Baking Soda & Vinegar

Grocery shopping.  In Houston, Jeff and I would jump into the Saturn and drive on down (about 1 minute) to Kroger.  We’d wander through the aisles, fill our cart with lots of goodies, partake in free samples, and check-out U-Scan style.  No more than a half-hour later, and we were ready for the upcoming week.

And now life in Asia.  Let’s think about a typical grocery list for an American family.  Milk.  Cheese.  Butter.  Bread.  Eggs.  Cereal.  Of this list, eggs are the easiest part.  In our building, there are several little shops – all of which carry eggs.  Check.  Bread can be bought at various local bakeries, so that’s not too big of a problem either.  Not too much variety, but overall good.  Butter and cheese.  For these, you have two options.  There is an import store that sells both, but the price is a little high.  Walmart almost always has butter, but cheese is touch-and-go.  Or there’s another hole-in-the-wall store that sells Australian steak (random, I know) and they sell butter for cheaper.  So sometimes we can make a trip to the meat store for butter and the import store (or Walmart) for cheese.  But if you’re going, you’d better buy in bulk so that you don’t have to make a separate trip in the next few days.  These stores, unlike our favorite neighborhood Kroger, are not anywhere near our house.  Now onto milk.  Also can be bought at a few stores downstairs – but do you like milk that tastes more like “American” milk – or are you okay with the Asian flavor?  Jeff doesn’t mind either one, but if given the chance I’ll throw the Australian imported milk onto my cereal anyday.  Well, if you want the Australian milk, that’s in a different store – not the import store, not Walmart, and not the meat store.  Also not close to our house.  So we make a trip and stock up.  And now the cereal.  That’s at another import store, but he’s had weird hours lately, so you’d better call and make sure he’s open.  If not, you can try another department store that just so happens to have various types of knock-off cereal brands.  It’s a 20 minute cab ride away, so we’ll try to combine it with another trip – and once again, stock up!

Why am I telling you all this?  To give you a little picture of life in another culture – and the joys of grocery shopping at 10 different stores 🙂 – and also to give a little background to my story.

We have a deep freeze.  We actually inherited it from some good friends of ours that moved and it has been a lifesaver, especially with a baby.  We freeze everything.  Avocado (when we can find it).  Cheese.  Butter.  Ground beef.  Chicken.  We make entire pans of enchiladas and lasagna and then freeze them in individual containers so that when we’re busy/just back from a trip/tired, so we can pull one out and voila – instant dinner.  We love the deep freeze.

You may remember we were going on a little trip.  Before we go on a trip, we turn everything off and unplug things we don’t need to stay on – just in case.  We turn off the water and gas if we’re going to be gone for a while, and go around unplugging things like the washer machine, the TV, lamps, etc.

Right before we left (literally, our bags were at the door), I walked over to the water machine and unplugged it.  I looked behind me, made sure the a/c was turned off in the living room, and walked out the door, locking it.

Almost two weeks later, we came home.  House looked good.  Everything was in the same place.  I unpacked bags, did laundry, and fed Macy.  We went to sleep.  The next morning, we got up, ate breakfast, dressed Macy and then I walked over to the deep freeze to see if had any chicken. I peered inside.

The first thing I noticed was that the cheese was green and moldy.

“Jeff!  The cheese molded!  How did that happen?”

He comes over to look.

“Everything is spoiled!  What happened?  How did it get turned off?”

Uh oh.  I guess I didn’t unplug the water machine after all.  To my defense, we have a surge protector over there that you can just flip off whichever plug you want without disturbing the others.  I guess I just picked the wrong plug.  Oops.

Wow, did it smell.  Have you ever had pounds of rotting meat in your house?  I hope not.  Both of us were gagging.  We waited until Macy went down for her nap, Jeff dragged the whole thing out to our entryway and we started throwing it all into garbage bags.   It was pretty terrible.

However, once all the stuff was gone, there was still like an inch of blood and other stuff just floating in the bottom.  Gross.  Jeff dragged the whole thing downstairs and asked one of the shops if he could use their water hose.  He hosed it down and cleaned it out.  But we could NOT get rid of the smell.  We bought kitchen cleaner.  Still smelled.  He used dishwashing soap on the walls.  More smell.  I called my mom and she suggested baking soda.  Genius.  I made baking soda paste and covered the walls with it.  I sprinkled some in the bottom.  I turned it back on and left it overnight.  It still smelled.

Jeff thought that the blood had gotten down in the bottom where we couldn’t see and couldn’t get to through the crevices in the freezer.  No wonder we couldn’t get rid of the smell.  Whatever it was was still making the smell.

And now we’ve moved on to vinegar.  We’ve sprayed the entire thing with vinegar to kill the whatever at the bottom and set it outside to “dry out”.  It still smells – but more and more like vinegar and less and less like dead animal.  So hopefully by tomorrow, we can bring it back in, clean out the vinegar, buy another thing of baking soda to put inside, maybe throw in a few slices of bread, some coffee grounds (all suggestions I heard about getting rid of smells) and see how it goes.

Wish us luck.

Interesting sidenote – doesn’t vinegar and baking soda make one of those homemade volcanoes??  I didn’t remember that until I sprayed some of the baking soda spots with vinegar and they started to fizz.  We’ll have to remember that when Macy gets a little bit bigger.

I don’t think I’ll be unplugging anything in that vicinity for a long time.


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