I had no idea how much refrigeration has changed our lives. The thing that made the most sense to me was how refrigeration has changed our landscape. Not having to live by a farm to get fresh food changes the structure of society. Suddenly we can live farther from the farms and you can also move the food away from the people. That I can wrap my head around, it’s logical.
What I had never thought about before was how refrigeration changes the taste of food. They way in which we have stored our food has changed the way it tastes. The two examples given were orange juice and beef. Orange juice, apparently, can be stored in such a way that takes out all the flavor for up to 2 years. You can add the flavor back in later once the the orange juice is ready for sale, and you can change the flavor. So the Tropicana commercials are not falsely advertising that they used “freshly picked” oranges, they just happen to be picked over 2 years ago, and they’ve had their flavor changed.
The last thing that really got me was how refrigeration has changed our concept of “freshness”. Suddenly if something needs to be refrigerated, it is fresher than things that can sit on the shelf. When did that flip happen? How do we really know if things are fresh now? Even things that come in the fridge aren’t fresh, like orange juice. And what do those ratings on the eggs mean? They are a measure of freshness, but none of us know how they measure that exactly. I think it is important that our society learns to figure out how fresh something is, or if it is still edible or not, not solely based on the date stamped on the product, but rather by touch, feel, smell etc. It is something that should be innate for us as humans. Why do we immediately toss something in the trash when the date has passed? Who makes those rules, and are they hard and fast every time?
The last thing that just really blew my mind was how the concept of “freshness” can be different in different countries. The way that refrigeration has changed the landscape is partially based on the food and culture that is already established. China is different than America because refrigeration is just now taking its effect on larger society. We can watch in real time how it is impacting the country, but it is happening differently than it did in America. For example, fish are not considered “fresh” unless they are still living, so how can refrigeration impact that? Well apparently, you can take a living fish, cool it down slowly, slip it in a poster tube, pumped with oxygen, and send it anywhere you want. Then you just open up the tube and re-heat the fish back to life and there you have it- a living fish. Walmarts in China have “self-serve” fish, in which patrons can actually scoop out their own fish from their tanks.
There are so many different ways that refrigeration has impacted the world- some that are somewhat obvious, some that take a little bit of digging to see, and others that you can watch happen in real time.