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In defence of fridgelessness

 
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I've been surprised to see how violently attached some people are to their refrigerators. I yet to be convinced that they are a necessity for life and good health. YES, they HELP, but one can live without it, we have for most of human history.

The following is my position on the topic of fridglessness. It is one point of view as to why and how we can reduce or dependency on refrigeration.

Reasons people tell me fridges are necessary:

  • they are affordable - if one is wealthy enough to purchase an energy star fridge, then possibly... but that's begging the question. I don't know the numbers on fridges, and I don't really care. Anything that is a monthly drain, isn't affordable for many people in the world. Off grid fridges are more expensive to buy.
  • they are eco-friendly - this should read they are more eco-friendly than previous generations of fridges... maybe... I don't know. Fridges have a lot more plastic in them now not to mention the distance traveled of the parts (and food that we put in the fridges), and the after life of the fridge, and the ecological impact of the electricity produced... You're smart enough to see how resource heavy fridges are. They are certainly not eco-friendly when compared to a hole in the ground.
  • you would die without one - then we wouldn't have 7 billion people in this world. I don't know the numbers, but I suspect it's about half the world's population that live without refrigeration.
  • okay then, you won't die, but you'll drastically shorten your life - Really? Are we sure we aren't being brainwashed here? Let's look at this some more. It's the only objection that comes close to convincing me... and if falls flat when I did my research.


  • First and most importantly, I agree that a fridge is necessary when living a standard western diet, especially when consuming and storing pasteurized or canned food that have been opened! It is also necessary for some food that has been transported long distances. The way our food system is currently designed is fully dependent on the refrigerator to keep us safe.

    So for a good understanding of what safe food without refrigeration looked like in the past, we have to go back, to a time and diet before the modern western one. One that does not include pasteurization or canning. This is also a time before air tight sealing was used for food (like plastic, or airlocks). People ate their food fresh, or preserved it with fermentation, cellaring, drying, and salting. These preservation techniques do not sterilize the food, rather they create environments that promote friendly bacteria and unfriendly to unfriendly bacteria. Food born illnesses were not as common as modern media leads us to believe. People knew how to keep their food safe, they wouldn't have survived to reproduce otherwise. Life expectancy is another cry of the pro-fridge movement. Wars, a life of hard work, infant mortality, and yes, some dietary issues like famine and poor nutrition were all contributing factors. Poor nutrition, I've learned, was not that poor. It was more the feast and famine pattern of the year, plus lack of fats in the peasants diet that caused most of (what we consider now) poor nutrition. What we consider now is less than 2000 calories, but compared to today's nutrition, there are schools of thought that suggest the pre-industrial diet was actually better nutritionally than what we eat in the West today. See the works of Sally Fallon and the Western Price Foundation.

    With the rise of city living, lack of sanitation caused a great deal of illness, both in people directly, but also by raising livestock in condensed, unsanitary conditions. These were not necessarily caused by lack of refrigeration, but rather by greedy people not caring about what effects their actions had on others. The invention of pasteurization and understanding of germ theory allowed these modern foods (because we are entering the start of the modern food system here) produced in unsafe conditions (like Milk from unhealthy cows that had nasty stuff like TB) to be made safe through processing. This processing was widely accepted the same time as refrigeration was. So, yes, there is a correlation between refrigeration and increased health in the (urban) population. Correlation also exists between this health increase and germ theory and advances in medical technology.

    A really important thing to note is that these modern food processing techniques like pasteurization, preservatives, and long distance transportation of fresh foods, require refrigeration to keep the food safe for human consumption. Only, they also came with a new set of safety challenges (like botulism which wasn't much of an issue before canning) Since this kind of food processing was so different than the historical norm, people needed educating on how to keep these new foods safe. Public education campaigns, food safe classes, advertisements, &c. Both industry and government worked hard to educate the public so we now believe that refrigeration is the one and only way to keep food safely.

    I remember in high school, I asked my home economics teacher how people kept food safe before refrigeration. She told me, unequivocally, there wasn't a time before refrigerators. Being stubborn, I got a history book out of the library and showed her that there was indeed a time before refrigeration. He answer was "they're all dead because they didn't have fridges". Whether or not she believed it, or was just parroting the party line, it goes to show you how well indoctrinated we are into believing electric refrigeration is necessary to survival.



