Verbal Fridge Dialogue is a code used by the Volunteers of the V.F.D. to send messages to other Volunteers in the event of a fire.
In The Slippery Slope, Klaus Baudelaire discovers a scrap of fire in the ruins of the V.F.D Headquarters, located in the Valley of Four Drafts in the Mortmain Mountains. The information found on this scrap is as follows. NOTE: Some words were burned away in the fire; brackets placed around information represent speculations made by Violet, Klaus, and Quigley.
- In the e[vent of a con]flagration resulting in the destruction of a sanc[tuary, volun]teers should avail themselves of Verbal Fri[dge] Dialogue, which is concealed accordingly.
The three then rush to the fridge of the V.F.D. Headquarters, untouched by the fire. Inside, they find the products from Vahagn's Food and Dishes. The products are Very Fresh Dill, a jar of mustard, a container of olives, three jars of different kinds of jam, a bottle of lemon juice, and one lonely pickle in a small glass jug. Due to the presence of Very Fresh Dill, it is known that a message must have been left by a Volunteer just before the destruction of the Headquarters, but, at the time, it is not known what this message was, as the children did not yet know how to use Verbal Fridge Dialogue.
Later, Klaus finds another scrap of paper that explains how the code works, but this scrap has also been badly burned by the fire. The information found on this second piece of paper is as follows. NOTE: Some words were burned away in the fire; brackets placed around information represent speculations made by Violet, Klaus, and Quigley.
- Verbal Fridge Dialogue is an emergency communication system that avails itself of the more esoteric products in a refrigerator. Volunteers will know such a code is being used by the presence of very fr[esh dill.] The receiver of the message should find his or her initials, as noted by one of our poet volunteers, as follows:
- The darkest of the jams three,
- contains within the addressee.
- If necessary, the dialogue uses a cured, fruit-based calendar for days of the week in order to announce a gathering. Sunday is represented by a lone [olive. Saturday is represented by seven olives.] Any spice-based condiment should have a coded label referring volunteers to encoded poems.
With this information, the three once again attempt to decode the message. Following the first direction, the children open the jar of boysenberry jam to find the letters J and S carved into the top. Thus, the children are led to believe that the message was intended for Jacques Snicket, and that the sender was not aware of his death. Mr. Snicket later gives us a clue as to who J.S. really is. When Captain Widdershins tells the children about Jacques Snicket and how he had proved that the Royal Gardens Fire was arson, they tell the Captain that they'd found a message addressed to him at the V.F.D. Headquarters. Widdershins denies that the message would be for him, because it is known among the volunteers that he is dead. In response, Sunny says, "Etartsigam!" supposedly meaning, "The initials were J.S." If one is to reverse the letters in the word Sunny utters, he would find that it spells "magistrate," meaning "a civil officer or lay judge who administers the law, esp. one who conducts a court that deals with minor offenses and holds preliminary hearings for more serious ones." Thus, Mr. Snicket may have been trying to tell readers that J.S. in fact stands for Justice Strauss.
Moving on, the children find five olives in the olive jar. Thus, it is known that something had occurred, or would occur in the ner future, on a Thursday. According to Quigley, at the time of these discoveries, it was Friday. Finally, the children study the jar of mustard, and find "the final quatrain of the eleventh stanza of 'The Garden of Proserpine,' by Algernon Charles Swinburne" to be in its list of ingredients. The section of interest of this poem is as follows:
- That no life lives forever;
- That dead men rise up never;
- That even the weariest river
- Winds somewhere safe to sea.
When the children study the scrap under additional light, they find the words "sugar bowl" lightly penciled in next to the quatrain. When the children deciphered the message, they found it to mean that, on the following Thursday, there was to be a meeting of volunteers at Hotel Denouement, the last safe place. It could also be consrtued to mean that when the V.F.D. Headquarters was destroyed on the Thursday just prior to these discoveries, a brave volunteer had tossed the Sugar Bowl out of the kitchen window, so it would not be destroyed by the fire, but instead be carried out to sea by one of the tributaries of the Stricken Stream.