We got a refrigerator - but it wasn't what we expected
This is a VERY interesting post to me - mainly because of my own struggles with refrigerators! I remember, when I was a child, my grandparents used to have this ENORMOUS double-door fridge that looked more like a clunky wardrobe than anything else. It was so big that my grandmother could fit her great, big cauldrons in there. (I was small, so the fridge probably seemed even larger to me!). At the other extreme were my aunt and uncle, newly married, just setting up home and without the means to buy a fridge. I remember how they’d store the butter - in a dish of cool water in the coolest part of their flat. Mercifully, global warming was not a thing then, and temperatures never rose above 34 C.
My grandparents’ giant fridge finally died, and was replaced by a slim, modern one - a single door with a freezer compartment inside and at the top. By then our household was much reduced in numbers and the smaller fridge sufficed. But the cleaning! That was a job! The fridge had to be emptied of all food and defrosted. The ice would melt in puddles that had to be caught in bowls and towels and anything else that could contain or soak water. Then it would be thoroughly cleaned, switched back on, and once it had cooled sufficiently, the food put back in. Those were also the days of load-shedding in Kolkata (where all these fridges were) - so when the power would go off, so would our fridge and the food in it!!! So we never really stored leftovers. Every meal was freshly cooked and nothing was wasted - we ate it all up. The fridge was used for ice, to cool water, bottles of Coke, and to store fruit and vegetables, milk and the homemade curds that were set fresh every night. And that is still the main uses for our fridge in Kolkata. Leftover food is rare.
Then came the frost free fridges! What absolute joy! My mot. , always ahead of the curve, was the first to buy one. No more defrosting!!! We were in heaven.
Next came the two-doors as they were called - with separate compartments for fridge and freezer. We didn’t see the point of such large freezers - we didn’t freeze food partly because frozen food was considered stale, partly because there was no good way to thaw it. Then along came the microwave, and a change in attitude towards frozen food. My grandmother was the first to experiment. She would freeze boiled dal or chickpeas for emergencies (aka sudden guests or very hungry grandchildren). These she would defrost in the microwave and then season and serve. Already seasoned food was never frozen.
Then came my own fridge. Frost free of course. Single door with a freezer compartment. I never froze anything except ice and ice cream. And cleaned the fridge meticulously every week. This was in Mumbai.
I moved to the UK - and was aghast at the fridges I got here. The first flat we were in had a minuscule fridge, the kind we see in minibars in one’s room in a hotel!!! It just wasn’t enough - by then I had two small children, a toddler and a new born, and I needed fridge space. Leftovers were still not a thing in my life, but with babies, much more fridge capacity was needed. Besides, in the UK, I was doing a weekly grocery shop, which meant much more quantity of fresh foods that then needed storing!!! It was all too much!
We moved. Larger fridge, thank goodness! But it was not frost-free!!! I was back in the Dark Ages!!! So there I was, back to defrosting and catching pools of water in puddles and dishcloths. Meanwhile, in Kolkata, the family had moved on to sleek, American-style fridges. Two doors, one for the freezer, one for the fridge. Ice dispenser. Cold water dispenser. Frost Fred of course. Civilization.
Now, in the UK, we have two refrigerators. Small compared to the American style ones. Separate freezers at the bottom. One fridge is sleekly hidden behind the woodwork in the kitchen. I still have to search for it sometimes. 😓
The other is more obvious - it sits in the utility room and stores all the extras we don’t need right away.
Both are, mercifully, frost free. No thawing needed. But I still clean them out once every two or three weeks. Old habits die hard. We have leftovers now though - cooking three fresh meals a day is beyond me now.
BUT - these freezers at the bottom? I can’t understand those! I like my freezers at the top. Or long ones, at the side, with a vertical door. 😓😓😓
The important part for me when I had my kitchen redone was that the refrigerator be counter-depth so it didn't stick out into the room too much. American refrigerators are so massive. I don't care for it. It does mean that there's less space, but I'm convinced that more space just means more food waste so I don't mind it.
That is one bizarrely proportioned fridge! As I was reading your story, my ingrained version of the European vs American fridge kept bubbling up. (To be clear, my Euro version is based on my childhood years in Germany.) Which is to say, modest fridges, vs the absurdly large. Buy only what you know you will eat — preferably that day — vs buy way too much and forget what you have because it’s buried somewhere under the carrots you bought last month. Eat strawberries when they are in season, not in December. Asparagus for a few weeks in the spring, and make it a celebration. When I spent three months there a few years ago (no car, no dryer, no microwave, tiny fridge), I would hop on my bike, ride to the nearest market, and savor my purchases, buying only what would fit in my basket and (when I went overboard) in my backpack. Back at my apartment, I’d haul my clunker bike down a flight of stairs to the basement of building, and carry my treasures two flights up to my little place. I loved it!
That is a gorgeous fridge, albeit a bit tall! My mother used to tell me that when she was a child, she remembered the "ice man", delivering blocks of ice to cool their "icebox". She was born in 1913, but don't think they had the means for an electric fridge. Thanks for this info and neat photos!
If any others out there still defrosting your freezer like me I got a hack for you. Line the back with those plastic cutting board sheets. They'll rip the built up frost right off with one quick pull! You might need goggles!