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The Huge Chill: Why Are American Refrigerators So Big?

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  • The Huge Chill: Why Are American Refrigerators So Big?

    The Huge Chill: Why Are American Refrigerators So Big?
    From iceboxes to stainless steel behemoths: An Object Lesson.
    JONATHAN REESOCT 4 2013, 9:38 AM ET

    When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the loss of electricity throughout the city ruined refrigerators even in neighborhoods barely affected by the storm as maggots infested the rotting food left behind in them by fleeing residents. When evacuees returned, they pushed those refrigerators out to the street in the hope that they would eventually be carried away. Many who returned also wrote long, angry messages about the inadequacy of the government’s response to the disaster on the front of these appliances. American refrigerators are just about the only refrigerators in the world large enough to serve as impromptu billboards. They are also inexpensive enough that citizens of all classes either own or have access to one.

    Americans have the biggest refrigerators in the world — 17.5 cubic feet of volume on average. The size of our refrigerators is followed closely by Canadians while the rest of the world lags far behind. Since our refrigerators run day and night, they use more energy than any other household appliance, which means their size has ramifications for the planet’s rate of global warming. However, the enormous popularity of refrigerators in the United States is an indicator of the value of refrigeration both for preserving the food we buy and for the convenience that comes when such huge machines are stocked. The fact that we put perishable food in the refrigerator (even sometimes when it doesn’t belong there) suggests that we still remember refrigeration’s most basic advantage: to prevent food from spoiling before we consume it.

    While the usefulness of refrigerators explains their prevalence, it does not explain their size. Most people would agree that fresh food tastes better than anything that's been kept in a refrigerator for even a short amount of time. So why then would anyone want a weeks' worth of perishable food stored in their kitchen at one time? Are Americans slaves to convenience? While our large refrigerators do limit the number of shopping trips we have to take, they also make it possible for us to consume a much greater variety of foods than we ever did without them in our kitchens.
    Because buying food every day is a non-starter for Americans who don't live in inner cities or who have a food budget, that's why. I work so I have to plan out all our food during the week. I can't pop into a charming little market on the way home from work (even if there was one on the way) since I need to hit the door at a precise time and 15 minutes later I need to be cooking so we get that out of the way to do other things before it gets too late. Aside from that, I buy based on sales and seasonal issues so impulse isn't a motivator for me.

    The Atlantic
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

  • #2
    One of the few times my fridge was full and it was just before an Independence Day bash at our house.

    Usually, it is wasted space.


    "There are four lights!"

    Comment


    • #3
      I really hate articles like this.

      While waiting to pick up our new dishwasher last week, we went ahead and picked out a new fridge for when our current one goes. Love the french door models..so much better than the side by sides.
      May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
      Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
      And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
      may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

      Comment


      • #4
        The last thing in the world I want to do is go to the grocery store every day. And if I did, I would produce far more carbon dioxide (a non-pollutant) driving there and back (or even just stopping there on the way home from work) than I do when I buy groceries every week or ten days and keep them in my refrigerator.
        Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
        No one will be denied:
        Big law suits and bathroom toots;
        We're all getting Dixie-fried.
        But somewhere Hank and Lefty
        Are rollin' in their graves
        While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Adam View Post
          The last thing in the world I want to do is go to the grocery store every day. And if I did, I would produce far more carbon dioxide (a non-pollutant) driving there and back (or even just stopping there on the way home from work) than I do when I buy groceries every week or ten days and keep them in my refrigerator.
          Does a weeks worth of groceries really fill your fridge?
          "There are four lights!"

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
            Does a weeks worth of groceries really fill your fridge?
            Well, it comes pretty close, but the fridge in my apartment is relatively small. The one I had before was fairly large and it would definitely hold more than a week's worth if that was all I was putting in there. Generally, I would also have leftovers in a bigger pot or something like that as well in the fridge, so that took up some space. But I never really hurt for space with that one.
            Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
            No one will be denied:
            Big law suits and bathroom toots;
            We're all getting Dixie-fried.
            But somewhere Hank and Lefty
            Are rollin' in their graves
            While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
              Does a weeks worth of groceries really fill your fridge?
              The vegetable crisper/meat thingy and the freezer are the most important sections of my refrigerator but the interior also holds the lunches, the soups, and the leftovers that will make up the next meal. That's in addition to whatever I'm defrosting for the next 2 meals (if needed) and dog food.

              My fridge isn't big, it doesn't have a water thing or ice maker. So, yeah - a weeks worth. Of course, I don't actually go the store every week, either.
              "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm Eurofuked.

