I’m thinking about refrigerators. Yesterday we met a new apartment rental agent. So you can picture this, the agent is late to meet us and turns out to be a young, stylish Euro guy in expensive jeans. We follow him on bike to check out two rentals. He’s better at navigating intersections and has to wait for us sometimes.
The first apartment is an absolute dive. I mean, I am insulted that he is even showing it to us. I repeat, “We’re NOT STUDENTS.” (And if we were, our parents would kill you if we lived in this hovel.) To get into this haphazard structure, we actually entered through an alley and had to cross a roof…. The second is nicer, recently renovated with new appliances. It has a stainless steel fridge slightly smaller than the one in an average American kitchen. “That’s a nice size fridge,” Tim says. “You don’t see that a lot here.” The agent looks at us for a moment and then smiles.
“Oh yes,” he says. “You are Americans.”
We had this same conversation with our first rental agent when he showed us a very nice apartment, suitable for adults, with a refrigerator that I can only call “dorm-size.” You know, the little thing you put in your college room for sodas and yogurt and beer, and now it lives in your parents’ garage or with a younger sibling. I couldn’t imagine operating a household with a mini-fridge, and I asked why there wasn’t a larger specimen.
“In Holland,” he told us, “you don’t need a big fridge. You go to the store every day; you eat the food. I have four kids. We have a small fridge. It is fine.” (Agent 2 told us he often shops twice a day for groceries, consuming daily what he buys. He also asked if it was true that Americans only grocery shop once every two weeks, and I said not for us; I went to the store nearly every day for something.) Then he turned the tables on us:
“Why do Americans need such big refrigerators?” And Tim told him how we often freeze leftovers (freezers are small to nonexistent in these apartments—our current one holds about one Tupperware and an ice cube tray) or buy things in larger quantities to save money, but I kept thinking about it. Why do we keep so much on hand? Doesn’t it make sense to buy your daily bread, eat it while it’s fresh, and buy the next day’s bread the next day? (With, perhaps, some nonperishable staples on hand in case you can’t get to the store.) I came home and wondered if they think we’re all hoarders, filling our fridges with food we don’t technically need to eat.
I started thinking about how I got into canning two years ago and sought out a copy of Putting Food By and (my preferred) Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. But this, I realized, was not the same phenomenon; canning is designed to preserve the harvest for the time of year when fresh food isn’t as readily available. It doesn’t require chilling or electricity to keep till winter.
Even back in the US, our fridge was rarely at capacity, now that I think about it. But I think that’s because 1. we’re frugal, and 2. we’re not big on condiments or salad dressings. We try really hard not to waste food, or have to throw things out because they’ve been in the back of the fridge for a questionable duration. At any given time, our fridge probably contains: milk, cream, hopefully some fresh produce, cheese, a couple condiments, and whatever I’m going to cook that night. Could I do a dorm fridge now? No. I don’t think so. But I could probably try to be more day-to-day with what I buy.
What about you? What’s in your fridge? If you couldn’t go to the store (think blizzard, despair, etc), how long could you live off what’s in the house right now? Does anyone actually shop every two weeks?