30 January 2016

Refrigeration: a celebration

My response to Jonathan Rees’ new book, Refrigerator, part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury.

Standing in front of an open fridge door; I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I can still hear my mum’s raised voice, telling me off on hot summer days after school. Close the door! An ice cold milk and Nesquik.

At age four my parents found teeth marks in the butter, and this had been going on for years… Now I can perform an unsupervised open door fridge raid at 3am, alone in absolute joy. A celebration, an excess of lasagne, straight out the baking dish, there is nothing better.

My professional life completely revolves around the refrigerator: at the Cake Shop we take the fridge temperatures of five fridges twice a day to keep food at optimum temperature, we clean the display fridges daily, others weekly, and under them every other day. The food we purchase and sell, local or globally, has travelled via refrigeration.

Though refrigeration cannot retain that particular sweetness of the ripe apple just plucked off the tree at your grandmother’s house in South Australia. It never the less performs an amazing service, to those who can afford one...

There’s no denying that refrigerators save time, it was part of our journey out of the kitchen. This doesn’t dull the perplexing ecological concerns about refrigeration: it's environmental impact and the processed food industry that has grown alongside it. We have the capacity for better technology so that everyone has time outside the laborious tasks that women used to do, spending all day in the kitchen cooking with the seasons and preserving food before it could spoil, careful not to waste a thing.

In our contemporary society, there is nostalgia for more tradition methods of cooking. It is a backlash from the processed and unseasonal food we are nearly forced to eat. The opportunity of a return to market shopping, of home preserves, but the people who herald this are those that have the luxury to do so.

I relish the thought of hand-made food, I sense the joyous return to flavor. Preserving, pickling and social shopping at Sunday markets as a back lash against over-processed convenience. Despite myself, I embrace any celebration of freshness from nature, the simple pleasure that food and conversation brings us...

Now, what quicker way to learn about someone’s lifestyle, taste and schedule than a quick glance in their fridge? Here are some very telling insights in to the lives of some of our bookshop staff