Friday, April 6, 2007

Happiness is a warm house..

Unless it's August.

Almost wrote "a warm chain saw" - but that would probably be just a bit much for some of us.

Chain saw is fixed, bless the fixit guy. He had help from my 2 year old, who walked in with mama, looked the fixit guy dead in the eye and said "man fix chain chain please." The consequence of which is, a warm house, in a very cold windy woods. Which is a good thing.

Back to the refrigeration discussion; there have been several very good question/comments, all of which point in the right direction, so I'll cover them here. Full comments can be seen in the comments, oddly enough.

crunchy chicken said... 
>>I suppose we all rely on it merely for the convenience. <<

Mostly, anyway. There's no question some uses are entirely legitimate; especially medication. Diabetics must refrigerate their insulin, for example.

>>We don't eat much meat, if at all, so I suppose we could do without. But did I mention how convenient it was?<<

by golly, I think you did mention the convenience. :-)

But; is the convenience REAL, or just habitual? Remember that this was one of the selling points drummed into us to get us to buy fridges.

And- is convenient good for us? Mostly it means- hey, you don't have to think, and you don't have to walk.

This is a significant point here; doing without refrigeration is likely not a good idea for those unable to get out of the house on a daily basis; nor for those with memory problems. If you're going to unplug, it means you HAVE to think about what you're eating, today and tomorrow; and you have to be able to go get what you need without serious dislocations.

I have several friends who are authentically affected by Attention Deficit Disorder. It's no joke for them. Whether they could make do sensibly without a fridge would be a matter of their specific adaptations to the disease, and their personal preferences.

One thing I'd be unhappy to see would be a gestapo-style movement to pressure everyone in the 1st world to get rid of their fridges. Counterproductive, I think.

claudia said...
>>I lived in Latvia in 1993-94 (a few years after liberation from the USSR), staying with a family there who were managing more or less the way all Europeans had done 50 years before, during the post-WWII years. I was surprised by how little food they refrigerated and, at first, was sure I would come down with food poisoning...I never did get sick.<<

Here, again- doing without a fridge requires a little education, and a LOT of vigilance. You can't forget to simmer the soup; and if you do, you'd better be prepared to throw it out, without tasting.

There are multiple kinds of food poisoning; everyone's favorite that gives you 24 hours of constant up-chucking, and the kind that leaves you kind of dead.

The thing is, the deadly kind is really very uncommon. If you just follow normal hygiene practices, you will probably have less chance of deadly food poisoning in an unrefrigerated home than you have of getting- oh- salmonella poisoning from ConAgra peanutbutter. Or E. coli from spinach.

The folks pushing refrigeration of course make a big deal out of the "increased safety" associated with a good fridge. But they DON'T print a lot of headlines about the food poisoning that results from a good fridge - slowly going bad. So that, unnoticed by any, until the doctor asks how you got so sick, the average temperature inside the fridge slowly edges up, as it ages in various ways, until it's not really effectively slowing bacterial growth any more. That happens. And particularly when you are blindly relying on technology to solve your problems and do your thinking- you are unlikely to notice.

teri said...
>>I don't think it's wise to encourage folks to get rid of the fridge without encouraging food storage. Life without a fridge is simple when you have a pantry full of grains, legumes, dried and canned fruits and vegetables, even smoked and canned meats. I'd hate for anyone to depend on supermarkets always being stocked.<<

I understand what you're saying; but-

I'm mostly encouraging city dwellers to think hard about this. No question, out in the country, options are fewer, and driving in to town is a larger and more expensive chore.

But. In the city - in most cases, if supermarket A is not functional, then supermarket B, or C, will be. And - if a great many people were relying on them daily- I'll bet my shirt the number of small mom and pop supermarkets, more conveniently located, would increase.

And. Anyone living in the city is already betting the "city" will continue to "work". If the city STOPS working- fresh food may be the least of their problems, and you can live off the canned soup and pasta until the riots are over. Not a cheerful scenario, but worth thinking about seriously. And. If the city has stopped working- is your fridge going to be working, anyway? I doubt it. They're going to cut the electricity on day one.

And, yes- I WOULD encourage anyone doing without a fridge to keep non-perishables stocked, a little. Not to the "survivalist" point, but it's just kind of common sense- something we're trying to encourage here- when your favorite soup is on sale, buy 4 cans, instead of 2, and stash some. Etc. This should come kind of naturally with thinking about what you're eating on a daily basis.

vanessa said...
>>This is a very tempting idea, especially considering I don't have that much in my fridge, and even less in my freezer. But what about my soy milk? <<

Well, check the label- I'll bet a pint will keep nicely for 24 hours without the fridge. If you're stopping off at the store on the way home every day- it should be fairly easy to match your purchase to your consumption. Do they make powdered soy milk yet? :-)

>>And all my condiments? <<

In fact the great majority of them will keep weeks without trouble- I NEVER refrigerate mustard or ketchup- and I don't think I've ever had them spoil. Pickles- were INVENTED to survive non-refrigerated conditions. Anything with vinegar in it spoils very slowly, if at all- which is most condiments.

One thing that will NOT keep unrefrigerated, of course, is mayonnaise, which has egg in it. Of course, you could just make your own, when you really want it... oil and vinegar salad dressing is immune to spoilage, pretty much; but milk based dressings might be a problem.

>>And my margarine? <<

No worries! Real butter keeps unrefrigerated for weeks- and so will margarine. Sure, the label says "refrigerate" - but it's not so much because they're afraid it will go rancid- it's because if it gets just a little too warm, it'll liquify, and make a yucky mess, and make you mad at them.

>>And man, there's nothing like a cold beer in the middle of summer... <<

Aha! Thank you Vanessa! This brings up another pretty good argument for NOT having a fridge.

