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MARTHA SEZ: ‘The minute homemade food enters the freezer it loses its lustre’

I don’t own a chest freezer, and it’s just as well. For some reason, I tend to take a dim view of the relicts in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. On the other hand, I know people who regularly buy up foods they find on sale and freeze them for posterity, or until the power goes out and everything thaws.

Or until everything unthaws, as my friend and coworker Carol would say.

We had an argument about this at work. Why would you say something unthaws, when you could more logically say it thaws, or thaws out?

Carol stuck to her guns, and when we looked it up we found that, as usual, she was right, at least according to traditional usage. Merriam-Webster has this to say on the subject: “Although unthaw as a synonym of thaw is sometimes cited as an illogical error, it has persisted in occasional use for more than four centuries. It occurs in both American and British English.”

In the “smithsonianmag.com” article “Was this 18,000-Year-Old Puppy Found in Siberian Permafrost the Ancestor of Wolves, Dogs, or Both?” dated Dec. 3, 2019, Jason Daley wrote the following: “Sergei Fyodorov, a researcher at North-Eastern Federal University, tells the AP that climate change is affecting the Siberian permafrost, meaning people are finding more and more ancient creatures unthawing.”

You see? The word “unthawing” is used even by a “Smithsonian” writer.

While I’m talking about words, I would like to explain my use of the word “relict,” which is slightly different from “relic.” A relict is a survivor, a remnant from an earlier time when presumably things were very different. An example of a relict is the horseshoe crab, which has existed for at least 200 million years. Widows used to be termed relicts in Colonial days, but not so much anymore. A relict in my refrigerator is–well, never mind.

Nearly two-thirds of Russian land is composed of permafrost, which is rock and sediment that has been frozen for at least two years, and sometimes for thousands of years. As Siberia’s permafrost melts, scientists are finding genetic material that yields information about past life on earth. Sometimes they find plant and animal remains that are intact enough to be cloned. Russian scientists have been able to actually grow fertile plants from relict campion, or catchfly, seeds 32,000 years old that were recovered from ancient squirrel burrows. Wildflowers of the same type can be seen blooming away in the town of Keene during the summer. I guess I’ll keep the vegetable and flower seeds I didn’t plant last spring for a while longer.

This is the time of year when people traditionally gather in the harvest and preserve the fruits of their labor by various means in preparation for the long, cold, barren winter. I enjoy growing herbs and buying fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, making chicken stock and various kinds of soup and then placing everything in the freezer compartment in carefully labeled and dated freezer bags. There! And that is pretty much the end of it, as far as I’m concerned.

The thing is, foods I happen across in my freezing unit just never seem very appetizing to me. I can make split pea soup or beef Bourguignon or spaghetti sauce or chili that I thoroughly enjoy. The trouble is that the minute homemade food enters the freezer it loses its lustre for me and becomes suspect, bringing to mind woolly mammoths from the Pleistocene emerging from the not-so-permanent permafrost as it thaws, or unthaws.

Many people start baking Christmas cookies in November and freeze them to set out or give as gifts during the holidays. I think I would feel differently about baked goods than I do about stew and soup, if any of them lasted long enough to be bagged and frozen. I’ll have to try that this year.

Meanwhile, I’ll work on the baby sweater I intended to finish by last Christmas. I keep having to make it bigger as time goes by. Had I finished it when I intended to, it would have been a much less labor intensive project. My hope is that the parents of the sweater’s tiny, but growing, recipient will overlook my knitting mistakes, thinking they are just slubs and nubs in the wool. As the yarn manufacturer notes, “Sometimes these natural imperfections are incorrectly categorised as flaws.” I’m going to look up “slubs.”

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)