After the lights went out

Posted September 7, 2011
Hurricane Irene over New York, left us a taste of the Middle Ages. In the dark, we were musing about the the blessings of our lifestyle. It was just a small step for mankind, and modern life started: the invention of the lightbulb and electricity on demand. True liberation of our food supplies came with the invention of the refrigerator, or better, the freezer.
The first safe cooling agent, Freon, was introduced in the 1920s, freezers became popular during the 1940s. Most likely every household in the US has today a refrigerator with a freezer. There was a new independence, no more daily milkman, no more produce shopped by seasons, maybe once a week driving to the now popular supermarkets and megastores. We can have a constant supply of favorite foods at home for every meal and in-between. According to the “Forks over Knives” movie statistics, the meat and dairy consumption doubled in the US since the 50’s. 

Didn’t even cavemen draw their meat centered habits in hunting scenes? Most people today believe, that their food choices are still in line with what our ancestors ate. That would have been plain impossible, according to Dr. John McDougall, as prehistoric people barely had ways of conservation. Hunted prey, openly exposed was most likely useless after a couple of hours. Besides maybe dried mammoth jerky, cavemen must have relied on less spectacular foods: fruits and vegetables, in abundance during the seasons; dried seeds, beans and grains that can survive for decades without cooling. 

While stocking our pantry with more grains and legumes, our household became less dependent on fancy and expensive ultra deep freezing appliances. Our rather average refrigerator for fruits and vegetables with a small freezer for transition foods, bread, dough, and herbs is sufficient. Better even, if you prepare your food daily, or even plant your own veggies and herbs. Saving cooling space is good for the environment, as freezing combinations are the biggest power hogs in a household.

With Irene’s furious tailwinds, we indeed had a power out followed by long romantic evenings by candlelight. I had to throw away processed food, opened packages and leftovers, some wilted salad and some melon. In hindsight, our loss was bearable compared to our neighbors’, and surprisingly light on the environment.

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