"I'm bone-tired. I rest up all day if I plan to work outside, and yesterday I rested and then spent two hours trimming down all the forsythia bushes on the right side of our driveway (side of garage) so that the vine on our tower shows and the bushes look neat. I also worked on the weeds next to the front door. Today I rested all day, but I was a bit more tense, because I don't think they'll get our new stove to us by tomorrow as they promised on Monday, and I told them it's a matter of an emergency. Our oven now just can't even be opened without everything
falling apart! Anyway, I went out and trimmed the forsythia by the driveway entrance, moved the sprinkler all around the front lawn from 5 on every hour, vacuumed all of our sections of the basement, made very simple meals (we had breakfast morning and night!!), and cut dead branches and pulled easy weeds from between some of the bushes next to the back-side lawn near the highway. Doug mowed the last of the lawn, and tomorrow Keith S-- is going to rake the lawn. I'm trying to rest all the time, for I'm only going to dust and polish and maybe wash the fronts of the cabinets and the front of the refrig. before my mother and Lucille come on Sunday at 1:11."
--A post-surgery letter from my mother on a Thursday night in 1967.
This year for my birthday, at my request, my father and stepmother took Joe and me to visit an 18th-to-20th-century milltown, Jerusalem Mill
. As my father and I were tramping back to the town's icehouse
- which I was eager to see, having read about icehouses in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy
- my father casually mentioned that he'd lived near a working icehouse when he was growing up.
My father grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, which gives a sense of how far back mid-twentieth-century rural American technology lagged from other parts of the country. (I just ran across an ad from World War Two which claimed that only one-third of American homes had bathtubs by that point.) My cultural memory doesn't go back that far. But I've seen iceboxes
in the antique stores in this town, and a few years ago, I researched how iceboxes worked, in order to write a scene in which an 1890s character repaired one. I was left with a healthy respect for turn-of-the-century technology.
A 1900 diagram of icebox plumbing (source). Iceboxes were more complicated than you would think.
My own cultural memory - where keeping food cold is concerned - begins with the early twentieth century, because when I lived in England in 1977, the house we stayed in had a refrigerator like the ones that appeared in early-twentieth-century American homes. The fridge was so small that it was tucked under the kitchen counter, and its freezer - just a little shelf hanging down over the next-highest shelf - was barely bigger than an ice cube tray.
From a 1944 ad (source), which is trumpeting the fact that the freezer is now bigger than an ice cube tray. Note that the freezer is still a shelf at the top of the refrigerator.
I haven't yet run across any photos of the early fridges that our family owned - though, since our 1960 house in Greenbelt had color-coordinated pastel bathrooms, I'd love to think that we had one of those nifty pastel fridges
of the time.
After I finished college in 1987 - and my parents were no longer paying my tuition every year - my mother splurged on a set of new kitchen appliances, including a Sears Kenmore refrigerator. When that fridge finally reached the end of its long life in 2011, I replaced it (after a considerable amount of research, because we had only a tiny 1960 kitchen space for it) with a fridge that had the freezer to the left side.
This turned out to be gloriously helpful, because, with the freezer to one side, there was no moisture in the fridge. No moisture meant that we didn't have to place our farmers market veggies in the produce shelf; we could place them in pots of water in the fridge that kept the veggies nice and crisp.
Our wonderful fridge in Greenbelt.
Then we moved to this apartment, and we're now stuck with a lousy landlord-chosen fridge. Oh, well.
At any rate, we can't blame our fridge for the latest mishap, which was a fridge door left open.
Our not-so-wonderful current fridge, post-mishap, looking lonely for groceries.
After gnashing our teeth, we set about with the usual after-food-spoilage activities:
* Throw out any food that's dead.
* Throw out any food that's not dead but is expired.
* Realize that the bottles should be recycled. Fish out of the trash half the food we've already thrown out.
* Empty and wash the bottles.
* Realize that, even with the bottles removed from the trash, the trash bag is so heavy that it's likely to tear, so bring out the heavy-duty trash bags.
* Realize we only have three heavy-duty trash bags left.
* Somehow manage to distribute the heavy food between the three heavy-duty trash bags. Tote the bags downstairs to the dumpster.
* Somewhat woozy by this point, spontaneously decide to sort and wipe down the food cupboards . . . but that's another story.
* Realize that, with nearly all the food gone, it's the perfect time to clean the fridge.
All this took two days to accomplish, and after that, I had to go to the supermarket and replace food I'd just bought. But hey, I managed to get two housework items off my list: clean the fridge and sort the food cupboards.
Before I got to the grocery store, the farmers market food saved the day.( Last fortnight's shopping list )( The rest of last fortnight's homemaking )( This week's meals )