I love the comic strip Over the Hedge. I have a remarkable affinity for RJ Raccoon, the brilliant yet twisted genius of the strip. I think that it is because he embodies so much of what makes me…well…makes me me.
This week RJ has been confronting his old refrigerator nemesis Mr Mold Guy. RJ’s experience has caused me to do some soul searching and refrigerator emptying here at the Island Hermitage.
I don’t know about you but I am a fan of food and I like to buy food and sometimes I forget that I have bought food. Thus there are times when I am rooting about the fridge that I find some delicacy that I either forgot that I bought or pushed that I had buried under something else. I find that the back of the vegetable crisper is a haven for such lost food and that it becomes a rather transformative space where food loses its innocence and becomes evil incarnate.
Tonight I was making a grilled chicken pita sandwich and getting ready to fill it with lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pepperocini peppers, kalameta olives and kosher dill pickles when I came across a big red onion that I had forgotten. I love red onions, but this fellow had been in the fridge a bit too long. I really don’t know how long because I can’t remember when I bought it. However it had to be a very long time because I know that it takes a really, really long time for Mr Onion Man to transform himself into Mr Mold Man. Onions are not like tomatoes or strawberries which can make rapid transformations from their natural state to spore producers known as Mr Mold Man.
Now be assured that I have found items that are designed by scientists to be mold resistant in my fridge that have stood the test of time and then some. I can say that I have never been able to get Cheez-its to mold, or Twinkies. However given adequate time and the right environment even most of these chemically engineered gastronomical delights can fall victim to the dreaded transformation into Mr Mold Man. In fact at times I have even encouraged them to do so leaving them out in order to see just how they would be transformed.
When I was in junior high school I picked up the nickname “The Mad Doctor Dundi” because of what I would do to the cafeteria food left over from all of my friends serving trays. Lets’ just say that the food at Stockton Junior High School back in the early 1970s was not very good and there were always things left on our trays.
The menu always had elements of the most important food groups: Mystery Meat, Greasy Gravy, boiled Corn or Green Beans fresh from a No. 10 can and of course desert, my favorite the ever popular “orange pudding” which I believe was simply corn starch, sugar and orange food dye blended into a delightful gelatinous goo perfect for mixing other leftovers in.
My experiments continued into college where in my junior year at California State University Northridge I lived at the private dorm called the Northridge Campus Residence. My room-mate Gary and I were the odd couple. He was rather fastidious in his upkeep of the apartment while I was a bit more of a slob than I am now. Post Iraq I don’t do as well with clutter but I cannot be called a model of neatness but then as Gary can attest to I was really really messy.
We lived on the apartment side of the residence and had a kitchenette. This meant that we could supplement the rations provided by the dorm cafeteria which was far better than junior high school but still institutional food slopped on a tray. In fact it was very similar to the cafeteria in the movie Animal House but I digress….
Anyway as I was saying we had a kitchenette. We didn’t keep a lot of food but there was a time that I bought some White Bread, I even think it might have been Wonder Bread. Back then to keep the bread out of the way I would keep it on top of the fridge. This was one of those forlorn food items that got forgotten. Several weeks after I bought it I noticed that it had a small mold colony growing on it.
I probably should have throw it away, but that would have been a crime against science. As a historian and theologian I revere science, and I needed to conduct an experiment. The experiment was twofold. First was to see what would happen to Mr Wonder Bread and secondly and perhaps the more important part of the experiment, to see how long it would take for Gary to notice or take action. So I left it there and I can’t remember just how long it took but the mild mannered loaf of highly enriched and preserved Wonder Bread began a new life as Mr Mold Man.
Day after day I would check on Mr Mold Man and watch in fascination as he transformed inside that hermetically sealed plastic bag. I think that Gary had forgotten that the bread was there so Mr Wonder Bread continued his transformation into Mr Mold Man eventually becoming a completely green gelatinous mass inside the bag. One day, I think it was a Saturday Gary was cleaning and noticed my experiment. I cannot remember what he said but I do remember the complete disgust as he lifted the evil being’s remains off of the fridge and dropped it unceremoniously in the trash receptacle.
Here’s to food and and here’s to science!
AKA “The Mad Doctor Dundi”