    As for life expectancy being longer now than it was before refrigeration. If we take infant mortality out of the equation, and look at projected life expectancy for people born today, who will have lived their entire life with refrigerated food... are we sure we want to say that refrigeration is the only factor that correlates to life expectancy? If we do, then it would make a convincing argument against refrigeration. But that's my point, the fridge in and of itself is a symptom of modern food processing. If we remove these modern foods from our diet (while keeping many of the advancements from modern medicine - because one does not necessarily exclude the other), having a fridge in the home offers little benefit.



    That said, I do currently live with a fridge. Raised on the modern western diet, I'm having to learn the traditional methods for food preservation. Once I've completely kicked the habit of modern food, I hope to live with little or no refrigeration, but perhaps one small freezer because it's just so convenient. I'm telling you this so you don't think I'm suggesting everyone be without a fridge. I'm simply trying to expose some of the brainwashing we've been given to believe that it's absolutely necessary to survival.



    Resources used for this post (to save you from the sin of asking for citation):
    Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions
    Cooking andDining in Medieval England by Peter Brears
    Mrs Beaton's Book of Household Management
    Terry Jones' Medieval Lives
    Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer
    Personal experience time traveling in the 14th Century - I participate in an education display where we eat, sleep, and live in the year 1371 for a couple of weeks each year.


    To a lesser extent:
    in defence of foods by Michael Pollan
    The Country House Kitchen 1650-1900 by Pamela A Sambrook & Peter Brears
    Medieval Kitchen by Hannele Klemettila
    Pleyn Delit by Hieatt and Butler
    Medieval Kitchen by Odille Redon, Francoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi
    art of natural cheese making by Asher
    Paul's Podcast with Sally Fallon on Raw Milk


    This post expresses my point of view based on my reading and understanding of the world. However, we are talking history here, which involves a certain amount of interpretation. There will never be a solid 'truth' one way or the other, because quite frankly most of the people who have done work in this field are bias, and they let that bias show in their work (I know I do). Mine is not the only conclusion made from the information presented here, but I'm not alone in it either.
     
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    I am sort of intrigued by the framing of your post around the proposition that a fridge is (or is not) a necessity. Because to me, it seems instead to be a highly-desirable luxury.

    We all of us are products of our environment. I grew up in a log cabin on the Yukon river. We had a garden and a root cellar and a pole between two trees to hang meat from. We had a smokehouse and a lot of Mason jars and several large pressure canners. We did not have electricity (well, we had a generator for running power tools or other short-duration projects requiring electricity, Mom would sometimes fire it up to make mayonnaise in bulk using an electric blender) and we did not have refrigeration. My mother liked the idea of a propane fridge but we never could afford to buy one. (We kept the jars of mayo on the floor; they never went bad before we finished them.)

    We were careful about food safety, and nobody ever got sick. But we did lose leftovers fairly often, stored in a "cool" (often a cold corner of the cabin) for too long. One summer we had some kind of "sour" bacteria in our kitchen that was souring all of our soups and beans before they had even finished cooling off to room temp. It wasn't dangerous, but it tasted terrible. Cheese (bought "in town" and stored for too long) would sometimes go moldy; if you pare off the mold you can then retard it by washing the brick of cheese with vinegar. Do too much of this and the cheese will get really sharp. Butter likewise goes "sharp" when kept too long in sub-optimal storage conditions; it's perfectly edible but definitely an acquired taste. Put sharp butter on stale "Pilot Crackers" and you'll bring all the old trappers to your yard, if any of them are still left alive.

    There wasn't much fresh produce in our lives, except for the two months of the year when mom's garden was producing. If she made a big dressed salad of lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers and mayo, we had to eat it all in one sitting. Without refrigeration, it would become hopeless slime overnight. We never let that happen; produce was a luxury too. But that sort of consideration complicated everything about our daily food processes.

    You can live a perfectly civilized life without refrigeration, and eat a perfectly healthy diet. I never had a fridge until I got to college. But I don't choose to live without one now.

