An emergency made me get super creative.

By David McCann
November 06, 2019
Kentaroo Tryman/Getty Images

We were minding our own business, starting to prep for our annual dinner party for a friend who comes in from Los Angeles. And suddenly, while getting something from the fridge, we saw that the lights were out. Not a good sign. But we checked the circuit breaker box, and realized it had tripped. Odd, but once reset, all was fine, right?That night, we checked again. The freezer was working but the fridge was not. A flurry of frantic Googling ensued. We quickly discovered that our fridge had died, andit was time to venture into the terrifying world of appliance shopping.

 

But what about the fridge filled with food? What to do? Here is what I figured out. I quickly realized I could freeze some things. Not re-freeze, mind you. I am a firm believer in not refreezing things that have thawed—the texture suffers too much. I thought a few things were sorta kinda able to survive outside of the fridge. And I remembered, thank heaven, that under a counter, we have a dorm-type fridge we use for our “good” wines, so out came the wines and in went as much as we could fit. With a few elderly coolers called into service, and bags of ice from the store, we were sort of OK for the night.

The next morning, I quickly realized that some things just wouldn’t survive well (including my sanity). So I needed to map out a strategy for using up food. I like a challenge. And I have always been a believer that cooked food in the fridge is not a burden, but an opportunity, sort of like your very own unpaid sous chef. Generally, I like challenges of my own choosing, not ones thrust upon me. But owners of dead refrigerators can’t be choosers.

Watch: How to Organize Your Fridge and Freezer, According to How Much Space You Have

The thawed chicken breast was a no-brainer. It had to be used and fast. I made a chicken schnitzel and served it with rice and vegetables that were already cooked.I believed that the thawed bacon and the thawed Italian sausage could survive in the coolers. So I didn’t panic about them. And the next night, seeing that I had some lettuce, and two shockingly ripe and tasty tomatoes from the yard, I decided that one last end of season BLT was in order. The situation was actually becoming kind of fun, in a puzzle-solving sort of way. Escape room: dead fridge edition.

The next night was the sausage. I had too much for one meal, but I sauteed all of it anyway. There were some red peppers I had sliced but not cooked, some sauteed potatoes, and three-fourths of an onion. It was like New York City street fair sausage and peppers with the potatoes standing in for the bun.

The next night, the remaining sausage went in to some pasta with herbs from the yard and a bit of cream I had left.I was now able to combine things and reduce the coolers to two.

 

We love lentils. So, though I’ve never been a “dump it all in” kind of cook, I broke that rule and used cooked greens, potatoes, peas, and peppers, along with some fresh garlic and onion, and a bit of remaining bacon for a slightly odd, but actually quite tasty, bowl of lentils. I could now reduce the cooler situation to one. It felt like I finally had the upper hand.

 

Now, I’m sure that I will discover that some of the things remaining in the cooler did not survive. But not much. And I’m also sure that a few of the things I decided could live outside of the fridge couldn’t. But I’m pretty pleased with myself. Just know that if you don’t get too hysterical, you can survive a dead fridge. (The shopping for a new fridge, well, that’s another story.)

Oh, by the way, the dinner party at the beginning of this saga? It went on without a hitch. And our guests were none the wiser. 

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