Food and the Freezer: Revisited

I spy five rye breads and eight bags of freshly frozen blueberries. I can barely make out the bag of Pierogi on the left hand side. Has my mother gone vegetarian? This is the not the pork chop stocked freezer I used to know as a kid, where if the family pak yellow Styrofoam slid out over the round of a bread, my toes would get hammered. Things are looking tidy in my parents’ freezer these days. And healthy! Look at all those frozen anti-oxidants. It’s a good thing because it reminds of my mom’s trip to the hospital several years ago.

It started with a mid-day phone call to my sister-in-law Martha.

Mom: “I feel screwdriver in my chest.”
Martha: “Oh my God! Halina, call an ambulance!”
Mom: “No ambulance. Some kinda pain in my chest. “

Martha had the good sense to already have one foot out the door since Ciocia Felicia made a similar call to her several years before that and said, “Feel like elephant on my chest, but I okay.” Felicia’s story ended in quadruple by-pass surgery. Martha knew if my mom was complaining, the situation was already a code Red. My mom did not call an ambulance to head to the Emergency Room as instructed. Instead she waited for Martha who lived one town over to pick her up in the Jeep.

Blocked arteries. “Somebody call Jannett.”

I raced down in my car from Maine and was in the hospital room by the time the Nutritionist showed up. My mother was only able to lie on one side after the catheterization into a groin artery. She half way turned her upper torso to face the Nutritionist.

“HALINA, I’M GOING TO ASK YOU SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EATING HABITS.” announced the Nutritionist who evidently thought that by being foreign, my mother might also be deaf.

“DO YOU EAT ANY SALADS?”
My mom in a torso twist, answered, “Yes. Every day.”
“DO YOU EAT CANNED SOUPS?
“Oh No,” my mom said, “I make my own soup.”
“YOU PUT EXTRA SALT INTO YOUR SOUP, HALINA?”
“No.No.No,” assured my mom.
“YOU PUT A HAM BONE IN THE SOUP, HALINA?”
“Yessss, sometimes.”
“OKAY HALINA, NO MORE HAM BONES IN THE SOUP, OKaaaaay? YOU HAVE TO WATCH YOUR SODIUM.”

My mom turned away from the Nutritionist, back toward the curtain that split the room in half and said, “You ask too much of me.”

Becoming Mom and Dad

I’m freezing bread. I just noticed today.

I jabbed a knife into the icy crest of some whole grain and recognized the routine of my parents. As soon as I heard the soft suction of the freezer door sealing shut, I panicked that I was eating lunch at 10:30am like my parents. I wasn’t. It was well after noon but here I was, frozen bread in hand. Who am I? I am thawing bread for a sandwich. I have disliked freezing food of any kind. Mostly because I don’t have the patience to thaw.  And yet, next to my ice cube trays I have two loaves of bread. Isn’t this a little too soon? The freezing. The bread. Becoming my parents? I’m not even 40 yet.

There are enough Rye breads in my mom’s freezer to build a dam levy. For lunch, she takes out the number of slices she needs, makes her and my dad a sandwich and puts the tea kettle on. One time I saw my Dad trying to gnaw into a piece. When I pointed out that it was STILL FROZEN, my mom’s response was “wait few minutes.” I looked at my dad and shrugged my shoulders. They eat bread so often that I wouldn’t think they need to freeze it. But my mom buys food at the Polish deli like she has the apocalypse on her mind or that she’ll be suddenly entertaining a dozen of unannounced guests, so I guess it has to stay preserved somehow.

They have a point. Becuase I hate it when on Sunday mornings I reach into the plastic bag and find a rock hard slice of stale bread. Secondly, I have repeatedly learned the expensive lesson that $5 organic English muffins can and will get moldy the day after I buy them. Sometimes I fear they are even molding in my car on the way home from the grocery store. Is that the powdery dust of the flour or the beginnings of penicillin? I started thinking that I ought to take into account the power of the freezer and ‘wait few minutes.’
I rarely have moldy bread in my garbage now.

Although I still don’t know how to prevent a baguette from turning into a baton.