The chances are that you use your fridge every single day of your life, but I doubt you think about it very often. It just sits there, gently humming away, doing its job – it’s just part of life.
Yet before the 1920s, there were no fridges, and they weren’t mass-produced until after the Second World War. Instead, there were iceboxes, non-mechanical fridge-like cupboards that kept food cold using an enormous block of ice. Icemen had to come every day to deliver new blocks of ice for iceboxes, an expensive practice. Most homes didn’t have them, and instead had to settle for keeping things in cupboards and not eating anything that needed to be kept so cold.
The impact of the fridge on the post-war diet is not often looked at, but it has been huge. Fresh food like fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products can be stored for days or even weeks without spoiling, meaning that these things can be sold in shops more easily and eaten more often. Before, it would have been necessary to grow fresh produce in your garden, restricting you to foods that grew in your country and that were in season, but as refrigeration can be used during transport in refrigerated lorries and ships, fruit and vegetables from all over the world can now reach us without spoiling.
Today, fridges usually come in combined units with freezers, another endlessly useful 20th century invention. They can be built-in to the kitchen or freestanding, and often come with all sorts of extra features, such as the ability to produce cold water and ice on-demand from the front of the unit. Probably the most useful feature addition has been the advent of ‘frost free’ fridges, which use automatic temperature control to make sure that no ice forms inside the fridge.
John Gibb is the owner of fridge resources For more information on fridges please check out http://www.fridge-information.info