    What does a fridge (or more precisely, a refrigerator/freezer) buy me? It is a luxury convenience. Fridges make food storage easier, and they allow cooking tasks to be bunched and done in bulk. Without a fridge more food-related tasks become daily (garden harvesting, perishables shopping, cooking) that might otherwise be weekly.

    Fridges also allow for economic savings. I can buy produce past its prime that would need to be cooked immediately without a fridge, and save it a few more days in my fridge until I can find time to cook up a large pot of whatever. You can buy perishables in larger quantities with refrigeration. You have access to different foodways, such as frozen vegetables, which are nearly as nutritious as fresh and one whole lot cheaper.

    It's a labor-saving device. It's a luxury. It can save you money, although I'd be hard pressed to prove the savings net more than the energy expense. A necessity? No. But you have to work harder to achieve the same level of nutrition without a fridge.

    A note on the embodied energy that goes into making a fridge and transporting it to you: that's huge. But I've never bought a new fridge. Every fridge I ever bought was somebody else's used fridge. I'm not sure I'd prevent the consumption of that embodied energy by eschewing fridges. That embodied energy is a sunk cost for society. The logic is the same as using repurposed plastics: as a society we've already pulled those hydrocarbons out of the ground, now the goal is to get the maximum possible use out of them.

    Conclusion: I firmly agree that a fridge is not necessary for good health or longevity. But I'm not convinced there's any pressing need to eliminate fridges from a sustainable lifestyle. The energy expense is not negligible, but the benefits of spending that energy are quite tangible.
     
    r ranson
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    I really like your post, Dan. Thanks for joining in the conversation and sharing your first-hand experience. I enjoyed reading about the challenges and the successes of fridge-free living.

    It's a labor-saving device. It's a luxury. It can save you money, although I'd be hard pressed to prove the savings net more than the energy expense. A necessity? No. But you have to work harder to achieve the same level of nutrition without a fridge.



    This is a good point.

    Maybe it's more than the fridge being required for the modern Western diet. Maybe it's also required to live the modern Western lifestyle? Not having a fridge would require more frequent food acquisition and cooking. But on the plus side, your example shows it forces one to eat more seasonably.

    I admit, I love the luxury of a fridge. I don't know if I'll ever go completely fridgeless, so long as I can afford to have electricity. But, I also want to know that I could live without a fridge if the situation arose.


    To me, the problem comes from the overgeneralization that all perishable food must be kept refrigerated. I've been told so many times by so many people that it's simply not safe to live without a fridge. I just don't think it's true that a fridge is a necessity of life. I like the luxury, but I don't like the brainwashing we get that makes us believe we MUST have one to survive.
     
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    We were off grid for 16 years when our sons were young and had no problem without a refrigerator....we milked goats every day, had chickens and rabbits and many times fed the leftovers to the dogs and later a pig. I think we were more mindful of what and how we were cooking and certainly with what we brought home from town.
    Now we have a very small 'dorm' refrigerator and it is as Dan says a luxury and one we've gotten used to. I usually keep a jug of water frozen in the freezer part to put in a cooler for the overflow greens, etc.
    This reminds me of an old thread of mine....it seems many here don't have typical items in their refrigerators
    https://permies.com/t/33311/md/refrigerator
     
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    In my experience, life before fridges was perfectly fine, and I've lived without a fridge for the past 20-odd years here in Ladakh. For at least 15 of those years nobody I knew here had a fridge, and they didn't see a need for a fridge, AND I never saw anybody eat food that had gone bad. The earliest fridge adopters I knew used it solely to keep drinks cold in summer, and only gradually learned to keep food in the fridge.

    Changes in social structure and economy go hand in hand with technology like a fridge. Things like the nuclear family where everyone goes out all day to work or study; not having a cow or a milkman; our habit of buying meat and vegetables only once or twice a week.

