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Our Big American Refrigerators

The Atlantic has an article about how Americans developed a preference for large refrigerators. Refrigerators tend to be much bigger in the U.S. than in most countries of the world. On the surface, that may seem to be just one more indication that Americans are rich overconsumers, but the trend has more logic to it than that. Oh sure, we like to have a supply of perishable food that is safe to eat, but consider these differences between the U.S. and other countries.

* In small, denser countries, people shop for food every day. Most of the U.S. is dominated by larger supermarkets and fewer neighborhood grocers. Therefore, shopping more often means more driving. Americans also work longer hours, making daily food shopping difficult.

* The U.S. developed a huge ice industry in the 19th century. Ice vendors convinced us that ice was wonderful, and drinks should be served cold. The soft drink industry benefitted enormously from this belief.

* Americans refrigerate things that other countries do not. In Australia, eggs are not refrigerated. But the USDA requires all eggs to be washed before sale, which removes a protective layer. People in other countries do not refrigerate ketchup, jam, fruit, or fresh vegetables.  

Read more about how refrigerators evolved to be so much bigger in America at the Atlantic. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture)


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If you live somewhere ridiculously warm, you have to refrigerate your jams and jellies or they will not only get nasty quickly, they'll also be in a puddle when you go to use them.
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I think, as far as households go, that we put ketchup and jam in the refrigerator because there's room in those big refrigerators. Then we don't have to think about whether they are okay or whether it's necessary.

Ketchup hardly ever gets used in my house, at least since the kids grew up. A bottle might stay in the refrigerator for years. But we go through barbecue sauce quickly!
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Most of the condiments in my fridge are there only because it saves cupboard space, and I typically don't use enough to notice if it is cold or not. Jams and jellies specifically though I've had to refrigerate, because they will develop mold after a couple days to a week sometimes if not kept cold, and my household doesn't go through them very quickly.
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