“You can tell more about a man by looking in his refrigerator than in his eyes.” Or so goes the prayer that I mutter to myself as I eyeball the cracked faux-wood refrigerator handle. Amana side-by-side, Harvest Gold, circa 1974. The rubber seal puckers open with a loud fwak. In the next room, I hear my husband’s voice swing up a notch. Poor thing. Andy is trapped in a conversation with our host about titanium drivers. His heroic enthusiasm is to keep the man from thinking about my whereabouts. From discovering that I’m rummaging through his kitchen like some fridge burglar. * “Why don’t you look through medicine cabinets like normal people?” Andy asks, smiling at me across the dark of our rental car. While he guides us back to the highway, I tell him what I found: Slices of ham, half-heartedly wrapped in plastic, turning to paper. Fluorescent yellow mustard, mayonnaise (fat-free) and vintage barbecue sauce, all in squeeze bottles crusted over at the top. No produce to speak of, save a dying bunch of carrots huddled like refugees in the crisper. And for no good reason, next to the Spicy V-8, an upright bottle of Rosenblum Zinfandel. Mr. Golf is not who I am looking for. * I spot trends for a living, connecting the details, textures, shapes and tastes of our daily lives, looking for clues about the Next Big Thing. What music is playing at the Gap in Long Beach, the latest in Japanese cartoons, what colors folks wear to their hot yoga classes and what kind of special water they drink when they’re done – stuff like that. I’m the kind of person who knew pink was the new black and, though unreported anywhere, I saw pomegranates coming. (By the way, it looks like figs are next.) In my line of work, you spend a lot of time lurking in peoples’ kitchens and in their lives figuring out who is eating what, how. So I guess it’s only natural that when I started my current hunt – the one for my father – I would fall back on what I know best. Somewhere along the way, I became convinced that when I found him, I’d know by the contents of the fridge. Sure, it’s crazy. But that’s always worked for me before. My mother died two years ago, taking all of her secrets with her, including my father’s identity. The only remaining clue is me: a mirror of their combined effect. My ankles, humor and curiosity, they all came from her. I also came into this world hardwired for food. Mom could have eaten the same bad takeout day in and day out (in fact, she did, just so she wouldn’t have to cook). Clearly, another set of genes was at work. Several fine Brunellos and one long afternoon netted a list of likely candidates from Mom’s closest girlfriend. The hunt began. Candidate #2 lived in Savannah. Talking my way into the kitchen to get a glass of water, I discovered a tidy green room, glowing with the afternoon and thick with trinkets and dust. A menagerie of cat magnets herded lazily on the door of the basic black Frigidaire. Inside, saucers and foil pie plates held valuable offerings of gold: fried chicken, perfectly crisped disks of green tomato, knots of fried okra, cornbread and cobbler. The top shelf sagged under the weight of several liter bottles of soda. I feared at any minute, a picnic was going to break out. Later, he told me that since his wife died, the church ladies were always ringing his bell dropping off a little something to eat. “They’re just trying to make sure I don’t starve,” he said. I’m thinking they are either trying to court him or kill him. Either way, he’s not my man. Though he has his charms…he doesn’t cook. In Chicago, I met a man who has everything. The architectural digest kitchen, Sub Zero fridge and wine cellar drawers, and everything that could ever be labeled “artisanal” (can you believe - artisanal peanut butter). It all seemed rather curated – a well put together collection, for admiring purposes only. Number four has sent instructions to his house in Ojai and I easily find the driveway marked on either side with wine casks. The house smells like browned garlic and bread. He was cooking us dinner. Ruby colored glasses orbited a decanter on the table. A fennel and carrot salad, drizzled with olive oil and then, tomato risotto. Later, he brought out a bronzed guinea hen surrounded by fresh figs and a hint of lemon rind, both picked earlier just beyond the house. Over dinner, he told us about his garden and his 97 cookbooks. He was fighting the urge to make it an even 100. “This,” he says, nodding his head towards the fig barely hanging on his fork, “is about as good as it gets.” I never went near the kitchen. He’d just told me all I needed to know.