Our fridge obsession reveals a lot about our relationship with hunger

My sisters and I have been obsessing with well-organized refrigerators lately. On our group chat, we’ve been exchanging photos and clips showcasing well-organized fridges and various fridge organization hacks. Taken from various social media platforms, these materials have intensified our excitement for their new house.

Only a couple of months ago, my younger sister decided to buy a house in a nearby town. Two to three years from now, she, my youngest sister, and our mother could finally move into it. And since I’m family, they have been telling me I could always stay there with them anytime I’d want to. It is for the same reason why they have been including me in discussions about what changes would be done in the house once it is turned over to them.

My youngest sister shared another clip showing a well-organized fridge about an hour ago and said she was hoping their fridge in the new home would be as organized. In response, I told her nothing could ever beat how organized our fridge was in our old home. It was so minimalistic. In other words, empty. I thought it was funny and based on their reactions, they found it hilarious, too.

It wasn’t the first time we made light of how poor and pathetic we used to be. In fact, we still sing the little song we created during that one time Mama left us with nothing to eat. We were so desperate back then that we thought of using the 25-centavo coins we’d saved in one of our display ceramic pots at home to buy whatever food we could afford from a nearby sari-sari store.

To our surprise, the coins were no longer there. Somebody else had seized everything we’d managed to save. And, we were certain it could only be Mama. Disappointed, we started singing to the tune of My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade,” “When I was a young girl / My mother to the coins from the bilog mangkok…”

Sometimes, we also joke about how much we eat now and how our standards have improved when it comes to food. Usually, this happens when dine eat out or have some food delivered to the house they are currently renting. Back when we were still kids, we had no right to be picky at all. Any food that would ever touch the table was considered a blessing. It should be appreciated. Besides, we could never be too sure if we’d still have something to put in our mouths in the days to come.

I honestly believe our conditions back then somehow traumatized us. No wonder, having nothing to eat remains on the list of the things I fear the most to this day. I know how awful it is to listen to your stomach growl during a time when there’s nothing on the table, and I never want to experience the same thing again.

Yet, it’s amazing how we can still joke about our encounters with hunger back then. Or, maybe, it’s just our way of assuring ourselves that the worst is over. It is our means of telling ourselves, Go ahead and laugh at those moments you desperately wished for a warm meal you could not afford, as well as those times when you envied your peers for not having to worry about not having enough food the next day. Laugh at how pathetic you were because I swear, you’ll never get through the same shit again.

After we laugh at our jokes, we tell ourselves to become better at what we do and work even harder. To be able to keep laughing at such jokes and to keep filling our fridges with all the food we need and want, we need to continue earning. We know, our efforts can only do so much as our problem with poverty and hunger is just a symptom of bigger issues that are systemic. So, besides making a living, we should also try to contribute to the fight for a better society.

Now that I think about it, I think our obsession with fridges tells a lot about our complex relationship with food and hunger. Since we grew up in a household where food was scarce most of the time and where our fridge’s contents could only last a couple of days after payday, we’ve unconsciously developed some kind of fondness for fridges filled with food. But I guess we’re currently at a stage where we want to prove that we deserve what we now enjoy, so we are aspiring to do things better. In our case, it’s by aiming for packed yet well-organized fridges.

This pretty much explains how I always feel so safe and assured that I’ve got my shit together whenever I open our fridge at home and see its contents stacked and lined up so meticulously. Whenever I do so, I can’t help but give myself a tap on my back, as if telling myself, Good job Mina, you’ve made it. And you’re doing such a great job. You really deserve it.

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