Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which I Clean Up

If a revolutionary drug known as Penicillin can be discovered by leaving out a few petri dishes of bread mold, then I may have just thrown away the cure for cancer.

Mid-week last week, The Boss put together a meal in our Crock Pot. Since we both work long hours and don't feel like cooking a full meal upon getting home at eight o'clock in the evening, Crock Pot meals are a staple of our weekly meal planning. Tired of the same old things, The Boss thought that she'd try making something that she used to have quite often while growing up: ham and bean soup. 

She industriously tipped a pound of fresh green beans and yellow wax beans, chopped up some choice cuts of ham, and tossed it all into the Crock. Not having made it before herself, she naturally thought that since it was a soup that it would call for chicken broth. She added an ample amount, tossed in a few spices and some water to thin it out a bit, and set the Crock to low to let it work it's magic. 

That evening, upon arriving home and ravenously hungry, we eagerly took off the lid to the Crock and breathed deeply the aroma. It smelled heavenly, and my stomach grumbled agreeably. The Boss got a spoon from the drawer and tested the broth for flavor. 

Her eyes widened. Her mouth puckered. Her hand flew to her mouth. 

She spun around and spit out the broth into the sink. 

"What?" I asked. "Is it hot?"

"No," she gasped. "Salty. Wicked fucking salty."

I took her spoon and tried it myself. Sure enough, it tasted like warm salt water. Far, far too salty to eat. 

"I wonder what I did wrong," The Boss mused quietly. I rubbed her back and tried to console her. 

She ended up calling her mother and found out that since ham is naturally salty, for ham and bean soup you're supposed to use water for the broth. The chicken broth she added was the culprit, but watering it down more didn't help. An honest mistake, but the meal was inedible. 

We fixed something else for dinner instead, and left the Crock Pot on the counter to be dealt with later. Later turned into the next morning, the next morning turned into that evening, that evening turned into the next day, and before we knew it the Crock had been sitting out on the counter for two days. We hadn't meant to leave it there for that long, but we had a busy week and it dropped down a bit on our priority list.

We came home from work Friday night to a science experiment. 

A thin, scaly white substance had formed a layer on the surface. Bubbles from the fermenting beans and chunks of ham underneath it worked their way up through, forming little air pockets that would occasionally burst. If you stood there long enough and watched it, it almost looked like it was breathing. Air would rise up inside of one of the salt bubbles and inflate it, resembling a grotesque balloon. The air would find or force a crack in the bubble, and the air would leak out. The bubble would then deflate slowly, and the process would start all over again. On top of that, it smelled like rancid cheese, stale farts, and swamp. 

"I am NOT touching that," The Boss said after one look at it.

"Me, either," I refused. "You couldn't pay me enough."

And so it sat there (I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but if you had seen it you'd understand why) until Sunday afternoon. 

The Boss wouldn't go near it, so I pulled my shirt up over my nose and went to war. I had to stop a few times to regain control over my gag reflex, but I did it. I emptied the Crock into a colander to remove the liquid, and emptied the colander into a triple-lined trash bag to ensure it wouldn't leak. The smell from it was absolutely wretched, but by then the worst part was over. I rinsed the Crock and the colander with hot water and threw them both into the dishwasher. 

I would have taken a picture of it before I threw it out, but it was seriously, seriously nasty. I didn't want to lose readers by putting up such carnage early on a Monday morning. We aren't usually so bad with things like this, with this experience being the exception to the rule.

I know I'm not alone with leaving leftovers around for too long, so in the comments, share your horror stories. Do your worst, if you dare.

Happy Monday, folks.


Mad Woman said...

Oh yeah. You've made me feel so much better about the cucumber I just threw away that was so rotten and mushy I had to double bag it and then scrub the bottom of the fridge.

Or the cheese that was almost ready to walk out on its own.

We store our leftovers in old plastic containers for exactly that reason...because then I can just throw away the whole container.

Bama Cheryl said...

