It is interesting to think that one of the most commonplace appliances in the American kitchen arsenal, the refrigerator, has impacted our lives so heavily. Refrigeration has widened the selection of what we can eat at any given point in the year, and how long those foods uphold their freshness. Nicola Twilley brought up some really interesting commentaries about refrigeration that I had never thought about previously. I found that her argument that refrigeration has turned “freshness” into a financial instrument rings very true.
In terms of “freshness,” Twilley argues that refrigeration has become the marker of what foods are considered good to eat. In other countries, for example, eggs are not refrigerated. But in the United States, eggs are refrigerated starting at the production phase. Why is it that Americans refrigerate their eggs? For one, once eggs are subjected to refrigeration, they must be refrigerated. But if Europeans do not waste their money on cooling eggs and their eggs are still considered safe to eat, why do Americans waste millions of dollars cooling eggs and other products that do not necessarily need to be refrigerated? Twilley argues that this obsession with refrigeration is a rewiring of preferences where freshness is determined by refrigeration. Wouldn’t you say that a fresh jar of pesto found in the refrigerated isle of the grocery store seems more fresh than that same jar of pesto sitting on an unrefrigerated shelf? They may have been produced at the same time, but the cold version does seem more appealing. In my mind, I would think that the room-temperature pesto needs preservatives to maintain its freshness, whereas the freshness of the refrigerated version is upheld by the cooling process. When did we start making these types of associations?
Nowadays, even products that do not need to be refrigerated, like soymilk, are refrigerated because of this belief that refrigeration indicates a product’s freshness. A cold glass of soymilk is far more tempting than a lukewarm one– by refrigerating the product, soymilk is marketed as refreshing and, if milk needs to be refrigerated, it is smart marketing that milk’s soy substitute, which is meant to serve many of the same purposes, is displayed in the same vain.
As the second lecture of the night, Geoff Manaugh discussed how human tinkerings in the natural landscape are mistaken for nature. In doing so, Manaugh illustrated how we have become obsessed with imitating the natural world, using examples such as astroturf and acelerated weather testing instruments. Manaugh claims that both inventions are useless conceptually since they serve as replacements for nature that exists in the world. However, we insist on having the ability to recreate natural processes and products. This discussion raises questions as to how the artificial landscape that we have created affects the human experience. Manaugh argues that human intervention has touched almost every part of the natural world and that in this anthropocenic era, we are mistakenly believing that nature is not subject to profound human interventions, historic or otherwise.
Manaugh’s discussion was puzzling to me. As a student interested in landscape architecture and urban planning, Manaugh’s argument that nature is not necessarily as natural as we believe shook my perception of the natural world. I have always wanted to balance the natural world and the human world, but from Manaugh’s lecture, there is no equilibrium. Human interventions run deeper than the plants that appear to “grow freely.” If Manaugh’s claims are true, how can I, the aspiring urban planner, successfully maintain the integrity of the natural world, and balance human landscapes with natural landscapes, when human influence has affected all that I had previously believed was “natural”?
Manaugh’s discussion is an important one, and it shed light on a theme that I had never thought about in such depth. Don’t worry, Mr. Manaugh, your lecture did not deter me from continuing my urban planning and environmental studies– in fact, it inspires me to reinvent my definition of the “natural world,” taking into consideration the anthropocenic era that we live in today.