I wish I were more like my refrigerator — tall, sleek, energy-efficient…..
I’ll admit that I have a thing about refrigerators. One memory I can’t repress is the fear of looking closely in my Mom’s fridge, especially as she got older. Each time I opened the door was like entering an archeological dig. It was almost as if I might find that sandwich I left uneaten in high school, way in the back on the bottom shelf. My impulse was to get a huge garbage bag and ruthlessly go on the attack. Unfortunately, she could hear my every move and would call out from her couch, “Don’t throw that away, it’s perfectly good, I might need it.” My sister and I resorted to clandestine nightly raids, sneaking out a couple of ancient petri dishes, one at a time.
Not that I’m that much better. But every so often I do a major cleaning for which I demand inordinate amounts of praise. One house guest remarked when looking in our fridge, “Where’s all the food? This looks like the produce aisle.” I guess that was sort of a compliment and it’s true that much of what you’ll find in our fridge is vegetables. Still, having someone peer inside can be anxiety- provoking. I know this because of my internal debate about using these photos of my own fridge.
The contents of your refrigerator can be deeply personal and in some ways a reflection of who you are. That’s why I was surprised when I saw an article in the NY Times called Trashing the Fridge. It suggests giving it up all together in an effort to reduce your carbon footprint. As an alternative, some environmentalists are using a small freezer and an ice chest. They freeze a couple of soda bottles filled with water to keep the ice chest cool and continually rotate them as the melt down. I can see their point. Not only is the refrigerator a huge energy-hog but it also takes up more than it’s fair share of space. If you’ve ever remodeled your kitchen, you know that finding a place for the monolithic fridge is a major consideration.
On the more sentimental side, in many homes the refrigerator serves as a community kiosk — a place to display photos of loved ones, shopping lists, reminders of events. Years ago I had a nostalgic feeling when removing each photo and magnet before our kitchen remodel only to be shocked to find that nothing would stick to our new stainless steel model.
Wally Lamb, in the introduction to his novel, The Hour I First Believed, talks about the time he told his mother she would have to move into a nursing home. Her reaction was to “offer him a deal.” “Okay, I’ll go, she said. But my refrigerator comes with me.” He understood that in many ways her refrigerator ” defined her” from the “freezer stockpiled with half-gallons of ice-cream for the grandkids” to her “refrigerator photo gallery.”
It’s a good thing to consider what sacrifices we are willing to make in our effort to be environmentally responsible. Truthfully, giving up my car is somewhat more appealing than giving up my fridge. Would I give it up if I had to? Absolutely. Do I want to? Absolutely not.
Photo by Phil Mansfield from NY Times article by Alastair Gordon about J. Morgan Puett, an artist who “sees the refrigerator as just as valid a territory for thoughtful arrangement as any other part of the house”.