The vulnerability and transparency that comes with sharing a fridge

There’s no better recipe for conversations than 15 girls and 3 fridges

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Sarah Ashman is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

For two years now, I’ve lived in a house of 15 girls and three fridges. Each clear shelf

and veggie drawer is labeled with pastel washi tape and black sharpie. Our various groceries live in harmony in either the black, white or silver fridge. From Whole30 essentials to breakfast-food-only dietary necessities, all sorts of foods — from eggs to cauliflower to spring mixes — crowd each tiny, cool space.

Well, until someone buys an entire gallon of milk and tries to slide it in between

the Trader Joe’s pesto, Sweet Baby Ray’s barbeque sauce, ketchup and three bottles

of wine already on the door, breaking the door shelf — again.

O.K., so it’s not so easy. It’s hard to fit a bag of apples, a box of LaCroix, meal-prep

Tupperware, a left-over Roots bowl and a 12-pack of anything simultaneously in a

square foot. Right now, there is a traveling avocado that people keep putting on another person’s shelf because “it isn’t theirs.” God forbid the top on someone’s orange juice isn’t screwed on tight enough, and our groceries get soaked with an unintentional sticky citrus marinade — gross.

But despite all the spills, shoving, squishing and accidental swapping, this is

my last semester of sharing a fridge with five other people, and I’m sad about it. When I moved off Grounds the summer going into my second year, I wasn’t just bad at cooking — I was seriously inept. I burned water on the stove. Who knows how I survived — my typical meal consisted of pasta with powdered Parmesan cheese out of a plastic bag. Looking back, I’m realizing that I learned most of what I know now from watching my older housemates. I noticed when their shelves became barren — housing only a spare onion or can of beans — and asked if I could go to the grocery store with them. I took note of the meats and vegetables they bought — I watched how long they lasted on the shelves around mine, and slowly but surely, my knowledge and confidence grew as a result of that built in transparency.

The thing about the fridge is that it’s all right in your face. There aren’t many places to hide the beef you burned or the roll of cookie dough you feel guilty about buying — it’s all being aired

out in the open — or, even more likely, spilling into everyone else’s space. When it’s all there to be seen, we can learn from each other’s experiences, we can come up with limited-ingredient recipes and we can share with each other when someone is having a food shortage.

Everyone knows when you’ve had a busy week and are living off of leftover pizza. 

But the sweet thing is, when everyone knows, it makes it a lot easier to ask if anyone

has anything more nutritious to spare — all of our cards are on the table, and we ask

plainly for what we need. And sometimes I wonder what it would look like if we lived our lives like we stock our fridges — with everything out in plain sight, as full or empty as you can imagine — a shamelessly honest presence.

I cooked salmon this week for the first time ever on my own, and all I had to do was

look around in the fridge, see who else had salmon, ask my housemates how many times they had made it and follow their directions. I knew I could trust them when they told me to pull it out of the oven in 20 minutes because they had been there and done that. 

And sure, sharing our experiences with salmon isn’t that hard because it isn’t that personal. But sharing little things like that makes it easier to trust each other with the big things and to ask for help with much more complicated issues when we need it. Our conversations don’t just center on food or recipes. Over the years, we’ve begun to put our assortment of experiences with divorce, amazing dates, eating disorders, anxiety, incredible interviews, denied applications or failed tests out there in the open on our “shelves,” so we could struggle through or celebrate those things together.

Sharing our food is sweet — I can only imagine how our University would look if we continued to work towards sharing our lives, struggles and victories with our fellow Hoos. 

Sarah Ashman is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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