You're right- a cold beer (or whatever) in summer is lovely. But you know what? When it's RIGHT THERE, all the time- we really don't appreciate it all that much. In fact, I know a bunch of people who basically don't even NOTICE the cold beer they just automatically grab out of the fridge. Sure, they make all the appropriate noises "wow, this sure is great on a hot day" - but 2 seconds later- they've forgotten the whole thing. It's just too easy.

Granted I'm a cross-grained type of guy, but it really seems to me that the major benefit to having the cold beer right there in the fridge is... - you can easily drink 3 or 4 of them; since they're so handy; meaning you get fat, and spend money you really didn't intend to.

Now- I'm entirely in favor of a cold beer in summer. But let me give you a couple of alternative ways to enjoy one.

A) you buy ONE, already cold, at the market, using it to help keep the meat/butter cool on the trip home.

B) you sometimes buy some kind of frozen meat at the market- say a turkey breast or sausage, just for example; and when you get it home, you put a warm beer in the little cooler alongside it- the beer gets cold, the meat gets thawed so you can make dinner.

C) somewhere in your world, there's a naturally chilly place. Not necessarily 34°F - but say a creek or a pond, with a cool bottom; or a cellar. Take a walk- and retrieve a beer you put there yesterday. You get a little walk, and a cool beer. I guarantee you, a beer at 50°F on a 90°F day, is plenty cool enough. (no, you can't hide a six-pack - somebody will swipe it.)

D) There are also all the evaporative cooling processes, used in the warm places of the world for millenia. Hang a beer in the shade in a wet canvas bag for a couple hours- it'll get cool as the water evaporates.

All that sounds like it's mostly philosophy, not practical "energy saving" - but it's all connected.

>>I think I could maybe try this for spring and fall at least, when Canadian weather is cool, and stick some stuff out on my balcony.<<

You bet. That's exactly what we do. We actually have great refrigeration all winter- it's called "the porch". Total cost- a little attention, so the raccoons don't turn things inside out. When our fridge quits working- every year- we shift gears a little. Helps you notice the years, in fact.

Part of the lesson from all these comments/questions- doing without a fridge DOES mean you have to think. All the time. I have to admit I think that's a good idea. But it also means- I can see a couple of books worth of advice being printed, lots of it conflicting, for different circumstances. It should be fun to watch them develop.


Crunchy Chicken said...


So, it seems you really would like people to give up their refrigerators. I wanted to get your thoughts of the impact of that many thousands of refrigerators going into the waste stream?

Let's say I have an Energy Star rated fairly new fridge. And, if everyone is to give theirs up (let's say a government imposed requirement unless for medical necessity, etc.) there's no market for used fridges.

So what happens to all those old and lightly used fridges? Well, the epa site claims that the following (more or less) happens to your old fridge:

Q: What typically happens to my old refrigerator or freezer once I get rid of it?
A: First, depending on where you live, your discarded refrigerator or freezer will be picked up from your house by your solid waste service provider, or a recycler. EPA regulations require removal and proper disposal of the refrigerant, which is typically an ozone depleting substance (ODS), and compressor oil. Whoever picks up the refrigerator or freezer will probably handle this step, and depending on your location, there may be a fee.

Second, after the refrigerant is removed, the majority of refrigerators and freezers go to the scrap yard. Occasionally refrigerators and freezers are refurbished and resold. At the scrap yard, the refrigerators and freezers are fed into an auto shredder. Beginning at this point and for approximately one to two weeks afterwards, at least 20% of the blowing agent in the foam, typically an ODS, is emitted to the atmosphere. Magnets are then used to recover ferrous metals, and other methods are used to recover other useful metals from the shredded refrigerators and freezers for recycling. The remaining material is mainly a combination of recyclable plastics and polyurethane foam. It is typically sent to a landfill because the shredding process mixes it, making it too costly to separate for recycling. As a result, a little more than 80% of a refrigerator or freezer is typically recycled. This percentage will decrease as manufacturers use more plastic and less metal in refrigerators and freezers unless current recycling operations do more to recover the plastics and polyurethane foam and until more efficient plastics separation technologies develop.

[Sorry for the longish post]

Anyway, if that much ozone is getting blown into the atmosphere, is that good too?

What do ye think?


Greenpa said...

Deanna- please, long posts are welcome, even encouraged. Delighted that I have intelligent readers, too. Long answer coming.

Teri said...

actually, commercially made mayo will keep for some time without refridgeration (can't give you an exact time as we don't use it much.) The stuff has a lot of preservatives in it. The problem was with homemade mayo which uses raw eggs.

Segwyne said...

From the time I was 6 until I was 12, we had no electricity. Yes, that meant no fridge. I remember my mother doing grocery shopping once a week when we went into the city on my dad's payday. While he was at work (3pm to 11pm), my mother would take us kids around on all the weekly errands, including grocery shopping (usually in the evening). All of the food stayed in the trunk of the car until we got home that midnight. In the winter, our "fridge" was the front window (which was huge). In the summer, I don't recall anything being used. I personally don't care for cold soda (when I do happen to drink soda at all) because I can't taste it. I will have to ask my mother how she handled spoilage. Milk wasn't a problem from ages 10 to 12 because we had 9 milking goats supplying us with fresh milk twice a day. IT was kept in glass bottles on the concrete floor. I guess we just drank it warm. Thanks for the memories. I definitely have to ask my mother now.

Anonymous said...

Hey, all! One tip about butter: Apparently they do this down south. Spread your butter into a small jar/ glass and turn it upside down into a shallow bowl of water. Water needn't touch the butter.

No idea why this works, but it does.


Greenpa said...

Laura- it works because it excludes oxygen- anything air-tight will help; the water-seal pre-dates tupperware; and works fine.