                I have two fridges.
                One in the kitchen, which I admit is a catcher of crap and one in the basement that I only use the freezer.
                I'm not a beer drinker, but that sumbitch is looking like a mini keg holder more and more every day.

                I cook on week ends.
                Hate to cook during the week.

                As a result, those on the 'disappeared' board and my fb friends (count yourselves lucky) have seen the pics of my weekend grilling/smoking (that is not what you are thinking.... ) extravaganzas which are epic.

                A few weeks back, I smoked turkey legs, chicken breasts (skin on you non believers) and two special pork steaks that were cut a 2.5 inches thick, some of it thick sliced, some cubed and some chicken leg quarters (won't do that again).

                I don't have to buy meat for a month.
                I have a seal-a-meal.. my second unit.

                Since it was the first really cool weekend, Sat and Sun, I did a large lasagne and another big Mexican Chicken casserole. It's all frozen and waiting.

                So, yeah, a big fridge (2) are important to me.

                Don't get me wrong.
                My units are smaller, but I have TWO....

                btw the basement unit was purchased in '74
                Last edited by Gramps; Monday, October 7, 2013, 4:39 PM.
                Robert Francis O'Rourke, Democrat, White guy, spent ~78 million to defeat, Ted Cruz, Republican immigrant Dark guy …
                and lost …
                But the Republicans are racist.

                Comment


                • #9
                  When it comes to appliances, what people "need" is unrelated to what people "want".

                  I could carve out the time to shop for one meal, cook just one meal, and do it all over again 5 days a week but something else would have to give. I have generally 4 hours between arriving home and getting ready for bed every night (I have to get to work early). Doing that would take an additional hour for me. I have lived that way and done with even less time to myself when I've cared for medically involved people or worked a second job but I don't think it's ideal.

                  Most of the problem here is time. That's the same problem with a lot of these arguments. Yes, using a reel mower is "better" physically and environmentally but it takes a lot longer. Biking to work (if you live more than 9 or 10 miles) is "better" but your day is shorter in terms of free time. Growing organic produce in the summer is "better" but it's time-consuming (I know, I do it). If your whole day is pretty much working for someone else and then "working" to meet some politically correct lifestyle, where do you shoehorn in church, friends, education, and recreation? Our great grandparents couldn't wait to flip a light switch, sell the horse, say "goodbye" to the iceman (and the fruit guy, the veggie guy, and the butcher), and embrace the washing machine.
                  "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have 3 refrigerators and a full size sub zero freezer. The main fridge is in the kitchen and it's full most of the time with dinners, leftovers, stuff for sandwiches, fruit, etc. Ditto for the freezer in the kitchen. The "beer fridge" on the back porch is just the old kitchen fridge. It is good for extra space since we fill up the kitchen freezer often. It also holds beer, soda, wine, and some of the liquor we like to keep chilled. The 3rd fridge is in the pool house and we use it for entertaining or poker nights. During the summer it stays mostly full of stuff we want to have there near the pool. The sub zero is for when we buy meat in bulk and we fill it up once every few months.

                    When we bought this house and became the place to have all the extended family parties I swore I'd never skimp on food just because it would go bad. Now I love it when we have parties because dinner for the next week is easy with all the leftovers. Poker nights are especially good because everyone brings their drink of choice and I don't have to buy any for myself for months after that.
                    "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                    -John Locke

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                    • #11
                      I grew up with 2 refrigerators and a stand up freezer. My mother had that. My grandmother had that. I do not. I rarely cook during the week. Down in Maryland I either freeze my leftovers, or give them away to the neighbors before I leave on Sunday. My freezer down there was full, until I left it slightly open a few weekends ago, so now it is empty....which is great because I have a clean slate again to fill it up with winter soups and sauces!
                      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                      Robert Southwell, S.J.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                        I grew up with 2 refrigerators and a stand up freezer. My mother had that. My grandmother had that. I do not. I rarely cook during the week. Down in Maryland I either freeze my leftovers, or give them away to the neighbors before I leave on Sunday. My freezer down there was full, until I left it slightly open a few weekends ago, so now it is empty....which is great because I have a clean slate again to fill it up with winter soups and sauces!
                        Are those Assateague ponies in your new avi?
                        "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                          Are those Assateague ponies in your new avi?
                          Yes they are!
                          Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                          Robert Southwell, S.J.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                            Yes they are!
                            I wondered why you would have a horse avi and I figured you must have seen the famous ponies out by your weekend retreat.
                            "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                              I wondered why you would have a horse avi and I figured you must have seen the famous ponies out by your weekend retreat.
                              Since everyone is wearing new clothes, I figured I'd join in. It was the first picture I came across in my recent albums.
                              Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                              Robert Southwell, S.J.

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