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Consider the fridge: Does size matter?

Chef NickAs I was sitting in Turin, Italy at Terra Madre listening to a very passionate Italian chef discuss his concerns of bigger and bigger refrigerators and how that reverses the idea of fresh food, I realized that I never considered what role the design of a refrigerator plays in our food choices. I guess I had never considered it from a consumer’s point of view, only from that of a professional chef, where bigger refrigeration feeds more people.

Shortly after I returned from my trip, my wife, son and I were in a local antique market where we stumbled upon a vintage refrigerator.  The novelty and attraction for us was the factory enamel “wood grain” finish and the white metal latches and signage on it. It was a perfectly working 1952 GE combination custom with half circle aluminum shelves that rotate out on a cam for convenience, complete with mounted rail holders for glass milk quarts, a butter conditioner, storage for ice cream, and a light in the freezer. So, for a couple of hundred dollars we were on our way home with our new old fridge.

I moved the “old” unit out and replaced it with our “new” unit, plugged it in, and listened to it hum. As it cooled down, we moved refrigerator contents from the “old” refrigerator to the “new” refrigerator and quickly realized our cool looking fridge had a much smaller capacity. My thoughts went back to the Italian chef who had discussed his concerns about refrigerators getting bigger and bigger… then it hit me.

Excited, I explained a realization to my wife: that we would actually have fresher, better food at home with a smaller refrigerator because we would shop more often. The idea was not well-received. There was resistance, but over time, as we adjusted to our new fridge, we found that our diets became more varied due in part to buying smaller quantities of food more often.  Shopping became less of a task; instead of hauling a week’s worth of food around we decided to make shopping more of an adventure, more immediate, more intimate.

The simple act of having a smaller refrigerator impacted our life in a big way. Now we are more selective. We have to make more deliberate decisions about what we bring home to store in our smaller fridge. It’s a fun adventure every time my wife and I have to make decisions together as we shop our local market.  We look forward to buying fresh produce from local farmers to put into our “new” fridge and eventually our bodies. Who would have ever thought that a smaller refrigerator could make us so happy?

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