Plein Air Fridge

Written By: Joanne  Pateman

We have a plein air fridge.

A friend had an extra and they asked if we wanted it. Of course.

It is a simple white fridge, not brand new but not vintage either, with a separate upper freezer.

She sits balanced regally on four concrete blocks listing only slightly to the left, outside in the backyard partially hidden by overgrown weeds. She is plugged into an outdoor socket, the orange extension cord secured to the side of the cottage with silver gaffers tape. Now in its second season, signs of creeping brown rust around the edges and across the front door are in evidence. You might get a little rusty if left outside all year in the elements even though covered well with a big tarpaulin when we leave after Labor Day. But the bounty inside!

Magnums of Ardeche Chardonnay, bottles of Paumanok Reisling, Chenin Blanc, generic Pinot Grigio and Wolffer’s Summer in a Bottle Rose´. The varieties of beer include Corona and Corona Light, Bass, Samuel Adams, Blue Moon, and a 12 pack of Heineken.

The freezer is full of bags of ice piled on top of casseroles of stuffed giant shells with ricotta and spinach, a strawberry rhubarb crisp, one plum torte, and some salmon filets from Cor-J in Hampton Bays. Cor-J sells the freshest fish with the best prices. You know it’s an authentic market when you walk in the door and you see guys in thigh-high rubber boots filleting fish and tossing the guts with abandon into a plastic bin.

The fridge also contains rows of homemade jam prepared by my husband, the Jam Man. Apricot, cherry, strawberry rhubarb, and soon to be blackberry once they are ready to be picked at the end of July from Hank’s Farm stand in Southampton. We walk the rows of three different varieties of blackberries, some as large as plums. Our boxes are placed on a cardboard pannier with a handle for easier carrying. I used to make jam from fruit we grew like raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries. One day as I was ladling the fruit into jars, my husband said, “Why don’t you make plum jam?”

I countered, “Why don’t you make plum jam?” and I haven’t made jam since.

The fridge was also a useful place to store the American Flag Cake I made for our 4th of July party. I carefully balanced the sheet cake decorated with a field of whipped cream, blueberries for the stars, and rows of strawberry stripes on a case of Corona. It fit perfectly.

Our 4th of July party was a big success with a bass player and guitarist playing music all evening, good food and a young pro from the golf club to be bartender. He had to beat a path through the overgrown bushes to get to the fridge to replenish wine and beer. His face registered disbelief when I showed him how he had to forge a path through the jungle of prickly Rosa rugosa and blue hydrangeas to get to the fridge.

Roast chicken thighs with ginger, grilled steak, afore mentioned stuffed shells and a huge salad of beets, green beans, cucumbers, toasted pine nuts and tomatoes completed the menu.

Fireworks when it got dark finished off a lovely evening. I couldn’t take credit for the yellow moon or the perfect weather. We sat around the fire and told tales into the night. The stars told us when to go home. Later that night, when our guests were gone the full moon shone like a spotlight on our fridge as if she were a Hollywood star. The plein air fridge was a silent sentinel to a wonderful evening.

So although at our house in the village we have an extra fridge in the basement for the overflow, our plein air fridge at Towd Point is special. She stands tall and stately, our beverage goddess full of beer, wine and homemade jams.

I open her and see the abundance. I feel wealthy.