    The fridge-less society that I saw having a healthy and nutritious life was largely rural and producing fresh dairy at home daily, producing lots of root vegetables to eat fresh and store for winter in the root cellar, and fermented pickles and dried foods for winter. Meat was either bought fresh on the day of consumption or in winter, kept frozen. More meat was eaten in winter, more vegetables in summer. Families were large, and there were usually one or more full time homemaker-farmers in the family, who would do the cooking from scratch at every meal. Because there were so many people, my impression is that left-overs were easily eaten within the next day or so. This climate is moderate in summer and cold in winter, so leftovers don't go off immediately.

    In the rest of India, life before fridges seems to me to have also depended on a full time homemaker/cook/farmer in the family, local fresh milk or meat available daily, and making every meal from scratch from fresh ingredients. But also Indian culture considers it essential to cook a new hot meal three times a day, and has a strong aversion to eating leftovers. This has carried through to modern homes with fridges. For example, I'm often eager to eat leftovers for breakfast, but I find that Indian hosts are often unwilling to let a guest eat leftovers. That might be due to the culture developing appropriate customs for the very hot climate. Also, Indian culture tends to consider it unacceptable to eat a cold meal such as sandwiches. For example, trekking agencies in my region know that for Indian tourists they have to cook or carry a hot lunch, but some agencies are aware that for western tourists you can carry a cold lunch. In a culture and economy where somebody in the house will bring in fresh milk, meat and vegetables daily, and will cook three hot meals from scratch, a fridge is entirely unnecessary, though of course once they became available they were adopted for cold drinks in hot weather, and now people actually use them for storing food as we do in the west.

    Butchers here slaughter in the morning, sell out by midday, and then close up. They never sell day-old meat, except for frozen items that are brought in from outside the region.

    When people live in urban areas and don't have a full-time homemaker to bring fresh food and cook from scratch every day, and when everybody is out all day and comes back in the evening, it becomes much more desirable to shop once or twice a week and keep things in the fridge.

    Of course having a fridge makes us develop a lifestyle that requires it. The demise of neighborhood groceries and butchers is both a cause and a result of us all having cars and fridges. It's a vicious cycle.

    Semi-off-topic anecdote -- I once lived with 3 other women in the US, and our fridge was often overfull. You know, everybody had a different kind of milk etc taking up space in there. I suggested let's keep certain vegetables, and for gods sake the butter, onions and potatoes, out of the fridge, but one of the roommates was horrified: "Everything will get all germy!" This was 25 years ago, before I'd done all this fridge-free living, but even then I thought that sounded delusional, and a sad marker of modern artificial life.
     
    pollinator
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    for the many years i lived off grid and without a fridge, i found an unexpected bonus was that it kept me eating out of my garden more/eating fresh foods more/minimized the amount of pre made crap i bought.

    i had a small cooler outside that was ok for a few days storage of a few things, and that was ok enough, for the once a month stock ups, especially if i spurlged on ice too while in town......for a few days a month i would be able to have certain special items that normally need a fridge. but just by not having a fridge i ate a LOT better....and had to frequently go on mini trips to the small local store for mostly milk, something i really enjoy, especially for coffee addiction rituals. =)

    though with all that said, i really like that now that i have grid power, i have a tiny fridge, and love being able to occasionally get ice cream, store cheese longer, and the major one that was always an issue --> milk/half and half.
     
    pollinator
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    Growing up my family never put butter in the fridge, and it was so much better. It never got bad and you could actually spread it without tearing your bread to pieces or trying to mash an impenetrable lump of it into your potatoes. I don't even understand refrigerating butter.
     
    Dan Boone
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    Todd Parr wrote:Growing up my family never put butter in the fridge, and it was so much better. It never got bad and you could actually spread it without tearing your bread to pieces or trying to mash an impenetrable lump of it into your potatoes. I don't even understand refrigerating butter.



    Fully agree with this. Butter will get sharp after weeks or months with no refrigeration, but purchased and consumed in the usual amounts, it's better at room temperature and much easier to spread. I have never seen butter "spoil" in any inedible way, as long as it is not allowed to melt.

    Back when I was eating butter, I did once have "new relationship adjustment issues" because the new girlfriend wanted to refrigerate my butter. I had to get very firm about not putting my butter dish in the fridge...
     