I once took a small thermos of cottage cheese to work for lunch but didn't eat it. So I faithfully brought it home but never put it into the refrigerator. About a month -- yes, a month -- later I remembered what was in it and instead of cleaning it, I tossed the thermos away. I was too weak to even open the little thermos and clean it out.

On the soup, if you had used low sodium (College Inn or Swanson's) chicken broth you would have been fine. Too bad - I hate it when I ruin a dish like that. Kudos to you for cleaning it up. But you're right, the smells can be really nasty.

Chris said...

I'm seeing a trend here in the comments. Sometimes the rubbermaid container is not worth the hassle of cleaning something disgusting out of it. I think that's why the companies started making the disposable food storage containers.
Now I don't use a crock pot much, if ever. When I do own a crock pot it is usually a $20 one from Walmart and if I had a science experiment in it I'd probably just carry the whole thing out to the trash dumpster. You did well to save the crock pot.

argumentics said...

I once left two onions in the fridge. I swear to God they turned into the most sharp and distinct, though somewhat watery, blue colour. I was like 'awwww' ... then came the smell.

Nes said...

That's hilarious! I often dump all leftovers in the fridge only to remember bout them weeks then the white fungus/mold/potential cure for the common cold maybe and the terrifying smell the food emits puts me off so much, I toss the whole thing away.

That's why now, I've wisened up. Now, I use disposable containers.

erin said...

I did that once with inedible FISH STEW...worst mistake of my life. It was in a giant stock pot too...I ended up throwing the whole stock pot out after I tried cleaning it up. Double whammy.

Ugh, now I feel ill.

cbs111 said...

We were getting ready to go out of town for a long weekend so I made a crock pot meal on Thursday thinking that it would free me up to finish packing. Monday evening when we came home the house smelled horrendous, and there was a furry disease growing in my crock pot. Thank God for Hubby's strong stomach, there was no way I was going near that!

Logical Libby said...

Just recently I threw out a bottle of salad dressing in our fridge with an expiration of March 06. Almost had to call hazmat.

Aunt Juicebox said...

I once had a bag of potatoes make themselves into vodka. I'm worse though, about forgetting to refrigerate stuff and finding it later and having to throw it out. I could probably eat for a month if I had all that food back again.

I'm wondering if it was the brand of broth she used, because I frequently make chicken in the crockpot for chicken and dumplings and I use a can of broth plus water to make the soup part and it's never too salty.

Melissa said...

You just described EVERYTHING in my refridgerator except for my beer, soda, and string cheese.

I dont eat leftovers, I have a weird aversion to them. Knowing this, I do not know why I dont toss as soon as I am done with my meal. I'm weird like that I guess.

TechnoBabe said...

Too bad it didn't turn out like you wanted, and too salty is horrible. You were a good sport to do the clean up.

soft nonsense said...

First - my father once attempted to make macaroni and cheese in a crock pot, which seems like an absolutely wonderful idea at the time. Unfortunately, he tried to give us some protein via some slices of canadian bacon, curdling all of the cheese therein and making it unbelievably salty.

Second - I've seen terrible, terrible things with mold on it here at college. Some too horrible to speak of. But your description was probably the scariest.

WebSavvyMom said...

-->Discovering a sippy cup that had milk in it at some point within under the couch, during the summer. My eyes! My nose! I ended up throwing it out.

ForeverRhonda said...

I left tomatoes (which I hate anyway) in the bottom of the fridge for like time I tossed them I had to bleach the bottom of the fridge. And toss out everything else in the veggie drawer. Fear of contamination.

I probably would have thrown the crockpot out.

We also left a pan of beans on the stove for probably at least a week or so, (busy lives!) and I threw out the entire pan.

Nej said...

Our pre-dishwasher days (circa 2007 and earlier) were pretty darned bad. I mean....really, really bad. Sink full of dishes...and, at the bottom, would be that one dish that started it all. The one you fill with water to soak (i.e. don't want to deal with it, so fill it with water and walk away). Festering....growing...stinking.

