Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day nine hundred and twenty seven ... Frozen in time.

I don't think it's anything to worry about ... yet.

As long as the power never goes out for longer than a few hours everything should be just hunky dory.

I'm talking about chicken pies.

See, I have five Willow Tree chicken pies sitting in my freezer and they've been in there for almost two years now. I saved them from my aunt's freezer when I had her refrigerator taken away. I couldn't part with them then, and it seems that I can't part with them now.

Needless to say they're a bit past the "sell by" date.

But they're frozen, and something happens to things that are frozen sometimes that trumps anything in the room temperature world. The way I see it, it not only took an effort by Willow Tree Farms and a few unsuspecting chickens to make them, but it took energy to bring those pies below 32 degrees and keep them there. And not only that but they haven't really changed their state since when they were made ... over two years ago. They've never been defrosted. They were bought by my aunt, brought home, put in her freezer to give to me, and then removed and carefully transported to my own freezer.

Time, care, energy, gasoline, and patience has been expended to bring these five chicken pies to the place where they are now, and I'm stuck in a strange sort of limbo now in regards to their future.

Do I throw them away? That would be the easy way out.

Do I leave them in there? They're not taking up that much room but they're still an inconvenience.

Do I eat them? They're probably still fine seeing they're frozen and always have been. The most I probably risk is a little freezer burn on the crust as the rest of it is encased in delicious gravy.

I just don't know what to do.

And from my experience this is a common problem. Not that chicken pies have become so popular and scarce that there is an epidemic of hoarding in the U.S.. But more so that people I've spoken to have had to wrestle with the situation that arises when a loved one passes away and leaves food behind.

What do we do with these memories?

My mom was quite the cook. Meat sauces, golumpki, chicken soup, beef stew, etc. ... it was all packed away in her freezer. It was all stuff she had made. And I remember how hard it was to finish off the last of the goodies. But I did that with my aunt. We both enjoyed the deliciousness that was my mother's chicken soup with orzo. Oh, how orzo changed her life. She never overdid it, thank goodness, but it was always there in her soups from about 2002 onward (perhaps a Readers Digest tip). And my aunt and I shared in the last bowl of her chicken soup. We had a good cry over it, too.

But we had each other then. We could reminisce over the many goodies that she had made--many of which I still continue to create from time to time--and smile, and think of this great woman.

And that leaves the five chicken pies in the freezer. See, my aunt took to cooking late in life. And compared to my mom she was the adventurous type. Teriyaki was an exciting word in the Johnson household, or anyone's household for that matter in the 1970's. Because anyone who was born in the Seventies or before knows that stir fry cooking was not something one did at home. One went to a Chinese restaurant if one wanted their food stir fried. But somewhere around 1985 or so people began to bring woks into their kitchens--both electric and stove top--and started to experiment with the exotic sauces like tamari, soy, and rice wine vinegar.

And that leaves the five chicken pies in the freezer. See, these pies were actually meant for me. They were bought probably during the winter of 2007. And they were bought because my aunt liked to make sure I had enough food at my house. It was a tradition that had started after I got my own apartment. From that point until my mom passed away they used to pack up the car once a month with a few aisles worth of groceries and make the two hour trek to Northampton.

It was always such a big event when they showed up in the driveway, my aunt driving her Toyota Highlander with my mom in the passenger seat, strapped in tight with a furry, rainbow colored seat belt wrap to not only provide a stylish touch to my mom's always colorful attire, but also to add a buffer between the seat belt and my mom's ample frame.

When they arrived I would slowly make my way down the one flight of stairs and stand at the doorway and feign surprise. My mom would shake her head in amusement and I would come over and reach in and hug her in her seat over the furry, rainbow colored seat belt wrap and inhale deeply once or twice, for my mother always smelled so good. Then I would go over and hug my aunt who would have been out of the car by now and awaiting the chance to direct me in one way or another. I'd then carry up the ten or twelve bags of groceries up the one flight of stairs. Around the midway point would be when my mom would have made it to the stairwell and I would then carefully, slowly and graciously walk behind her lightly touching her shoulder or back for security as she ascended the fifteen or so steps. I did this not only for her safety but perhaps so we could speak a few words to in private out of ear shot of my aunt who had very good hearing. Nothing too serious, usually, but perhaps there was a surprise or two in the works as there oftentimes was.

We'd visit for a while as I'd put away the groceries. My mom and aunt and I had some private jokes that I'd keep alive despite their persistent grimaces. And then we'd go off and do something for a few hours like the tomato festival at the Red Fire Farm, or the Magic Wings Butterfly House. I made sure to try to have something nice for us to do. We'd have lunch, they'd bring me back, and we'd hug and cry a few tears for a little bit. It was always so wonderful to see each other as it was sad to part ways. I would stand at the same doorway that I had just a few hours ago feigned surprise and slowly and patiently wave goodbye as they drove away and took a left towards the main road.

And then, I'd put away the last of the groceries--the stuff that didn't need the refrigerator or the freezer. I'd sit on my couch and go over the day and look around and notice the telltale signs that they had been here. Perhaps it was the extra two glasses half filled with water, or maybe the lipstick traces on the napkin my mom had used. There was always something.

And that leaves the five chicken pies in the freezer.

And they don't seem to be causing anybody any harm. They're just sitting there stacked up on each other just hanging out. They were bought with love to be given with love.

I just don't know what to do.

So maybe I'll just let them be for some time.

I think that that's why I needed to write today ... to give the five chicken pies in the freezer just a little more time ... to give them a reason to be.

And I guess that's all we're really looking for in the first place.

Thanks for reading,