One of the greatest days of my life was the day I moved into my first apartment by myself. Okay, it was not a great day, because it involved moving, so maybe I should say that the great day was the day after, when I woke up, walked into the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator. It was full because I’d gone shopping the day before, and the only food in it was food that I liked to eat.
I loved that apartment. I loved the kitchen especially, with its black-and-white tiled floor and big, bright windows. That was the kitchen where I started to abandon my post-college diet of boxed macaroni and cheese and waffles and experiment with actual cooking. I bought my first bulb of garlic and box of kosher salt. What a time it was!
Years went by and I lived in several more apartments by myself, filled only with the food I liked to eat. Then I moved in with someone with a Costco membership who still carries his family’s scars from the Great Depression. That means our refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets and packed with supplies we may need if the end of the world comes, and sometimes (often) if you open one of them, at least one thing falls out and replacing it is like playing a game of Tetris, which can sometimes be fun, but not when you’re hangry. (We initially had assigned shelves, but that scheme quickly fell by the wayside as his colony of food multiplied and pushed out mine.) Or worse, something gets pushed to the back and gets forgotten, and then it spoils, and everything starts to smell.
The point of all this is that I deeply identified with an essay Samantha Irby published in Food & Wine the other day about sharing a refrigerator with her wife. Irby, in her single days, maintained a rather stark refrigerator, buying groceries as she needed them. Things have changed. Irby’s wife has a very different philosophy of grocery shopping and storage. To illustrate, Irby provides a complete catalog of all the things she found in the fridge one recent morning when all she wanted was a Diet Coke. The list contains 38 separate items, several of which could be more fairly classified as “categories” (“many squeeze tubes: garlic, ginger, chili, lemongrass, tomato paste, anchovy paste,” “grape and strawberry jams, from the store, WHICH IS HOW I LIKE THEM”).
How could I, a regular person who is not an archaeologist, be expected to locate the single can of Diet Coke I like to have first thing in the morning, amidst all this ridiculous nonsense? Why didn’t the person at the county clerk’s office warn me that my bride-to-be and I needed to have similar views on condiment storage before we signed our names on the certificate? Why didn’t our minister—who is also our neighbor and lawyer—ask if we’d ever discussed how many types of milk two people need to keep on hand at all times? I’m lactose intolerant, I can’t even process all the milks we have just crowding out all the things I might actually be able to eat huddling in a corner behind all of these kombuchas and shit?
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Is there any way to make peace with someone whose grocery-buying and -storage strategy is radically different from your own? Please help. (And also, read Irby’s essay and anything else you can find by her because she’s just the best.)