Not having a dishwasher was almost the end to our marriage. :-)

Dylan Murphy said...

This is why I always order in.

The Social Frog said...

You have turned my stomach,lol! Well my story is we went to Maine to visit family and I always drink tons of Coffee Milk while home because in Florida there is no such thing. Well it was December and a few weeks ago we smelt something really nasty in the car, had no idea what it was. A few more days go by and hubby found what it was...somehow a bottle of coffee milk I had bought in Maine, rolled under my car seat and with this Florida heat, it expanded and such and the platic bottle finally gave way... So 4 month old milk in the car is nasty!

Chuck said...

You win the Reek of The Week award, Geek! My wife is the same way...I get sent in to do battle with every mummified, squishy, odiferous item in the fridge...while she is at the furthest end of the house!

Roxy said...

Man I am one of the biggest offenders of forgetting or not feeling like cleaning up after dinner. My crockpot is outside. My hubby hosed it off but honestly I'm afraid to cook in it again. But I hate to throw it away it was an expensive one. And here I thought I was the only one. I've had to throw away many dishes, pots, cups, etc over the years.

carissa said...

Oh I've been there WAY too many times. The worst though aren't the messes that I leave in the sink, they're the leftovers that I leave in my car... only to remember about weeks later when it starts to smell of a dead body. If only I could learn from my mistakes.

Badass Geek said...

Mad Woman: Cucumbers get nasty when they get old in the fridge.

Bama Cheryl: Month-old cottage cheese? Yeah, I would have tossed it out, too.

Chris: The one we have was decently expensive, but I was still willing to throw it out to save myself the experience of cleaning it.

Argumentics: Oh, that smell. The smell that surrounds you.

Nes: So do we. So much, in fact, that we should probably buy stock in Gladware.

Erin: Fish stew? That would have been traumatizing.

Cbs111: I've got a strong stomach, too, but the furry mold stuff always makes it churn.

Logical Libby: Yikes.

Aunt Juicebox: I think it was the ham that made it too salty.

Melissa: The Boss is like that with food she can't finish at restaurants. She'll box it up and take it home, and leave it to mold and fester in the fridge.

TechnoBabe: I thought so. =)

Soft Nonsense: College was a time for fridge science experiments, too.

WebSavvyMom: Good idea. We humans aren't built for such carnage.

ForeverRhonda: We've done that with camping dishes. After forgetting about them for the better part of Autumn, we just threw out the whole lot.

Nej: If we didn't have a dishwasher, we'd likely be divorced, too.

Dylan Murphy: We would if we could, man.

The Social Frog: That is awful.

Chuck: Too bad we don't get hazard pay, right?

Roxy: No, you're not alone. Not by a long shot. =)

Carissa: I know. Each time I clean out the fridge I think to myself, "Never again." And then it happens again a month later.

Anonymous said...

Microwaves are amazingly air-tight. I once defrosted a chicken, only to be asked to dinner with friends, and promptly forgot about the chicken. And didn't touch the microwave for 2 weeks! Upon discovery, instead of cleaning it, I just bought a new microwave.

Aunt Becky said...

I routinely cure diseases with what I grow in my fridge.

Moonspun said...

you should have called the local science class to figure out what it was...

Ann said...

During high school, I lived in an unairconditioned dorm for the month of July. My mother, fearing I would starve to death, packed a small (apparently fairly airtight!) cooler with a bag of apples and a package of pretzels. At some point during move-in, my father shoved the cooler under the bed. About three weeks later, we heard a strange buzzing from under the bed. We pulled the cooler out and cautiously opened the lid - the apples had liquefied into brown, chunky, super stinky sludge, and to add insult to foulness, attracted hundreds of fruit flies! I actually did bribe a friend to dump the contents in a dumpster for me, but even after half a dozen thorough scrub downs, it still smelled unbelieveably bad.

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