Stephen Bayley

Cold comfort | 7 December 2017

Is it yellow, pink or green? Or chrome, with double doors, the size of a small car? What does your fridge say about you?

Mrs Thatcher once explained that she adored cleaning the fridge because, in a complicated life, it was one of the few tasks she could begin and end to total satisfaction. In this way are refrigerators evidence of our struggles, our hopes and our fears.

Moreover, if you accept that the selection and preparation of food is a defining part of our culture, then you must acknowledge the primacy of the refrigerator in human affairs. In 2012, The Royal Society declared refrigeration to be the single most significant innovation in food technology since Fred Flintstone invented the barbecue. Me? I wrote these notes while chewing chilled sapphire grapes from Brazil, via Waitrose, messengers from our refrigerated global food chain.

Your domestic fridge is your autobiography. By its contents are ye known. People ostentatiously arrange green vegetables to signal virtue. I know I do. The ratio of yoghurt to beer is always revealing. That withered and wretched celeriac root lurking at the back of the salad drawer always puts me in mind of a medieval theologian’s diatribes about the appearance of my soul. The evil-looking celeriac reveals a mixture of ambition and incompetence.

Size matters. There was, perhaps, once a time when I would ask visitors if they would like to come upstairs and see my etchings. Now I ask if they would like to come downstairs and admire my smackdown, look-at-me, double-door stainless steel Gaggenau RB491 combo. This is as big as a small car. And the latest refinement is a dedicated wine fridge. I know. I have one. You can calibrate self-improvement as well as the march of civilisation by the evolution of the fridge.

Then there are freezers, acting like medieval oubliettes where stuff of indeterminate value is suspended in limbo until it is thrown away.

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