I have a new fridge. The previous one had started making my-compressor-is-dying noises. It was only 5 years old, but, of course, it had a three-year warranty. The new one is the same size because it had to fit into the same space, but this new one seems larger. I conclude that this one is better engineered. It seems more user-friendly. I suspect that some refrigerators are designed by men who deal with the fridge only when they need ice cubes. They're the guys whose priority was to make a door that doesn't have to be open to dispense ice cubes, liquids or whatever else they need during a TV commercial.
In Switzerland and in much of the rest of Europe, refrigerators are late-comers to the kitchen. Old, small stone buildings don't lend themselves to American-style, gigantic, frost free, do-everything refrigerators. The one we had in Switzerland was tiny and below the counter. It was the size of a mini-bar in a hotel, and I had to practically kneel before it to get things in or out — a supplicant. The inside was as convenient as possible for an impossibly small kitchen appliance. I think most Europeans expect to do some shopping every day. One certainly can't buy enough for more than a day or two of anything that needs refrigeration. Don't even think about buying in quantity with the idea of freezing some of it. Don't buy more than a pint of ice cream. It's a "buy fresh or starve" world across the pond. It's locavore heaven.
Years ago, on the Big Island in Hawaii, I discovered that people there were divided into two groups: those who had refrigeration and those who didn't. There were a surprising number of people who didn't. They were live-off-the-land people. They ate lots of fresh fruit; they picked it and ate it when hungry. Catch a fish, build a fire and dinner's served. It was a surprise to me. Those folks moved there from the mainland and took pride in being off the grid, literally.
I was raised with an icebox. An iceman came through the neighborhood and sold blocks of amazingly clear ice that were installed into the top of the icebox. Children begged for slivers of the wonderful, clear ice off the back of the truck. No one had ice cream at home. I remember our first electric refrigerator. It stood majestically against its own wall in our kitchen. When we all got used to having it around, I liked to climb up on its rounded top to observe the mysterious processes of cooking and baking from above.
My new fridge hums in a quiet, competent way. No alarming noises. The shelves slide out for easy access to things in the back. No one sits on top of it. No more slivers of clear ice from the back of an ice truck. Time marches on, and I limp along behind it humming an icebox tune.
Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.