On Sunday, I cleaned out the vegetable drawer.
Not exciting, right? Except the sight of the neatly organized and wiped down drawer gave me such joy.
It started with the fennel. I knew I’d bought a fennel bulb last week, and it hadn’t surfaced for days. I had intended to make a salad with finely sliced fennel, orange slices, avocado and lettuce, and a clean citrusy dressing, but it had slipped my mind as I made things the kids wanted.
I wanted to use that fennel. I wanted it not to go bad and have to be thrown away.
That happens a lot, though I try so hard not to waste food.
We buy so much to fill the refrigerator for the week, in anticipation of using every last item. But by the time we actually get to it, some of it has gone soft or soggy or moldy.
In fact, I tried a new grocery a few weeks back, and while the prices were great and it seemed the selection was, too, by Wednesday the loaf of bread I’d purchased there was turning blue.
Fresh ingredients need to be used quickly, that I know. And so on Sunday, Dan and I cooked up the ingredients for minestrone soup and we made a french onion soup, too, and I blended ingredients for homemade hummus (which was sort of a fail – too clumpy).
I emptied the contents onto the counter. There was some aging lettuce, some scallions that had only a few limp days left, and lo and behold, at the bottom I found the fennel.
I sliced it up and put the cleaned slices into a container. I cleaned off the scallions and put the usable ones into a plastic bag. I cleaned all the lettuce leaves, tore off brown parts, and collected them into a large plastic baggie, with a napkin on top to soak up the moisture. Tuesday, I vowed, would be salad night.
There was a bunch of radishes, too, which were about to go soft, and so I cleaned them, snipped off their ends, and sliced them up, preserving them into an airtight container. The carrots, three zucchini and three cucumbers looked well as did half a bunch of celery. I snipped the long ends off three leeks and rinsed them in the sink.
After the vegetables were cared for, I wiped down the drawer, pulling out any dried bits of lettuce that had attached themselves to the bottom. I cleaned out the grooves that slide the drawer into place. I wiped out the trench designed to collect inevitable moisture.
The drawer gleamed. I felt like I had accomplished something – something important. A simple task, I know, but we should live among clean things and organization.
Then, I placed the vegetables back inside the drawer – first the containers of fennel and radish, stacked one atop the other, then the bag of cleaned crisp lettuce and the bag of scallions. Onto the carrots I stacked cucumber and zucchini. The celery fit sideways in.
The drawer slid back into its place, and I felt a soaring sense of pride that I had made neatness out of chaos.
The fennel was found and preserved for last night’s salad. (Paired with bites of bright orange, the licorice-tasting fennel was a refreshing bite.)
This simple task was all I needed to do to feel like I had made some important progress in my little world. I doubt the kids noticed a cleaner or more organized vegetable drawer when they next opened the fridge, and perhaps Dan didn’t either.
But I know it’s there. I know it’s neat and orderly. I know that there can be synergy and rhythm amongst the chaos. And that is all I need.