    Todd Parr
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    Dan Boone wrote:

    Back when I was eating butter, I did once have "new relationship adjustment issues" because the new girlfriend wanted to refrigerate my butter. I had to get very firm about not putting my butter dish in the fridge...



    As does my current lady
     
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    Dan Boone wrote:

    Todd Parr wrote:Growing up my family never put butter in the fridge, and it was so much better. It never got bad and you could actually spread it without tearing your bread to pieces or trying to mash an impenetrable lump of it into your potatoes. I don't even understand refrigerating butter.



    Fully agree with this. Butter will get sharp after weeks or months with no refrigeration, but purchased and consumed in the usual amounts, it's better at room temperature and much easier to spread. I have never seen butter "spoil" in any inedible way, as long as it is not allowed to melt.

    Does this apply to butter made from pasteurized cream? I would imagine that- given enough time- it would likely go rancid rather than sour.
     
    Dan Boone
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    Kyrt Ryder wrote:

    Dan Boone wrote:I have never seen butter "spoil" in any inedible way, as long as it is not allowed to melt.



    Does this apply to butter made from pasteurized cream? I would imagine that -- given enough time -- it would likely go rancid rather than sour.



    I know this is a three year old question but I didn't see it at the time.

    I have never seen butter go "sour" no matter how old it was, nor get moldy; I don't know if those are failure modes that butter has, although I assume moldy is possible if you leave it long enough after unwrapping and exposing it to mold spores.  What butter does do is get rancid, or as we called, it, "sharp", like cheese does.  Sharp butter is an acquired taste, but it's far from inedible.  Think about the difference between really cheap cheddar cheese, so bland it tastes like American cheese, and a nice sharp Tillamook cheddar.  When butter goes rancid, it takes on that sort of sharpness, but in butter, you don't expect it and it's fairly unpleasant.  But it's not actually as sharp in flavor as sharp cheddar.  

    My experience with this was mostly with Darigold canned butter, this stuff:



    I dunno its pasteurization status for sure -- the front of that can does not state.  Regular boxed cubes of butter "kept" just as well for us though; the only difference was that you had to worry about it going soft in warm weather, whereas the stuff in the can was safely contained rather than being stored in paper and cardboard.
     
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    I've come to realize I don't really need a fridge, but a freezer is something I'm not sure how to live without. I can buy meat on sale and throw it in the freezer, and then pan fry it from frozen or stick it in the instant pot. I can freeze summer berries to use in smoothies. Our freezer is really handy!

    As for the fridge, it's nice, but not as necessary. A few years back, we had a power outage for three days. We didn't really have to worry, though. Out fridge held just cheese, carrots, yogurt, and a thawing package of steak. We at the steak and put the yogurt and cheese in a cooler in the garage. If I could figure out how to do a cellar here, I probably wouldn't need a fridge as cheese and yogurt don't need to be kept nearly as cold as meat does. But, we have really wet ground around here, and I'm a bit at a loss for how to do a cellar without having major moisture issues...
     
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    I have thought about this also.

    I dont realy need a freezer, I do use the freezer since I have one as part of the refrigerator, I save money buying tofu, cheese and butter in bulk, and I will freeze extra baked goods on occasion, and certain extra produce items ( brocolli, berries,  persimmon pulp) but I dont need a freezer.  I could just buy butter/cheese/tofu once every week or two, I go into town that often.  ANd, I could stick with dried berries and canned berries and persimmon ( I do can and dry these, but also keep some frozen).  And, I dont need to freeze muffins and such, it is just more convenient, I have more variety that way.

    The refrigerator itself.  I have a pretty empty refrigerator right now.   I do keep some things in there for convenience, but the only one thing that needs it is the milk.  Especially when I have goats in milk ( I do not right now), but raw goat milk would have to be processed daily without a refrigerator.  SO, to not have a refrigerator, I would either need more goats, or neighbors with goats so we could take turns pooling the milk, as it takes about 2 gallons of milk to make cheese.  Or, I would need to not bother thinking about making cheese and just buy cheese, in which case I have too much milk and would need to find neighbors to take some fresh milk daily.  Or, I could not keep goats at all if we had a daily milk delivery, like in the old days.  In that case, I could easily just have 1/2pint or pint of milk dropped off here every morning ( just me in the house right now) .  So, at teh moment, I buy fresh milk once a week, raw milk, about 1/2 gallon of it, and for that to stay fresh, I need a refrigerator.   Fresh raw milk is healthier.  I CAN just use powdered milk, of course, like I do when camping.  I can keep canned whole milk powder cool enough, and the taste is pretty good.  Try Peak dry milk if you havent.  It is whole full fat milk.  

