“Drink from the cup of life, you will be fulfilled.
drink from the milk container in the fridge,
and your wife will make you wish that you had drunk from the cup of life.”
― Anthony T. Hincks
I am on a housesitter’s forum on Facebook because it helps me get contacts for good housesitters. Also, as a homeowner, we sometimes get trashed on these sites because housesitters complain that our homes are too dirty, or our fridges are full of rotten, moldy food, or our pillows are too soft or too hard, etc. Sometimes I feel like I have to defend the homeowners.
A housesitter posted a list of questions she asked prospective owners. Most of the questions were reasonable like, “How many pets do you have? Are they up-to-date on their vaccinations? Is the closest town within walking distance?”
But then I read this, “Post a photo of the inside of your refrigerator.”
Hmmm…So I asked why. And she responded,
It’s something we ask after getting surprised one too many times with refrigerators not sanitary in any way, shape, or form. We’re not looking to see what you have per say, as much as the condition you keep your fridge because we’ve found that to be a good indicator as to how clean you keep your home as well. It really sucks when the first thing you have to do upon arrival to a home is spending 4-6 hours cleaning the fridge just to make sure you don’t get food poisoning. Not to mention, quite often the rest of the home is just as dirty. And we aren’t there to be your house cleaners. After experiencing three like that in a row, we now ask to see what the fridge looks like.
I thanked her for her response and checked her off my list as a potential housesitter.
Although this post isn’t about housesitters, I became curious to know what is inside expat fridges because they do represent a different way of eating and storing food, especially in the tropics.
So, here is a picture of what’s inside my fridge. Notice, it is clean, no rotten food, no mold, nothing that would cause food poisoning. Although, I have to admit that were notorious for keeping some moldy leftovers in our fridge in the states. But, living on a tropical island has changed our fridge contents and our respect for food drastically. Let me explain why.
Living in the tropics, nothing is sacred to the infestation of bugs that swarm annually. Everything must be sealed tightly and even then, the tiny insects can always find a way to ruin your prized pumpernickel bread you found at La Colonia. All perishables go into the fridge or freezer.
Currently we have an infestation of tiny book lice. Fortunately they don’t like my food, but they are building nests inside my Kindle. ( And yes, they are really called book lice! ) Their only entrance is through my charger hole, so I had to find a way to deter them. After shaking hundreds of tiny book lice gently out the charger hole, I discovered that a drop of neem oil around the charger hole keeps them at bay.
Things rot quickly in the tropics. We experimented keeping our tomatoes out of the fridge or inside. They rotted within two days outside the fridge, and stayed rock hard inside the fridge. Nicaragua doesn’t have a good selection of tomatoes anyway, so we chose to refrigerate them so they would last longer.
All fruit is either refrigerated, processed and frozen, or canned. We freeze mangoes, water apples, Jackfruit, and Suriname cherries from our trees and bushes. We used to make mango jam and salsa and can it, but unless we started at 4 am, the day was too hot to keep the water boiling on the stove for canning.
Milk comes in cardboard containers and when we open it, the container goes into the fridge. We keep our eggs in the fridge, too. I know that is not custom here, but if we don’t put them in the fridge, we need a safe spot so our kitties won’t swipe them onto the floor. They are little rascals like that!
Don’t dare touch my Ghirardelli chocolate bars, my 10 pound bag of chocolate chips, my licorice, jelly beans, or the real bags of powdered sugar and brown sugar tucked into my small freezer! I either carried them back from the states, or made a long trip to Managua to get these items.
Expats always have cravings for food from home. I am no different. If I find dill pickles, Snyders Honey Mustard pretzel pieces, or Dove chocolate bars in our local grocery stores, I hoard them because you never know when you will find them again.
Right now, I have those little wax coke bottles filled with sugar-water in my fridge. I found them in the Remember This section in Food Lion in the states. I remember buying those little wax coke bottles on our way to visit my Grandma when I was little. They probably won’t taste at all like I remember, but it is a friendly reminder of my Grandma every time I open my fridge.
3. How our food prep has changed
Our son’s friends always teased us about finding moldy leftovers in our fridge. When we lived in the states, we were always in such a hurry. We ate out a lot, and the leftovers were forgotten in the fridge. We bought so much junk food impulsively.
Living on a tropical island now, we grow veggies like sweet potatoes, eggplant, okra, foot long green beans, and have abundant patches of oregano, basil, and other herbs. Our 15 varieties of fruit trees constantly supply us with fruit and depending on the season, we always have some fruit dropping to the ground.
Presently we have giant Jackfruit, grapefruit, papaya, and nancites. Soon we will have bushels of sweet lemons. We are going to buy a juicer and make lemon ice cubes to freeze and use them in soups, casseroles, and other lemony delights.
In addition, we rarely eat out. Ron is the cook and I am the pastry chef. We both enjoy creating different culinary delights with the abundance we have on our small finca. Plus, we have all the time in the world.
Our fridge is never full, because we plan and prepare food daily with what we have available. Ron’s Jackfruit pulled-pork tasting barbecue sandwiches are to die for!
And we are so much healthier because we aren’t eating fast food.
So, now that you’ve had a peek inside my fridge, what is in your fridge and have your eating habits changed if you live abroad?