In Praise of Room Temperature

Holy aïoli, Batman! Who knew that mayonnaise, even already-opened mayonnaise with flecks of whatever was clinging to the knife the last time you got some out, doesn’t need to be stored in the refrigerator? It’s shelf-stable.

Food writer/blogger Regina Schrambling, that’s who. In The Big Chill, Salon’s current weekly food piece, Schrambling wants us to know that most of us are wasting valuable space in our fridges storing foods that are meant for the cupboard. Mustard (guilty), chile paste (guilty), tomatoes (the horror!), even preserved lemons (duh! they’re preserved)—people seem to be really using those big-ass refrigerators they’re buying.

Which, in the end, is what chaps Schrambling’s hide. She’d like to jam condiments into her Subzero willy-nilly, but she can’t:

Maybe I’m offended because I have a restored 1929 kitchen where the refrigerator fits into only one space, underneath a to-the-ceiling cabinet. That slot is just 5 feet high; even today’s trendy pseudo-retro refrigerators tower a good 8 inches above it. If my old one dies, I’m dead.

In this era of a new food recall seemingly every week, Schrambling’s take-it-out-of-the-fridge philosophy is bracingly unhysterical. But how long will that bottle of Tabasco sauce last out of the refrigerator? This three-year-old piece from Real Simple gives the skinny on expiration dates, from opened bottles of wine (controversially, the writers say a whole week) to alkaline batteries (seven years).

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