    So, to have no refrigerator, I would need to buy tofu, cheese and butter during my weekly shopping, and not in bulk.  And, I would need to either have a more community solution to fresh milk or just use Peak powdered milk.  

    Leftovers.  I would need to make smaller batches, or do the trick, and I do this right now, where I make a double batch and pressure can the leftovers.  For example, some chili, lentil soups and vegtable soups are good pressure canned.  For meat eaters, this is even better and meat takes well to pressure canning.  The other thing that I have practiced, and it works pretty well, is the trick of making sure to reboil the soup every day and to put a lid on the pot when it is at a boil and to LEAVE the lid on until the next meal, so the whole contents is germ free.  This only realy works for soups, but it does work well.  many other leftovers are fine left until lunch the next day if the food has been well cooked.  

    I have been slowly working my way to be less dependent on the refrigerator and freezer, so I have thought about it and practiced different techniques.  ANother one I have practiced, when I had alot of goat milk, is ways to preserve it that do not need a refrigerator.  For example, Houlumi cheese.  This cheese is brined and stored in teh brine and I can put it on the shelf in the jar of brine.  I left a jar for 6 months and tried it at various times, and it gets saltier as time goes by, but 2 things about that, first, you can still cook with it and just dont need to add any additional salt, so the rest of the food dilutes the saltiness, and the other is that you can just rinse it off before using and then the salt level is more normal.  

    Meat can be done in a similar way.  You need to process it when you bring it home, what you dont eat fresh that day.  You need to dry it, make biltong, or pressure can it, or salt it.   Have meat in jars pressure canned is a great time saver for when you go to make a meal and no refrigerator is needed

    https://www.amazon.com/Peak-Instant-Full-Cream-Powder-400-Grams/dp/B004K04L1K/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia?keywords=peak%2Bmilk&pd_rd_i=B004K04L1K&pd_rd_r=889c2a16-24c3-4fab-ad56-94b108fcfcfe&pd_rd_w=F1Kjs&pd_rd_wg=1DsUZ&pf_rd_p=1cb3f32a-ccfd-479b-8a13-b22f56c942c6&pf_rd_r=NYDPZHMFG3ZFP3GSVT8W&qid=1573716558&th=1

    A 400gram can makes 17 cups of fluid milk, so a little more than a gallon ( a gallon is 16 cups)  So that is about $8.50 a gallon.  It is less expensive for the larger can.  But, still, it is more expensive right now to buy dried milk than to buy fluid milk.  

    You can also buy whole milk in shelf stable quart boxes,  I have seen this as low as $1/quart for whole, full fat milk.  SO, that is $4 a gallon, so less expensive than the powdered milk.   But, a fresh, unprocessed whole raw milk will be more nutritious.  Of course, the local, fresh raw cows milk I buy right now is $9 for a half gallon, so $18/gallon.  The shelf stable or powdered milk is a deal compared to that
     
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    An interesting thought having no fridge, half the year it would be no issue where, it's 5C outside right now and will stay somewhere between -2 and +5 for the next 4 months occasionally dropping down lower.

