I said in last week’s Taking Our Good Will to Goodwill that, “everything inside the house was just as my grandmother had left it when she last shut the door of her beloved residence of 50 years.” Well, this was especially true of the refrigerator, freezer and pantry in the kitchen and the large freezer in the garage. All of the food was still there. Fortunately, my grandmother had left for the last time only weeks before, so most of the food was still edible.
We had to decide what to do with all of the food. First, we decided which food items we could consume during our weeklong stay. The oatmeal, the butter and the unopened apple juice could be eaten for our breakfasts. The frozen hot dogs, the potato chips and the six-pack of diet caffeine-free Pepsi would make acceptable lunches.
“Hey, I found some steaks and green beans out here in the garage freezer,” my dad yelled through the door one afternoon. “We could cook them for dinner tonight.” That sounded good to all of us.
Next, we decided which food items could be donated. The pantry was full of unopened boxes of cereal, cans of vegetables and bottles of juice. Jill and Dad packed up five large cardboard boxes of these nonperishable foods to be taken to the nearby Salvation Army soup kitchen. Into one of these boxes, Jill tossed a few July 4th table centerpiece decorations she had found in a closet.
“I’ll ask the soup kitchen staff if they would like to use these to decorate the tables at their next meal,” Jill said.
When Jill and Dad pulled up to the Salvation Army, they saw a long line of people and a bunch of tables and chairs set up in the parking lot. Apparently, they had arrived right as lunch was being served. Jill and Dad took the boxes inside to the volunteers who were excited to receive so much food. On the way back to the car, Jill placed the July 4th decorations in the center of each table. When she got back to the house, she told us that she had eight centerpieces and there had been exactly eight tables.
That night, Shane fired up the grill in the backyard. We were all looking forward to eating the steaks Dad had found in the freezer. They sizzled when they hit the grill and filled the air with a delicious aroma.
After reaching a perfect medium-rare, Shane placed the platter of steaks in the middle of the dinner table. The rest of us were already eagerly waiting in our chairs with buttery green beans on our plates. We all cut into our steaks.
“Hmm, mine looks funny,” I commented. I looked up to see Jill’s face twisted into a disgusted expression. “What’s wrong with it?” Ellen shrieked.
Instead of finding a tender, fibrous and juicy inside, the steak had a gel-like congealed texture. It was completely inedible. Not even my dad who will eat anything was willing to take a bite of it. Shane’s grilling skills were not to blame for the disgusting state of the steaks. The steaks must have been in the freezer out in the garage for quite a long time.
“Maybe the green beans will be good,” I said as I put one in my mouth. No, they were not. They were not in as bad a shape as the steak, but they felt more like pencil erasers than green beans. For the rest of the week, we bought prepared meals from the grocery store and restaurants.
Check back next week when I tell the story of our journey to the recycling drop-off center that even includes the high-speed pursuit of a recycling truck.