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Jewish World Review April 5, 2004 / 14 Nissan, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

The wrap wars — a soggy saga | Looking for something to do today? Why not roll up your sleeves, plug your nose and celebrate National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Week!

Indeed, NCOYRW really starts today, which means that if you have fuzzy applesauce in the fridge or a crisper full of liquid cucumbers, it is time to do something about them.

Like close the fridge.

At least, that's the technique I have always found very effective, thanks to a husband with a much lower tolerance for blue cream cheese and green bagels. Eventually, he goes on a tossing rampage and I am freed from all the guilt of a) throwing out good food and b) admitting that it really isn't good food anymore - it's shimmering slime, because I couldn't bring myself to throw it out when I should have. Last May.

"You never know when you'll crave the crust of the hot Pace Picante sauce," nods Ellen Marchman, a fellow funky-food shunner, summing up what could be considered the Fridge-As-Crypt Credo. Ellen met her match in college when her tapioca-crazed roommate would make 10 batches of the pudding at once and shove them to the back of the icebox. "After three weeks," recalls Ellen, "one batch sprouted. Actual sprouts!" Ellen, please take some comfort in knowing that your experiences are not unusual. A tapioca-crazed roommate - that's unusual. But a recent study found that fully 61% of Americans throw out at least one piece of putrid produce a week.

That fact is brought to you by NCOYRW's sponsors, Glad Products and Whirlpool Home Appliances. While their publicity packet blatantly plugs ever more Glad Wrap and ever bigger Whirlpool refrigerators as the answer to festering foodstuffs, the fact is these companies are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem.

Glad Wrap is almost single-handedly to blame for the repulsive state of my . . . er, our nation's refrigerators. Without plastic to wrap up and shove away all the things we really never expect to eat again, we would have to eat them fast or toss them out. The fridge would be spotless.

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Whirlpool, meanwhile, is pushing fridges the size of Ford Excursions. One boasts enough space for eight frozen pizza boxes. And look - behind the sherbet! There's the pizza man!

Blithely ignoring their own role in the overstuffed fridge phenom, Glad and Whirlpool have issued a "Fabulous Fridge Cheat Sheet" to help us keep our refrigerators clean. Some actual tips?

"Keep a permanent marker on or by your fridge and use it to date leftovers. In addition, make a 'leftovers' list and post it on the refrigerator door.' "

Hey, while you're at it: Make a list of everything you've ever eaten and how many times you chewed.

"Organize food items by expiration dates."

Right after you organize your socks by thread count.

"Create customized freezer bags."

Then decorate them with buttercream flowers.

Look - either you're the type with a jar of mustard and a six-pack in your gleaming icebox. Or you are facing a fridge filled with fuzz, fur and, with any luck, a piece of American cheese that is still pliant. Eat it while you head out to do something else - anything else - this week.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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