it matter? The thrust of my article, although I was asked to be a little less confrontational than I’m expressing it here, was: ‘how can you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye when you’ve got a plank of wood in your own?’ There’s a lot of ‘virtue signalling’ in the world today, with people being publicly outraged by large-scale injustices, without getting their own house in order first (this relates to clothing and book purchases, too, as I’ve written about before).

The dark secret

But also, the choices we make about our food reflect deeper truths about who we are and how we see the world. If I eat what I want when I want, it trains my body to expect instant gratification, rather than patience. When I eat at my desk, and barely taste what I’m shovelling into my mouth, let alone savour it, appreciate it, and thank God for it, I signal that I take it for granted. I act as though I deserve good, plentiful food, and can expect it always to be there, on demand. When I let it go to waste, I proclaim that I am selfish, self-absorbed and entitled. The gifts God gives me today I might very well throw away tomorrow (or next week). All his design and work in creation, all the creativity he gave to mankind, all the effort put in by farmers, pickers, drivers, factory workers, packers, shelf-stackers, checkout staff, cleaners, administrators, security guards, bankers (wow, when you start to think about who has been involved in the network of people getting, say, a chicken drumstick from egg to my fridge, the list is huge!)…all of that has been worthless, because I fancy sausages today.

This year, I have grown tomatoes for the first time. After months of tending them, buying bigger pots and more compost, and canes, and garden twine, and plant food and… one has finally turned red. One. I’m hoping its example will convince the others to follow suit soon. I can’t believe the amount of effort it has taken to get them to this stage. If they ripen and I bring them in to share with my housemates, and they get left on the side, shrivelling, wrinkling and eventually turning mouldy, I will be devastated. All that effort, wasted! And that is just one fruit! How must God feel when I treat his creation like that day after day after day?

So what is the solution? Trying to do better hasn’t helped. My human effort is useless. Mainly because I am dealing with the symptoms, not the cause; the ‘branch’ sins not the ‘root’ ones as Catherine Parks calls them in her excellent book Real (which I’m currently reading and will review here soon. In short: buy it!). I need to really grasp what the root is (laziness, entitlement, selfishness, thoughtlessness) and understand how serious it is in God’s eyes. Then I need to repent, ask his forgiveness, and turn away – with his help – from that root sin. I’m sure that when I do I will find its branches reaching out into many more areas of my life, that will also require changes of habit and approach.

Who’d have thought that a peek inside my fridge would have led to such deep and challenging revelations about my heart? What do the contents of your fridge tell you? And what are you going to do about it?

 

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A note for my email subscribers: Over the coming weeks I’m going to try to update the blog with some of my past posts from other sites – I’ve been very lax at getting my Think Theology and LICC posts up on this site, and need to fix that. To ensure that I don’t flood you with emails, I’ll try to make them live one at a time, but will back-date them to when they were published. Hope it doesn’t get too confusing!

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11 Comments On This Topic
  1. boucherpye
    on Sep 4th at 11:19 am

    Convicting and gracious!

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 4th at 11:25 am

      Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Tosh Mackintosh
    on Sep 4th at 11:53 am

    I had just been considering the contents of our fridge this morning when your blog arrived on my desktop. As I ‘gird up my loins’ to do a clear out I am remembering what I put in there at the begining of last week with every intention of finishing over the next few days. I will likely find stuff I had forgotten about. It will not be pretty. The arrival of a food recycling bin has helped assuage some of the guilt but it is not really a solution. Another difficulty, as I am sure you have encountered, is supermarked prepacked food. So often you are forced to buy more than you need. We are a three person house and often buy things in fours. This gives the double proposition of potential guilt over food waste or glutony! My biggest bugbear is over Maris Piper potatoes. These would be my potato of choice but in the supermarket where we do the most of our shopping you can only buy them in 2.5kg bags. We have wasted more ‘tatties’ than any other vegetable I know. Most of the responsibility is mine and the rest of my family’s and although like you Jennie, as we continually try to be responsible we have mixed results. It does put the whole problem on a different setting when you consider it in light of God’s provosion for us. We are more used to challenges about our stewardship of money, how we use our gifting, how live up to the tag of being a Christian. God’s gift of food is not something we should take for granted. Thank you Jennie for reminding us of the divine context that this everyday issue has.

    Tosh.

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 4th at 12:11 pm

      Thanks so much, Tosh. It can indeed be scary in the fridge, can’t it?!

