Saturday, November 16, 2013


"O, Machine!" exclaims Vashti in E.M. Forster's short story The Machine Stops and I must admit, that is how I felt when my repaired fridge was delivered back to me the other day. 

I am old enough to remember a time when the domestic fridge was deemed an innovation but I don't really remember how my mother kept food cool before we had our first one. We did have a pantry and that helped and as, until I was nine, we had a sweet shop, my Dad used to plonk scoops of ice cream from the shop freezer into glasses of lemonade in summer - much as Sicilian bar-keepers will offer you a scoop of granita in your cold tea on the hottest days.

As far back as the Greek era, Etna snow was being used to cool wine and that must have been lovely provided you had servants to go and fetch it for you. Rich Victorians had daily deliveries of ice but how did the less fortunate manage? It is important to remember that food shopping for more than one's daily needs is a fairly recent development and there are still countries today where not even staples are stored in the home. Those who dwelled in the countryside often grew vegetables and raised their own livestock but, in places like Sicily, meat was considered a luxury. When it was used, it was often washed in milk and boiled several times.  

The stone houses which many Sicilians lived in were cool and then there were the myriad means of preserving food, above all, in olive oil but also by salting [the technique of salting fish was brought here by the Arabs] spicing and using sugar [also brought by the Arabs] in sweet preserves. Some food was kept in cellars or even nearby caves and there were also ceramic water coolers. Those lucky enough to live near a lake or river sometimes kept food in it in well-sealed containers, too.

All of this sounds quite exhausting so I'm off to coo, "O, Machine!" to my dear old fridge once again before bed.



Lee said...

I'm so glad you've got your fridge repaired and back in working order and in its rightful place, Pat.

We never had a fridge when I was a child. The first fridge we had was not long after my older brother started working. One of his first purchases was a little gas-operated fridge, similar in size to a bar fridge. When we were kids all we had was an ice chest/box. The ice man came and delivered the blocks of ice. Underneath our house we had a hanging safe with gauzed sides to let the cool air flow through to keep the food from going "off". And Queensland isn't noted for its cold weather!

I'm in awe when I think about it today. I couldn't do it. I have a large fridge/freezer and would be totally lost without it. (As would my two furry rascals)!

Claude said...

Great your fridge is back, Pat.

You brought back memories of my childhood in Montreal, in the Thirties. We had an icebox. It was a 3-shelves cupboard, with a connected box on top. We bought a block of ice daily (10 cents to 25 cents) from an iceman, selling it in the back streets, from a chariot run by a horse.

At 5 years old, it became my job, 2-3 times a day, to empty the basin (under the cupboard) which was collecting the water dripping from the melting ice. If I forgot, I had to dry the very wet floor with a heavy, absorbing cloth. I learned fast to remember my duty.
I think we got a fridge during WW2.

Are we any happier with our modern appliances? Big question...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Lee and thank you for the empathy. Thanks also for sharingthe story of your first fridge. My Simi would be lost without our fridge, too! Hi, Claude and thank you for your good wishes and for sharing your childhood fridge tale, too. Good question there, as you say.

Jenny Woolf said...

Very glad that your fridge is now working again! And the idea of granita in tea on a hot day is a lovely one. I have never heard of it before!

James Higham said...

I am old enough to remember a time when the domestic fridge was deemed an innovation but I don't really remember how my mother kept food cool before we had our first one.

In a tub with water?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Jenny. You must try the granita in tea! Hi, James. No idea either!


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