Americans are over-refrigerating.
Between 1925 and the 1940s, Americans started to use what we call the refrigerator. It wasn’t until the ’40s that use was actually widespread, but now we’re obsessed with it.
Ever since then, I would argue we have been overusing the contraptions and have started to behave like nervous consumerist, obsessively and compulsively overdoing it.
Before commercialized refrigerators, Americans used various methods of keeping food from spoiling. Preservation methods such as salting and canning were common, especially for meats.
However, people didn’t really eat as much meat as what we typically eat today. Nowadays, we have readily available supplies of mass-produced meats such as chicken, pork and beef. Since the perishables were typically eaten right away if they weren’t preserved, a lot of people didn’t have or need a refrigerator. Many Amish and other American sub-cultures still rely on variations of these food preservation methods in lieu of electric-powered refrigeration units today.
Ice boxes, which were literally just insulated boxes that held ice and refrigerated foods, were much more common. Some were simply kept below the ground covered with moss, while others were kept in the house. The types of ice boxes were really dependent on where you lived, what kind of lifestyle you had and how affluent you were.
This is a completely different perspective to what nearly all college students may be accustomed to. If you really stop to think about it, people got along fairly well without those hulking refrigeration units humming along in our kitchens. Yes, they kept certain foods cool and preserved and canned others, but they didn’t have the space or need to put nearly every food in the ice box, or even in refrigerators once they came into everyday life.
Since companies like General Electric Co. really pushed the importance of refrigeration in food stability, America has become a nation filled with scared, germophobic conformists as far as our food is concerned. If you take a look at many other cultures, even those as developed as the United States, you can see that not everyone is so obsessed with keeping it all cool.
There are plenty of examples of food that we aren’t supposed to refrigerate; peanut butter, butter, bread and a whole host of others that Americans routinely refrigerate. Even many meats don’t have to be put in the fridge right away. Sure, they won’t last quite as long. But, hey, we have some weak immune systems around here, and it’s about time we fixed that.
I’m not saying everyone should attempt to break the norm, but perhaps not being as obsessive could be helpful. Actually thinking about what you’re doing, rather than simply being a blind follower of the culture, might yield some interesting results.
Furthermore, I would add that refrigerators are not technically a necessity. They’ve helped in aiding a culture of laziness and one that often lacks forethought and planning. While I love to constantly challenge my immune system and feel it’s good for me, maybe you just can’t handle it, and this may not be for you.