    Butter; MUST be in the fridge after less than a day on the counter it tastes off, as soon as it starts to turn orange instead of yellow I will not touch it, I can smell it on my plate if it is not fresh. I don't understand how people can say it doesn't go off, it most certainly does! (which is why hot countries clarify it for storage)

    I think it's a lifestyle thing, if we had no fridge/freezer one of two things would have to happen, either a VERY limited diet basically eggs and heavily salted meat/pickled fish with seasonal veg 3 months of the year and root veg/pickles the other 9months with copious amounts of bread and potatoes (standard traditional diet) or a huge increase in fuel usage to go shopping every 2-3 days. since it costs us around $7 in fuel every shopping run... the fridge very soon pays for itself even with the most expensive electricity in the developed world!
    Another thing for a fridge/freezer is it allows bulk purchases for example that butter I have to keep in the fridge.. on offer 1/2 lb is $1.3 normal price is $2.0, or large purchases of meat for the freezer. Saving huge amounts of money on shopping. We spend 40% of our income of food, buying every couple of days in smaller amounts would probably push that to 60% which would obviously be unsustainable.




     
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    I often went without a fridge when I lived in cooler places. Living here in Brazil, I have spent a couple weekends and holidays with older relatives who now have fridges but are still not 100% on board with them. We do shop, harvest, and cook more often (although to be very honest, at certain houses, like that of my beloved mother-in-law, I don't eat anything I haven't seen her make, and more than once a dish that's developing its own intelligence has had to be surreptitiously removed and disposed of so nobody ends up in the hospital).
    I was even lucky enough to see some of the old-style things they used to do, like potting cooked pork into a can with the lard (i was not a fan.it was not salted and smelled very suspect) and my family's Japanese so there are a lot of pickles and preserves going on.
    That said- if you can harvest/produce your inputs and cook every single day, awesome. If not, the fridge makes life possible.  I agree with you, Skandi, it's more of a lifestyle change than anything else. These old ladies in my family were milking the cow, making bread, and cooking 3 squares every single day, it was their full time job.

    (ps team butter on the table, until about 22C. after that, into the fridge)
     
    pollinator
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    Coming from the Bay Area with such mild weather, I pressure canned year round, so a fridge and freezer weren't as necessary. But here in southern Oregon, the summer is too hot for me to want to pressure can and we are off grid solar, so I don't feel bad using our solar to power refrigerators and freezers. Pressure canning would require propane use, which I'm trying to use less of. My point being, there are many paths. Which is best, depends on circumstance.
     
    leila hamaya
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    the taste of canned or powdered milk in coffee always brings me back to the days when i first lived in the mountains. somehow the taste just activates those feelings and memories.

    anywho good tip about the good full fat powdered milk, i had actually looked around for a product like that, i think i will try that out. all i ever found was the non fat powder milk, which is worse tasting than the canned stuff, imho. the canned stuff is preferable to keep around for emergencies, and to not have as many short trips to town, bonus it's also good for several yummy treats, like fudge =) and other desserts.

    the shelf stable milk/cream in tetra packs are quite awesome for anyone in that situ, but you have to feel a bit wasteful for all the packaging. but taste wise, and for anyone else in a remote situ, it is the best for stocking up. the gross outlet (aka grocery outlet) and slave way (aka safeway) carried those all around the west coast, you can even sometimes score some tetra pack cream at the dollar store, and then buy them all ! =)

    when i first moved out to the mountains, we only had a cold "larder" - cool room on the north side of the main house, and being over 3 hours over crazy one lane mountain roads to any stores...well it acclimated me to a different way with food storage...and going without and making do...

    you eat your leftovers right away, but if you cook primarily vegetarian meals, or keep the meat free parts separate, leftovers without meat stay good quite long, keeping them out of light, covered as said above, and in a cool spot.
    strange perhaps and simple, but the floor in a dark corner works ok....as the floor is the coldest. and even a small cooler outside in the shade, is also a good solution, especially for the coldest parts of the year.

    since i acclimated to different ways, even having a fridge i use it much differently, and leave many things out. i'm with the above that say butter stays outside of fridge, one stick at a time, and i never have it go bad before i eat it all. i also store bread, veggies, fruit, and a lot of other things people would normally refrigerate, outside on the counter in baskets, or hanging baskets. and a lot of leftovers stay out, at least for one night...and sometimes even...like with a soup or tea ...can stay all night on the woodstove, getting bits of water added every so often...

    i do LOVE having a freezer though. it is definitely the easy way to quickly store harvests, berries, fruit, maters even...overflow from my gardens generally does go straight in the freezer...while i keep some out for fresh eating. but it is just such a time saver and so easy...that by default its the best way to store extra from harvests....
     