      Top tip from my mum about potatoes – store an apple in the bag with them – it stops them sprouting! Whether it will stop them going wrinkly then starting to rot or not, I don’t know.

      But yes, fixing the heart issue underlying it is the real and important challenge.

      Reply
      • Ann
        on Sep 4th at 2:21 pm

        Ours lasted a good 3 weeks or more and were the same as the day we bought them. (They do like paper or cloth bags though rather than plastic, I think that also helps).

        Another excellent post. I can’t remember that we had waste food – back back in those olden days! we just bought the amount of food we wanted for each meal, rather than as someone says, having to buy 4 when you want 3. (I suppose with the fourth you could freeze it, and wait until you had bought another 2 packs, when hey presto, you have a free meal waiting for you in the freezer)! We do try not to have too much waste by freezing the extra, but it doesn’t always work. Bread is the worst problem, we seem to be forever chopping up half a loaf to give to the birds, and we only buy small loaves to begin with, and even though we only buy 2 slices of ham a week, we don’t always get round to eating it, so the birds or the food bin have it depending on how far it’s gone! And I still spoon the beginnings of growths from the top of jam in the fridge rather than throw the whole pot away, which many people will find disgusting, but we’re still alive after 47 years (and I probably learnt the habit from my mum). Smaller pots would probably be the answer, but they usually cost more for a third of the weight and that seems even more wasteful.

        I do agree about clothes, and at least think, ‘oh dear, what would Jennie say if she saw me going into this shop’! I suppose the answer is, we don’t really need that many clothes, but I was going to say it’s difficult to know which brands it’s safe to buy from, as very few have sustainable labels on and they’re not usually clothes I want to wear! so at least you are making me think much more about these issues.

        Reply
        • Jennie Pollock
          on Sep 4th at 6:18 pm

          Yes, I think just being aware of it is a good start. I know, with clothes, people used to have their work outfit and their Sunday outfit and that was about it! We’ve just got so used to having nice things, and wearing something different every day, and having options – I own a ridiculous number of plain white t-shirts of different weights and necklines!

          That’s also a really good point about sustainable or ethical clothing, it’s almost all designed for 30-year-old hipsters, isn’t it? I hadn’t thought about that!

          I’m sure the jam is fine – and that’s another one to say to grandma when she says cheese is the only food you can cut the mould off and still eat! 🙂

          Reply
  3. NG
    on Sep 7th at 8:18 pm

    Really great piece that definitely encourages me to think differently about the luxury of having what we want when we want it!

    We have found a system that really helps us prevent food waste in the last 3 years (necessitated by a tight budget): we plan our meals a week in advance, always making a double portion evening meal so that we have just enough leftover for lunch the next day. If there is a work lunch the next day, we’ll choose to make a meal the night before that is freezable and freeze the extra portion.

    We do a 1x weekly online shop with a mid-week delivery plan (this step alone has saved a huge amount in money and waste, because I am no longer tempted by things on offer that end up as excess).

    It took a while to get into the rhythm of it but it really feels good emptying the fridge on a weekly basis (obvs apart from the longer lasting condiments), we very rarely throw away forgotten/old food and our food budget has dropped significantly.

    I’d recommend anyone to give it a go!

    Reply
  4. Katharine
    on Sep 8th at 4:51 am

    Very challenging! I throw away far too many half-eaten jars and tins of things, because I see a recipe that requires eg a handful of olives and then don’t really want to eat the remainder. I’m sure mum never used olives at all, but my very modern love of cooking shows on tv has given me the idea that I should be cooking much fancier meals than perhaps we really need. I need to give this all some serious thought. And thank you for the tip about storing an apple with the potatoes!

    Reply
    • Ann
      on Sep 9th at 3:56 pm

      And strangely enough, the apple seems to last for ages as well without going wrinkly, soft or brown.

      Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 10th at 10:26 am

      Yes, this is the thing, our relative affluence causes us to change our habits. There must be a way of appreciating the riches God has given us without having an austerity diet or attitude of lack. I don’t think it would be honouring to God to ignore/reject the good things he has given us, or to stop experimenting with new foods and recipes – that’s part of our creativity – it’s finding a way to do it responsibly that is honouring to him and to those who have less. It’s a conundrum!

      Reply
  5. JenniePollock.com: Becoming Real
    on Sep 17th at 6:11 am

    […] couple of weeks ago I mentioned Catherine Parks’ forthcoming book, Real, in a post, and promised you a proper review. And here I am keeping that […]

    Reply

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