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Travis: A briny mess turns into a chance for a clean slate
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My husband loves watching the Cooking Channel. He often tries some recipe he has seen or asks me to look it up on the Internet and print it out for him.

One thing he has taken to heart is that you must brine meat, especially before you cook it on the grill. Brining means letting the meat soak in salty water before you cook it. He usually does this by putting the salty water and the meat in a storage bag or “zippy” and putting the whole shebang in the refrigerator for several hours.

He was planning to cook out at the cabin on Saturday and have some friends in to watch the Georgia game. So, in my refrigerator were bags of pork chops and chicken quarters in brine.

You remember that television commercial where someone fills bags with spaghetti sauce and proceeds to hang them over a white sofa? The consumer is forced to choose which brand will hold the sauce and not drop it all over her sofa.
Well, apparently one of us bought the wrong bags. And the wrong bags and their contents were on the next-to-the-top shelf of the refrigerator.

About two hours after my husband put those bags in the refrigerator, he began to pack for his trek to the cabin. When he opened the refrigerator, he discovered that everything from the second shelf down was soaked in briny water.
He did help get the drawers at the bottom of the refrigerator out and hand me some paper towels. He also observed that the water was also on the floor in front of the refrigerator.

But then he had to leave.

I pulled everything out of that refrigerator. I had visions of chicken and pork chop germs all over everything.
And once everything was out, I pulled out all the shelves and then soaked the inside of the refrigerator with a disinfectant spray. I wiped everything vigorously with paper towels. The shelves and drawers were cleaned in the sink with hot soapy water and dried.

Putting all those shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator was a bit like solving Rubik’s cube. At least for me it was; I think I am spatially challenged. But I got it done. And it looks somewhat like what the inside of the refrigerator used to look like.

I wiped up the floor with the disinfectant spray and then contemplated what had been in the refrigerator. I even washed the top shelf that had not been contaminated. Why not make a clean sweep?

The adage says it’s an ill wind that blows no good. There was a silver lining to this mess. As I sprayed and wiped everything that had come out of the refrigerator, I realized that I should take the opportunity to discard the things needed to be thrown out.

I checked all the expiration dates and threw out anything I deemed too old to keep. Anything that had not been hermetically sealed had to go, as it might have been contaminated by the water.

Then I had to contemplate those things that sort of “live” in your refrigerator. You know the ones. There is only an eighth of an inch of something left in the bottom of a forgotten bottle. Then there is the jar of orange marmalade that you bought for a certain recipe and only used 1/3 cup. No one in your house likes or eats orange marmalade, and you don’t know when you are going to make that recipe again.

There was a plastic margarine container, washed and reused, full of cheese rinds. I am sure my husband had a perfectly good reason for keeping them, but I don’t know what it was.

By the time I finished, my refrigerator might have been about as clean as when I bought it. But it was also very empty. The shelves look a little forlorn. I am going to the store this afternoon to replace the items I threw out. So it won’t be empty long.

Now my only problem is how to get that strip that runs across the bottom of the refrigerator — it is some sort of vent — back on there.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at