    leila hamaya
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    something interesting that used to be very common in the right spot, is a Spring House...where the cool waters of a spring were used for a natural refridgeration. this is common in most old Dairies, being that dairy products and especially fresh milk do require it.

    so yeah ...googled up some links fyi -

    https://lifeatcloverhill.com/2015/07/spring-house-before.html

    https://mhs.mercersburg.org/blog/34/
     
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    Firstly, I’m neither defending or opposing refrigeration but, looking back at the options and lifestyles, modern refrigeration certainly did improve efficiency, quality of life, and life expectancy.

    Again, when making comparisons on a website it’s important to realise there are people from different climates, so these comments are related to the Sub Tropics/Tropics.

    My Grandparents were a good example because over time they had pretty much all the historical options – it reflected the times, from tank water to reticulated town water connection, and, from candles/kerosene lamps to mains electricity:

    1. ‘Meat Safe’ – a perforated metal box with a door and shelves. It hung in a shaded spot - under a verandah or inside a well ventilated kitchen. Fresh or cooked meat was placed inside and the cooling effect of a breeze kept it from spoiling for a short time. Some were modified with a hessian cloth and water reservoir – the evaporative effect increased chilling and food longevity. This meant that the need to butcher animals for food was reduced to, say, once a week for fresh meat or longer if it was preserved via smoking, pickling, etc. Things like poultry, fish, shell fish and crustaceans were NEVER kept – they were killed and eaten on the same day.
    2. ‘Ice Box’ – a cabinet with a tray that held a block of ice, which was delivered routinely depending on seasonal needs. The cooling effect of the ice and robust nature of the cabinet extended food preservation to about a week.
    3. ‘Kerosene Fridge’ – a BIG breakthrough, very similar to a modern electric fridge. A pilot light fuelled by kerosene heated ammonia which chilled the insulated, heavy steel container. Food preservation for more than a week.
    4. Modern fridge and upright/chest freezers – a combination of short term and long term preservation. Could now eat things that were out of season without the need for added sugar/salt/smoke.


    So, rather than living hand to mouth, with every day dedicated to food collection, cooking and preserving, a huge amount of time could be set aside for betterment of ones lot in life – civilisation. Besides better nutrition, I imagine the reduction in continuous strenuous work and the toll it took on people, improvements like refrigeration also increased life expectancy.

    Although the Royal Flying Doctor aerial service, and outback Veterinarians, routinely visit remote Stations and Missions, refrigeration also means inoculants can be kept viable for longer periods – for both animals and humans.

    In our climate butter will definitely go rancid. Mould on butter is usually an indication of incorrect churning – too much moisture residue. On the farm each kid had one specific job in addition to normal work, my Dad’s was to hand milk the cows twice a day, and operate and maintain the milk separator. So, there was always a shitload of milk and cream being produced from the 100-150 cows. Most of the cream would be transported (horse/cart or boat) to a Butter Factory for processing and on-selling. Some was obviously kept aside for home use where my Grandmother would make butter or use the cream for cakes and desserts. Buttermilk was fed to the pigs and ducks = extremely big meaty critters.

    Excess butter was always made into Ghee, which lasted much longer and was more useful for cooking – olive and other such oils weren’t readily available until the influx of Europeans after WW2 drove importation and local production. In fact, olive oil was sold in tiny bottles in the chemist (pharmacy/drug store) much like other medicines!

    So, without modern refrigeration, the household depended on the traditional breakdown of duties – the wife/mother kept the household, children and budget running, the husband/father did all the food production, construction and farm maintenance; and once the kids were mobile enough, had duties to assist – care for smaller animals, cleaning inside the house, picking/preparing vegetables, etc. Once teenagers, they were expected to assist their Mum and Dad in whatever way needed – killing livestock, working for other farmers, in addition to being schooled and passing exams.

    There’s no way I could be functional without a fridge or freezer – it would only be survival. (It also helps that my next door neighbour is a refrigeration technician!)

    A simple thing like refrigeration frees p a lot of time, whether that time is put to constructive use is another thing!

     
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