Does Size Really Matter?

Now that I have  your attention, I want to direct it to the size of refrigerators, and its impact on us.  I have been looking closely at  The American Fridge lately.  Did you know that the average size fridge is now about 31 cubic feet?  I had to go and check my own and it’s 28.  It made me start to wonder…when did they start to get so big?  I think it correlates to the obesity epidemic.

If you own a house that was built before the “Big 80′s”, it’s difficult to replace a refrigerator with the new ones because they are just too big for the newly vacated spot in the kitchen.  Refrigerators and Americans are just taking up more space.

Americans like things to be the biggest of them all.  Houses, cars, diamonds, and now unfortunately, most of the children.  The dinner plates are bigger.  The bowls are deeper.  If you compare dishes that were made only twenty years ago to the open stock available now in kitchen stores, it’s easy to mistake the dinner plate for a salad plate.   The “large ” soda became so huge that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a “Soda Ban” barring any soda larger than 16 ounces from public establishments like movie theaters, convenience stores, etc.  The average size cup in a gas station/convenience store can hold 32 ounces.  That’s a quart!!  It sounds worse as a quart.  It’s like something you would put in your car.  It has become a matter of too much-too much.  In order to store these ever growing portions, we need the bigger refrigerator.

What does that large refrigerator gain us?  (Well, other than some extra weight each year….)  We are able to shop at the MAJOR ONE STOP STOCK UP UNDERWEAR, DOG FOOD, BREAD, HOT DOGS AND EGGS IN THE SAME CART STORE.   I don’t think that’s really the name of any store, but for my purposes, insert the name of the store in your town where you can accomplish this.   America is about convenience  and if we can buy a gallon of applesauce, it will keep in the fridge.  We can buy  loads of frozen pizzas, and tater tots, and frozen waffles, pancakes, strudel and sandwiches.  We can fit the 175 ounce tub-o-sugar water on the door because we have to make room on the shelf for the styrofoam containers with leftover chicken wings and those little fancy cold cut lunch things that come with a can of soda.  We can buy dip that doesn’t expire for ages.  I personally, am known for collecting salad dressing bottles on my fridge door.  (I hate to rinse them out.  I also steal Tupperware from my family, but that’s another story.)  We can’t all be perfect…..but back to the fridge….

The first time I was in Italy, I was invited to dinner at my beautiful cousin’s home in Rome.  We entered the gated building and it took us three trips on the tiny elevator for us to get up to their home.  (Are you sensing a theme here?)   When we stepped inside, it was that beautiful paradox of Italian decor, sparse yet ornate.  She and her husband live there with their adorable daughter and a cat.  The cat was the only one who was overweight.  She graciously showed me her home and the kitchen.  THE authentic Italian kitchen, was a galley with a beautiful balcony that opened to her sunflowers and the view of La Citta Eterna.  It had a sleek black table and clear counters.

No island.  No second sink.  No clutter.  No TV.  No kidding.

There was a slender, elegant structure in the kitchen,  and while I could be describing my cousin, it was the refrigerator.  I was taken aback at how she was able to create this beautiful meal of Campari,  Buffalo Milk  Mozzarella, Pasta with Tuna and Yellow Peppers,  Greens with Potatoes, (that my Zio had picked), a Mila Strato di Torte (A Thousand Layer Cake) and homemade Limoncello.

How can Italians have such tiny refrigerators and yet  be so renowned for their food?  They only serve fresh food.  They try and buy local.  They don’t make huge portions.  The cups are smaller.  The gelato is smaller.  The people are smaller.   The fridge has nothing in it but fresh dairy, fresh eggs, fresh vegetables.  Fresh meat.  NO FRUIT.  It is a cardinal sin to “fridge the fruit.”   Fresh is the key word here.  All the while we were eating the mozzarella, they were apologetic that they had to get the cheese THAT MORNING instead of immediately before dinner because they took us on a tour of the city before we ate.

Nothing is wasted.  Nothing goes bad.  No one leaves bags of lettuce fermenting in the crispers.  There were no unidentified leftovers in murky containers.  It was a piece of art in itself to look into the fridge.  (I peeked over her shoulder…I admit it, I would never open someone else’s fridge.)  It was bright and colorful and sparse and clean.  I think that the Italian refrigerator speaks volumes to the culture.  Preparing for each meal is an event.  Shopping each day for your food is a ritual.  Spending time planning and cooking are a joyous time to be spent with family and friends.  The food and the faces around the table are what matters.

….and I think that’s the point.  I hope I’ve inspired you to go into your own refrigerator,  toss the junk, and head to a fresh market.  Besides, does anyone ever eat any of those old soy sauce packets?  Schifoso!