The Condiment GangA couple of months after moving into our house, Stephanie and I bought a refrigerator.

Stainless steel double doors with handy water and ice dispensers promised an organized display of beverages, vegetables, fruits and meats, all within my grasp. The wide shelves, the deep drawers, and the little box for eggs all promised a virtuous life filled with perfectly portioned meals and leftovers only at Thanksgiving. I even believed that I could fit a big fat turkey on the center shelf for those big banquets at the holidays.

As I stood in the middle of Sears, staring into the depths of our soon-to-be refrigerator, I forgot about the condiments.

Our refrigerator is empty only twice during our life in a house: once when we move in and again when we move out. In accordance with Lesbian Law #85: Waste not, lest you be judged, we always transfer all of our food to our new house and that includes the giant laundry basket of condiments. I try to tell myself that this is due to the influence of my mother-in-law, the “condiment woman.” We have a friend who used to go over to her house when he was a teenager, open the door of the fridge and see empty shelves and a door full of condiments. I suspect he drank the ketchup, although he didn’t elaborate. I do know he tried to get high on catnip once, so I wouldn’t put anything past him.

Currently, out of the forty-nine items residing in my refrigerator door, six items moved to our latest home with us back in June of 2002. These are:

  • Thai Green Basil Curry Paste
  • Thai Red Curry Paste
  • Whole Grain Mustard (one of four different bottles of mustard)
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Tabasco ™
  • Worcestershire Sauce

The liquid smoke, Tabasco™ and Worcestershire sauce actually all moved from my sister-in-law’s refrigerator when she moved to Atlanta back in the spring of 1999. Yes, I have three condiments in my refrigerator that date from the last century. I can’t help it! (See Lesbian Law #85, above.)

I’m proud to state that fourteen of the forty-nine jars and bottles were purchased within the last three months. Unfortunately, I also have to admit that two are different brands of dijon mustard and I believe the harissa paste could easily join the above ranks in a few years. How often can you use harissa paste? Ground chiles in oil with a moroccan flair went very well with my Easter lamb, but I don’t know what else to do. Oh wait…. I’m sure that the six recipe magazines that land in my mailbox each month will have some suggestions.

After all, it was one of their “bright idea” recipes that got me into this.

This is how I came to own twenty-nine – count ‘em – twenty-nine condiments that we bought between the summer of 2004 and the spring of 2006. Condiments that have come in and made a home in my refrigerator door. They all have a story behind them. I become entranced with some new recipe and end up with most of a jar of mango chutney because, “that’s nasty.”

At least the review was concise.

Steph wants me to reiterate that it wasn’t the condiment’s fault; the recipe was the thing that went horribly awry.

Several years ago, Stephanie began drinking martinis regularly so an assortment of olives (pimento-stuffed, almond-stuffed, sicilian spiced, greek black) and three jars of pickled tomatoes (all with different levels of tomatoes) joined the gang. She switched over to club soda with lime juice last summer, so the leftover olives and tomatoes now languish in my refrigerator door.

Summer here in the Yampa Valley brings the opening of our farmer’s markets. Sweet Pea, the perennial favorite, along with two weekend-only temporary setups, bring local and organic produce into our shopping radar. In the depths of summer, I trundle under the green corrugated plastic roof and dip into boxes of red tomatoes that smell like summer gardens in full bloom, ripe soft peaches that smell like golden cobbler doled out lavishly by my grandmother, and red potatoes that smell like…well, potatoes, but they taste like butter. The plethora of fresh scents and sweet tastes dazzle my winter-starved senses and I end up with not only way too many fresh veggies and fruits, but also dipping sauces and salad dressings.

I blame those on the heat.

The Liquid Smoke Gang (named after its oldest member) confronts me whenever I open the refrigerator, jeering and taunting. Their favorite chant is “You can’t toss me! You might need me!” Then they scurry back to their places and giggle.

What they don’t know is that every condiment can go bad (except maybe liquid smoke) or be used up (except maybe liquid smoke). I’m arming myself to do battle with my refrigerator door condiment gang!

While I do thoroughly peruse the refrigerator about once a month and toss the old leftovers and desiccated vegetables, I rarely touch the condiments in the door. All of that is changing this summer. This summer, I’m ruthlessly organizing my refrigerator – including the door!

First, I protect myself with rubber gloves. The next thing to go is my conscience which screams Lesbian Law #2: Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is not going to happen since I refuse to open some of those jars, much less touch them with my bare hands. I pull the trash can over to the refrigerator and open the door.

The mango chutney is the first to go. I know I’ll never make that recipe again. Next, I check out the jams, jellies and syrups. One of those suckers has something fuzzy on the top. The weird tapenade that no one ever liked – out of here! Ruthless desperation invades my body and I barely look before I drop each condiment into the trash.

After the carnage, I make a list of my most used condiments and make sure they are positioned correctly. Ketchup, barbeque sauce, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, butter, yeast (I know those last two aren’t really condiments, but they are in the refrigerator door along with three bottles of wine and a container of ginger syrup), soy sauce, the four almost empty bottles of salad dressing that need to be consumed, Worcestershire sauce (it’s a huge bottle), Tabasco™ (I only use 1/8-1/4 teaspoon per recipe), and finally anchovy paste (1 teaspoon whenever I make chicken Provençal). These aren’t the only condiments in the door, but they are the most prominent and my refrigerator door now has space for another couple bottles of wine.

Just in time for summer!

Those condiments have learned their lesson! Lesbian Law #1: Never underestimate the power of a Lesbian Housewyfe.

Except, maybe, the liquid smoke.


 I’m not quite sure when the liquid smoke left our refrigerator. Frankly, we could have left it when we moved from Steamboat last October. About half of my current selection of condiments (accrued since we moved into the house in February) appears above. As I study the picture more closely, I realized that at least three of those bottles and jars made the move with us. *sigh*

This is the final vintage installment of the Diary of the Lesbian Housewyfe. Thanks for joining me on this little walk down memory lane over the summer.


Play With the Housewyfe