Frigid Air

Given my nationality and the looming prospect of the inevitable descent into winter, you may be fearing that this post will degenerate into a discussion of the weather.  Well, other than a chilly spell last week, it remains pretty mild: so the air is far from frigid, though it has been hurled at the denizens of South Cambridgeshire with more than normal force these last few days.  OK, I feel that covers expectations – so now I can wander off at a tangent with a clear conscience.

This post will instead handle one of my favourite subjects: food.  As has been mentioned before, while at home I am mostly vegetarian – and becoming more so (though if required, fish and shellfish can still be re-classified as vegetables).  As a result, my house contains quite large quantities of fruit and vegetables (though, I do know of those who pursue a vegetarian diet without much use of either fruit or veg).  Given their perishable nature, this does place some strain on my refrigerator.  At this point, I should come clean and admit that my fridge is a CBA rather than a Frigidaire – but the latter brand furnished a much better post title.

For historic reasons, I feel the need to keep as much of this fruit and veg in the crisper section at the base of my fridge as possible – though, now that I think about it, I have no idea if this is in any way beneficial.  The typical fridge (of which mine is a minor example) is much taller than it is wide – but for those in need of crisper space, the reverse would be a much better bet.  As a result of its conventional design, my crisper is always dreadfully over full – and edibles from the kingdoms of both plants and fungi spill out into the main body of the fridge.  This does tend to increase food wastage, as items from the crisper equivalent of the pre-Cambrian can be “lost” and so manage to spoil before they can be eaten (despite this, I should imagine that my food waste is a good few standard deviations from the mean, on the “good” side of the distribution).  Even when not lost to my digestive system, the over-crowding often necessitates an extended search for the desired item – which can’t be doing my electricity consumption any favours.

Reading the sticker on a Waitrose aubergine (oh yes, I have money to burn), while bored recently, revealed the interesting fact that it should not be stored in the fridge at all (as, I regret to say, its many predecessors had been).  I have no idea why this should be so, but it did allow a small volume to be reclaimed in my crisper – though at the cost of a corresponding loss of volume in the fruit bowl.

I also vaguely recall reading that keeping tomatoes in the fridge destroys some essential benefit that their consumption would otherwise impart.  The tomato is the love fruit so perhaps the fridge is cooling their ardour.  I suppose the late Nancy Mitford would know, having written on Love in a Cold Climate.

But, other than these two fruits – everything else still wants a piece of my fridge.  Surely other vegetarians with a decent appetite must exist?  I wonder how they solve this storage problem?  Or do they eschew fresh food, and rely largely on tinned and dried goods for their provender?

Perhaps it is time for me to develop (and later market) my new fridge for the discerning vegetarian: one where the crisper makes up a much large proportion of its total useable volume?  Yes, I am planning to bring the world the chest fridge.  No, not an aid for those with an overly warm embonpoint but a device inspired by the well proven chest freezer: after all, the two devices are basically the same (it’s just a matter of degree(s) – or the lack thereof).  The chest fridge would, I suppose, also necessitate some re-design of the traditional kitchen layout – but I can see clear benefits when coupled with a freezer to create the chest fridge freezer.  The combined device would be low enough in height (a) to benefit the shorter user and (b) leave room for more traditional storage either above or below depending on the height, flexibility and preferences of the user.

Vegetables are generally cheaper than meat – or so Katherine Whitehorn informed via the medium of print back in the mid 80s – so veggies should have higher disposable income available to spend on a new kitchen.  I really think I could be on to a winner here.  Coming soon to an out-of-town retail park near (but not very near) you: Fish Kitchens!  (The similar Kitch Fishing will have to await further development and a later post.)

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3 thoughts on “Frigid Air

  1. matathew says:

    I think that, where possible, fruit and veg should be openly displayed in a fruit bowl or small crate so that their visual beauty can be enjoyed in a homely way. Given, by his own account, GofaDM’s author’s commendable reluctance to turn on the central heating, except when absolutely necessary during the winter months, I think that many fruit and veg items would survive and indeed flourish outside the fridge.
    Though I’m no expert, I suspect that an aubergine is chemically related to a potato in some vague way, and therefore Waitrose advise that it must not go anywhere near a fridge. Should the aubergine, therefore, be likewise stored in darkness, I hear you ask?
    I stumbled across this Guardian article, which eloquently sums up my own thoughts on the subject, and mentions in passing the potential health hazards of storing potatoes (and, who knows, aubergines) in a fridge.
    I’m a great believer in buying any fresh food on the day you will eat it. But as some may know from my Tesco green chillies rant, there are powerful forces pulling in the opposite direction. The only item in the above Guardian article I would take issue with is that honey should not be kept in a fridge — it does indeed mutate, but I do find crystallised honey is even better than the original product.

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    Whilst frigid air does indeed pervade Fish Towers during the colder portion of the winter months, recent weeks (the last 40 or so) have been rather too warm to permit even medium-term storage outside the fridge. It is these warmer weeks that also see the largest influx of fresh produce. Maybe I should move to a castle – or similarly thick-walled building?

    The aubergine is, indeed related to the potato: it is one of the Solanaceae, as is the tomato and the chilli – and for that matter deadly nightshade and mandrake. I have never considered storing potatoes (or deadly nightshade) in the fridge – the sack always seemed the storage vessel of choice – but equally have never kept tomatoes in the dark. Nor have I heard of potatoes “ripening” if kept near a ripe (and unrelated) banana – it is quite a large family!

    The aubergine, as a result of its beauty, does make a very desirable addition to any fruit bowl. The celeriac, on the other hand, I think should be kept in the dark – and perhaps double-bagged just to be sure.

    Whilst just-in-time purchasing has appeal, it comes up against a few problems in today’s world. Firstly, that the ‘fresh’ item will probably have been ‘picked’ many weeks before we, mere customers, are offered the chance to purchase it. Secondly, I lack the extensive staff that characterises Downton Abbey, and as a result I try and shop only 2 or 3 times a week to allow time for other valuable activities (like blogging). I’m also not really desirous of spending even more time in a supermarket than is already the case. Finally, one of my primary, local and direct sources of fresh fruit only opens 3 days a week. But, perhaps I should try and bring the principles of Kanban further into my food production.

    Finally, I could not disagree more about honey. Whilst I will endure crystallised honey, liquid honey is an infinitely more desirable product. For a start, there is a joy watching it as it slowly slides off a spoon in sticky, golden strings of delight.

  3. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    There is a chilling logic in what the Grauniad has to say. Those things which whilst at Waitrose are not in a chiller cabinet, in general, should not be consigned to one when you get them home.

    This could change my life! If nothing else, I will need about a dozen new fruit bowls! (And an air-proof – or acetylene proof – banana safe to keep the little rotters from sending all my other produce over the edge) And, I should start digging a root cellar… That castle idea is looking more-and-more like the way to go.

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