Refrigerator Reflections

It's payday, the cars are running (knock on wood), and I'm up early-ish making the grocery shopping list for the next week. Things have calmed down enough that I think we'll be able to start cooking and eating at home again. I may even be home from the mechanic's long enough to get my house picked up and the laundry done. Okay, so I'm an optimist. Don't judge me.

Where was I going with all that...Oh, I remember! I was looking at my grocery list and realized that most of it is fresh fruits and veggies (and noodles. There is that). The only really refrigerator dependent items on my list are the meat (consisting this week of 2 1/2# of chicken breasts, 12 oz bacon, and a package hot dogs) and the dairy (1/2 gallon of milk, a pint of sour cream, a couple sticks of butter, and one small brick of cheese). Everything else only needs cool storage or is shelf stable. (Leftovers don't count. They're only refrigerated until they feed the pigs, feed the dogs, or turn green and are thrown out.)

So my question is: Why do I need a refrigerator that is taller than I am and three feet wide, kept at 40 some-odd degrees, if all I need it for is about 4# of meat each week and a bit of dairy? Worse than that, I have a chest freezer in the basement also, that is currently keeping a box of powdered milk and some tins of cocoa powder in suspended animation. Most of the time, I store the meat in the freezer until the day I use it anyway, since I have to buy larger packages and portion them out for rationing--WalMart doesn't sell small amounts of meat. So really, I pay to run a full-size refrigerator 24/7 to keep less than $10 worth of dairy cold. The rest of the food is stored in it for convenience sake and from cultural habit.

How does this make sense?

And the funniest thing is that my fridge is full. I have the ultra-mega size mayo, the large-size upside-down ketchup bottle, the jar of mustard, a bottle of maple syrup, a jar of apple butter, three (!) open jars of pickles, two half-empty bottles of salad dressing...you get the idea. Probably the same things that are lurking around in your fridge. Most of them are so chock-full of preservatives and stabilizers, they don't even need refrigeration.

When did we as a culture change from buying small bottles of what we needed for the week to buying huge amounts of food that required unpronounceable chemicals and a refrigerator to keep them "fresh" for months or years? And more importantly, why? Do I really want to eat mayo that I opened four months ago? Or ketchup I bought a year ago? And why do I have two bottles of salad dressing? We hardly ever eat salad! I have no idea how old they are...but they are date stamped to be good until mid-2017 and have been in the fridge at least 6 months already.


As for the fridge keeping fruits/veggies "fresh": If you pick them while they are not ripe, ship them half-way around the world, treat them with gas/chemicals to make them look ripe, and then display them in bins until they sell, will a week or two in a fridge really make much of a difference to their taste or texture? Wouldn't it make more sense to eat what is local/in season and not depend on refrigeration? Or put another way, do we really need raspberries in winter and peas in high summer?

I need to think about our refrigerator addiction. Should I just say No?


Gorges Smythe said...

Refrigerators used to be smaller, if you remember. Maybe an apartment-size fridge would be easier to justify. I lost a LOT of stuff in a freezer once during an extended power outage (9 days), when I couldn't give all my stuff away. I will never again have a freezer unless I get a generator first.

Catherine said...

We keep the freezer mainly for when we slaughter animals. It gives us a place to store the meat until I can get it all processed. I tried using it for long-term storage once and lost it all when the GFI tripped. Never again. Now I only keep things in it that won't rot if the power goes out.

Joy said...

Your points are interesting and I may start an expierment as to whether or not some items need refrigeration. I've heard that catsup and mustard don't need to be refrigerated even if opened and other items due to the preservatives in them. hope I don't get sick. ha.