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The Self-Portraiture of a Fridge

2020 didn’t give much, but it did give me food writing.

Really good, good writing. Words that conjured up dishes I’ve never seen, or heard of, or been in the same room as, but painted a full sensory image so clear I could taste the dish on my tongue. I really got into reading the work of food writers new and old, Nigel Slater, Nora Ephron (and Heartburn). I’ve learnt how to eat, read extensive research on vegetarianism and the meat industry in the US. I’ve learnt about what food means to people. I’ve scrolled through Instagram post after Instagram post of quarantine cooking endeavors, long captions down to short ones. I’ve read recipes galore, learnt about new cooks, learnt from my current friend chefs. I’ve worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant, written my own food dockets, read freshly-written menus twice a day and then pitched the food to hungry customers. I’ve become, in speech, somewhat of a food writer myself.

I’ve always been drawn to how people eat. Quirky as it is, I can’t help but have a peek into the fridge of a friend, a stranger, the host of this random house party in Queensway that I’ve somehow found myself in at 2am on a Tuesday night (Wednesday morning?). To me, the contents of one’s refrigerator tell me all I need to know. The evidence of food digested, yesterday’s leftovers, of the variety of milks for coffee or tea, could fill volumes of information about one’s everyday life. More than a window into your soul, the inside of your fridge and pantry and store cupboards reveal to me the fragments of your life, the way you live it, the way you choose to nourish yourself. Could anything be more revealing, more telling, more entertaining than what someone has for leftovers? What did you make? What did you serve it with? How long did you have to cook? From-scratch lasagne says ambitious, an interest in cooking, a respect for Italian cooking. The forgotten slices of a takeaway pizza whisper of drunken nights and desperate hangovers.

I have a new friend. We’ve known each other for several years, but never truly encountered the other, the consequence of different friendship circles and a previous relationship of his. This summer, our circles began to cross. Friend is brilliant. Friend is one of the lads, but differs in a new culinary endeavor - veganism. He wants to save the planet, and has changed his plate (like so many of us should be doing), to reflect his ethical goal. One night, both of us drunk on too much gin, Friend gave me the Grand Tour of his new apartment. Read: we stood outside his fridge, and he spoke me through the contents. We giggled excessively. I applauded his choice of milk (Oatly barista oat milk, the best of the best), and balked at the number of dairy-free yoghurts he had. The fridge was decorated with different brands of beer, the property of the three boys who lived in the apartment. I loved it. I loved it more than I let on. I felt like Friend was sharing a glimpse of his life with me, letting me in more than any drinking game could ever.

A fridge is like a self-portrait. It’s why I beeline for the kitchen in any new household, chasing the revelatory quality of a pantry or a fridge. There is so much personality hidden in the components of a kitchen. Organization? Dishwasher? Ornamental decoration? How you feed yourself, the things you put into your body, tell me more truths about your day to day than your social media profile ever could.


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