Before listening to the lecture on Tuesday, I was a little skeptical. A lecture on refrigeration? What is so interesting about refrigeration? Well, it turns out that many things make this topic interesting. After the lecture, I understand why Ana Carden-Coyne is so obsessed. Not only has refrigeration changed the meaning of the word “fresh,” it has also changed the human relationship with food and had a major effect on our environment.
America is the first and most refrigerated country in the world. Refrigerators turned previously rare, perishable foods into commodities. Refrigeration works by slowing the rate of degeneration through cooling. You could even say that it is a “life support” for perishable items such as vegetables or fruit.
Many things have been effected by refrigeration, such as the availability of certain foods, meat especially. Before the era of refrigeration, fresh meat was difficult to come by. With no way of preserving the meat besides drying or salting, fresh meat had to be bought and used generally in the same day. This made the price of meat much more expensive in the past than today. However, once refrigeration comes into play, meat becomes cheaper and more apart of people’s main diets. This rise in meat availability comes with some side effects, such as a 5.1% rise in American stature.
One of my favorite parts of the lecture was when Mrs. Carden-Coyne brought up how people used to view refrigeration. When it first came out, many were wary. They were so wary that it became an actual phobia. Can you believe it? An actual fridge-phobia. As odd as it is to think that people did not trust refrigeration, there is an actual, solid foundation for their fear. Before fridges ever became a thing, we had different ways of preserving food. People would pickle, salt, and dry foods in an attempt to preserve them. Each of these ways worked to preserve, but they all have something in common that refrigeration does not share: they show the age. To try and preserve vegetables, a cucumber for example, you would pickle it. This dramatically changes the look and taste of a cucumber, literally changing it into something else: a pickle. To preserve meat you can dry or salt it, which also changes the taste and texture of the meat. When you refrigerate something, it does not age normally. Therefore, how can you tell if something is fresh? This worry was so strong that the government had to step in and place grades and sell by dates on editable items.
In the newer generations, we judge whether or not something is fresh by looking at the sell-by-date or seeing if it is cool, regardless of if it actually has to kept cool. Silk milk is a great example of this. Silk milk does not need to be refrigerated, and yet grocery stores place it in refrigerators in order to keep them cool. The theory is that more people will by Silk milk if it is kept cool in a fridge. This is a very workable theory due to the fact that fridges are extremely common in every American household and this has caused us to change our mentality to food, and now we assume that because something is cold or refrigerated, it must be fresh.
Refrigeration mentality has changed throughout the ages and now it is at an all-time high. Refrigeration takes 15% of the world’s energy and the gases from refrigeration has a worse effect than CO2. This makes me wonder some things. Where would be without refrigeration? Could we, as a part of today’s culture, live without it? And, do all of the benefits of refrigeration outweigh the consequences of energy use and pollution?