We were eating breakfast together, my Mom and I, when she dropped a bomb. I had no idea she could catch me by surprise that way. We’d been talking about fresh peaches, and preserves.
“When your Dad and I got married, we didn’t even have a refrigerator,” she said.
Not have a refrigerator? You can get married and not have a refrigerator?
“How did you get one?” I asked, still reeling from astonishment.
“Your Dad inherited $100 from some very distant relative,” she related, “he got like 1/32nd, which came to $100. We used it to buy a refrigerator.”
“What did you do before you had it?” I asked, still a little disoriented.
“Well, it was Alaska,” she said. “We had these sort of pantries that had shelves with little holes opening to the outside, covered with screen to keep out insects and mosquitos, but it would let in the cool air. It didn’t get that hot, even in the summer. In the winter, we had shelves on the outside porches, too.”
Holy smokes, I thought to myself. How would I function without a refrigerator? We would have to go back to shopping every day. If there weren’t refrigerators, maybe stores wouldn’t have frozen sections, too? Maybe we would have to be buying meat just as it was slaughtered, only vegetables that could travel from not too far without refrigeration, we would be using a lot more grains and things that didn’t need refrigeration to preserve them.
Maybe we would be drying more foods? We would probably, in Kuwait, be eating more dates and rice, eating more locally raised foods – what, sheep? camel meat? We would probably be eating a lot more fish. We would probably go back to canning foods while they were abundant – tomatoes, fruit jams, maybe we would even pickle some fish and/or shrimp for out-of-season eating. Our food might be saltier, as salt is also a preservative. Maybe we would eat more rice, more pomegranate . . . maybe occasionally a boat would come in from Ethiopia or Kenya bringing rare coffee beans, and only very special, very lucky people would have access to the little luxury we all take for granted.
Ooops. Well, I am getting carried away. I was so amazed to hear my mother had initially kept house without a refrigerator that I sort of spaced out.
She went on to tell me that as she was growing up, her family had an ice box, and they would put out a special piece of paper when they needed ice from the ice man, who would drive by every day to provide ice for the cool-boxes. The ice came in different sizes, depending on the size of the ice box.
(I found this picture and a fairly clear explanation of ice boxes on on Wikipedia.)
It gets better. As I was reading the Wikipedia information, I came across the Pot in Pot refrigerator , known in Arabic as a “zeer” for which Mohammed Bah Abba was awarded a Rolex Laureate (Rolex Awards for Enterprise) in 2000. You can read about Mohammed Bah Abba, the Nigerian teacher who developed this simple, but effective refrigeration technique, by clicking on the blue type above. You can read more about the Zeer pot, and see a photo of how they work, by clicking here: Science in Africa.
AdventureMan and I keep ourselves sharp by exploring new areas. As I was looking around in a newer housing area, I found that the old residents are still hanging on. Deer can be a problem – the nibble on your roses and sweet peas, they cause a lot of damage . . . but don’t they have a right to forage for a meal? Weren’t they there first?
We stopped by a Party Store to pick up some things for my Mother, and we saw this truck loading up with balloons:
Inside the store is chaos, as all the employees have the nitrous oxide tanks going, filling up balloons, which the guys then tie into groups of ten.
“Three hundred and fifty balloons!” they responded, when we asked how many they were doing. “It must be some great party!”
I guess so. You wouldn’t think you could get any more balloons into a the truck, but here come some more!