Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Freezer – Part One

I got my first deep freeze in early December 1990. It was delivered to my apartment just a few days after I got out of the hospital after undergoing surgery for my detached retina. It was an early Christmas present from my family.

After losing so much of my sight, I knew I was going to have to change a few things in my life. I had a lot of time to think about those changes during my three weeks in the hospital. At that point, I didn’t know how much sight I would even get back. One thing that I knew had to change, was the way that I grocery shopped. I had always bought in bulk when I could – except when it came to things that could or had to be frozen. I relied on whatever size my refrigerator freezer was and my ability to go and buy fresh items when I needed them.

My parents had asked what I wanted for Christmas that year and I suggested that rather than everyone buying me a lot of smaller things as they usually did, that it would be great if they all chipped in and got me a chest deep freezer. They readily agreed.

My mom and brother came into the city the day I was released. On the way home we went to Sears and bought a deep freezer. It was delivered to my apartment a few days later. Mom did a lot of cooking and baking for me in that first week that she stayed with me after I was home from the hospital. We also did a MAJOR grocery shop, so it didn’t take long to fill it up!

That deep freezer became an integral part of my independence. I was able to take advantage of meat sales and cook in bulk. I didn’t have to shop as often and was able to save a fair amount on my grocery bills.

Over the years, I have kept that freezer at least 80% full – and usually closer to capacity! I baked when I wanted to and froze whatever I could. I cooked large meals and froze them in individual portions. I bought family packs of meats and froze the meat in individual portions. The freezer was always stocked and ready for whatever I needed.

The last year or so though, I realized that it wasn’t working quite as well as it used to. There was more frost around the top than there used to be. It needed defrosting a little more than it used to. The area near the motor wasn’t freezing as solidly so I kept things like almonds and peanuts there – things that should be kept cool for freshness but didn't necessarily need to be frozen.

Twenty years isn’t really that old for a good deep freeze – especially if it is defrosted on a regular basis and not moved around much. Mine was defrosted at least twice/year but unfortunately, it had also gone through three moves (while full) – 1991, 1993 and 1998. Not having AC all of these years didn’t help the life of the freezer either. My freezer was on borrowed time and would have to be replaced.

This summer has been warmer than usual and without AC, the apartment was a bit on the warm side even with a couple of good sized oscillating fans running. The freezer was working overtime. I made a batch of ice cream in late July and realized that the canister - which normally sat on the little shelf above the motor - wasn’t frozen as solid as it should have been. That batch didn’t turn out quite as well as usual but was still quite edible!! The first part of August was very hot and humid so I knew that the freezer needed to be defrosted sooner rather than later.

A couple of weeks ago, a northerly breeze cooled off the apartment really nicely one evening so I decided to defrost. What I discovered was NOT good. The items along the sides and bottom were no longer frozen solid! Luckily, almost all of the items along the wall and floor were my muffins, cookies, loaves and nuts – all items that are a bit more forgiving to freezing temps. There was about 4 months or so worth of baking, a pound of peanuts and about 5 pounds of almonds. Replacing anything would be expensive and time consuming. I checked everything carefully for soft spots, mould etc.

Unfortunately, I had to throw out about $20 worth of meat – 2 lbs extra lean ground beef and 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That would have been at least 20 servings of meat once they were prepared! That really hurt and I did cry. The rest of the meat was still frozen – probably about $150 worth of meat and homemade meals in all. (That’s not counting the cost to replace the baking!) After I defrosted, I pulled out the freezer to clean as much dust from behind as possible. The motor was still too hot to touch! Oh, this was NOT good!!

I knew it would take a few days before I could get a new freezer delivered, so before I put things back in, I lined it with several layers of newspaper for insulation. I placed all the baking along the bottom and the outside walls. The meat and prepared meals went in the middle where it would be colder and well insulated.

There really wasn’t much else I could do. I didn’t have anywhere else to store things. The fridge freezer was already full and none of my nearby friends had any extra freezer space.

Hopefully, the freezer would work until a new one could be delivered. I plugged the freezer in again and crossed my fingers. I didn’t want to lose anything else. Throwing out any food – prepared or not is something that I have almost never done and I certainly didn’t want to start now!

For now the freezer was working, but I needed a new one as soon as possible. I started looking at some local businesses online to see what they had and what the price range was. I made a few phone calls but found that it was either going to cost me a small fortune to get one in a couple of days or the store didn’t have what I wanted in stock.

I finally ordered a 7.2 cubic foot chest freezer from Sears. The earliest that I could get it delivered was the following Saturday. It was also going to cost me $60 for delivery!! YIKES!! I wasn’t happy about it, but I had no choice. When I called my mom that Sunday morning, I told her that she wouldn’t have to shop for me this year as I had just bought my Christmas present!

to be concluded next week....


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