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June 26, 2003

I think I've had my punishment for threatening olfactory crimes towards grieving relatives at my deathbed some (many) years hence. [Not, mind you, that I am eager to be on my deathbed, but I figure if you have to go, go out with style (as opposed to class).]

Punishment, indeed. But allow me to fill in the backstory a bit.

Last week, we had (as we in North Carolina are wont to do) a thunderstorm or two roll through the area. The power went out for a while - I was working at home that day, and I still can't get out of my head the bloody annoying alarm sound of the battery backups for my computers & network.

Power was shortly restored - a matter of only five minutes or so - and after I reset all the non-backed up clocks in the house I got back to work and forgot all about it.

(Aside: when the power goes out, I have to reset the microwave oven, the regular oven, the internal clocks on the TVs, an alarm clock, and the clock on my stereo. How hard would it be for gizmo makers to include minimal battery backup? I wonder if APC makes batteries suitable for backing up a whole house?)

So anyway, power was back and I gave it no more thought. Until yesterday. But I'm getting ahead of myself again....


Are you all looking forward to the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend as much as I am? There are only three "non-religious" holidays that I really care about. New Year's Day? Bah. Arbor Day? Feh. Labor Day? Humbug.

Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day. Sacrosanct.

This year (as last) my next-door neighbors are hosting the neighborhood festivities, and it's my job to provide the barbecue, for which purpose I had stowed a couple of whole pork loins in the freezer in the garage (along with the usual supplies of frozen vegetables, chicken, a duck, etc.)

So yesterday evening, while taking a break from lawn-mowing, I chatted with the "other-side" next-door neighbor about the upcoming party and about my upcoming porcine contribution. I've developed something of a reputation in the neighborhood for my barbecue -- I practice a lot, the reviews are universally favorable, and frankly I do like my own cooking....

We got to talking about the barbecue specifically -- how the whole neighborhood knows when Russ has fired up the smoker -- and my neighbor asked about the pork I had stashed for the event: how big was a whole loin, how long it would have to smoke before being fit for human consumption, that sort of thing. So we went to the freezer in the garage to haul one out and have a look. Opened up the freezer chest and...


As the lid/door opened, my eyes began to water, my gorge rose, and buzzards began dropping from s**t-wagons in a 5-mile radius.

There was no frost accumulated in the freezer.

The sides of the freezer were not warm, but almost hot to the touch. (It had been about 90° all day.)

The "power" light was off.

Un-utterable horror.

I quickly slammed the lid shut and, professional troubleshooter that I am, began to analyze the problem. Was the freezer plugged in? Yes. Maybe the outlet was faulty... quick test with a power tool said "no juice here." Dang? What was wrong? The circuit breakers were all good-to-go.... Could it be....

Damn. The whole garage is on a Ground Fault Interrupt circuit... and the circuit had cut off. The indicator winked mockingly at me from the other side of the garage.

Remember that power outage I mentioned?

I reset the GFI and sure enough, the freezer began humming merrily, blithely unaware of the diabolical wrongness contained within its metal walls.

Now it all came together. The power outage taking out the GFI circuit, followed by a week of warm and/or hot weather, combined with a metal box full of meat -- all adds up to a stench the like of which I have never before experienced (and I've lived in Korea, where stench takes on whole new nuances of meaning.) It was more than just an odor - it filled the garage, permeating my clothes and sticking to my skin. I had touched the inside of that freezer, I had felt the formerly-frozen contents thereof. I felt unclean.

What to do about it?

I couldn't just leave it like that. Then it struck me - Thursday (today) is trash day! My salvation was just around the corner. I resolved to load all the rot into the trash and let the town deal with it. After a couple hours of re-freezing (I was hoping that might knock down some of the smell -- it didn't, not perceptably), I ventured out and -- with held breath -- transferred the contents of the freezer to my trashcan, and wheeled the whole mess out to the curb. I had to hope that the local fauna would leave it alone. Then, into the house for a long soapy shower.

Those poor garbagemen - they must think I've finally disposed of Jimmy Hoffa. I expect I'll be receiving scrutiny for the next few missing-persons investigations in the county.

I'm out about $150 in frozen food, I still have to clean the freezer out completely (yes, there was some "leakage") and I still need to prep for the barbecue for the 4th of July.

So maybe there's a lesson here for me -- maybe I shouldn't threaten my aforementioned grieving relatives with olfactory torture.

Then again, maybe I've earned the right.

Posted by Russ at 12:46 PM, June 26, 2003 in Barbecue

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Hey Russ - I trust you have the sense to buy some kitty litter or charcoal to put in the freezer to get rid of the odor!! I don't think baking soda is strong enough to fight it out with stinko.

Posted by: Marge at June 26, 2003 06:48 PM

Kitty litter, huh? As it happens, I keep a bag in the garage (great for icy driveways).

So what do I do with it? Pour it in a pan in the bottom of the freezer? I wouldn't guess that I'd use it to soak up any of the meat squeezin's....

Freezer on or off?

I figured on just sloshing a bucketful of heavily chlorinated water around the inside of the freezer and draining it out the, um, drain.

Maybe both?

Posted by: Russ at June 26, 2003 10:22 PM

I'm glad I was done with lunch before reading that "rank" post. At first I was going to suggest some activated charcoal, but then I remembered something we did for a dog we took care of many moons ago ...

He got skunked and had a strong odor about him. We tried the shampoos, tomato juice, and the toothpaste treatments, but the stench lingered. We then heard of a treatment where you pour vinegar in some bowls (don't remember if we diluted it), and put the dog with bowls in a closed room for an hour or two. Amazingly the stench was gone.

This would be fairly easy to try with your freezer, but I don't know how well it would work with metallic and plastic surfaces. I am guessing that the acetic acid has neutralizing properties.

Posted by: MarcV at June 27, 2003 12:42 PM

Oh yeah, Thanksgiving should make the "secular holiday" list, especially considering that it first gained national significance during Pres. Lincoln's term.

Thanksgiving is another good excuse to cook some pig, although a deep-fried whole turkey is a treat. How about both this year!

Posted by: MarcV at June 27, 2003 12:47 PM

I actually consider Thanksgiving to be a religious, not secular, holiday -- to Whom are we giving thanks, eh? It was around a long time as a privately celebrated holiday (like, I suppose, Ash Wednesday is today) before the Lincoln presidency.

Marc, I'd consider the turkey if I had a fryer. I guess I know what to ask for this coming Christmas.

Posted by: Russ at June 27, 2003 03:31 PM

That is the sadest story I've ever heard. My condolences on your lost meat Russ! Being a huge bbq fan myself (not just bbq, but smoker, bbq and all), I know how it must feel to lose such a prized piece of meat!

Posted by: Matt at July 3, 2003 05:35 PM