My refrigerator looks old but it’s not. We bought it this year, from a company in Boulder, Colorado, that makes retro appliances. Our fridge is a crisp white, matches the old Chambers stove, which really is old. Both have rounded edges. The fridge has a Whirlpool motor and doesn’t make a whole lot of sound, not the way some old fridges do. But I guess that’s because ours isn’t old; it’s new. Most importantly, it fits into the predefined space for the fridge, a space that happens to have been designed in the 1950s, when the house was built. Which means it won’t fit a year 2010 refrigerator, even if we wanted one.
Which we don’t. No, our retro fridge is a handsome appliance. It makes me think about Pablo Neruda’s sensuous Oda a las cosas. Ode to things. Our refrigerator is shiny, and the name of the company that manufactured it appears on a nameplate with retro cursive handwriting, the kind that evokes images of old majestic cars from the 1950s. Buick. Cadillac. Chevrolet.
Honestly, I don’t even know what the majestic cars were back then. I was born in 1961, but most of my memory is set in the 1970s. I suppose this fridge of ours is reminiscent of June and Ward Cleaver, but I like to think it could also have fit in the home of the Brady Bunch. You know, Alice, the maid, and how she wore that blue dress with the white apron, and the six kids, three boys and three girls, all the exact same age, who often filed down the stairs and ended up in the kitchen, hungry.
I bet when they looked in their fridge they found things like big Kosher dill pickles. Mom always bought us some generic brand pickle, not the crispy Koshers that I buy for the girls. Although when I was a kid, we ate our generic pickles without complaint, and when we finished them off, we drank the pickle juice. And we ate carrots that we peeled and dipped in white vinegar, with salt.
Our fridge, it gives me a good feeling. I guess because it’s such a perfect thing. Why did fridges have to change so much anyway? A few years ago, when we were doing a home remodel, Jim and I went refrigerator shopping. The fridges were so complex. There was the SubZero and the Viking, and the way the salesmen talked about appliances, you would have thought we were buying cars. I think you could keep different parts of the refrigerator cooler than other parts, the way in new cars you can heat one person’s side yet leave the other person at a lower temperature, and the kids can watch movies in the back while your car tells you how to navigate to the grocery store. So it goes with fridges. You want apples at a temperature where it doesn’t hurt your teeth to bite into them yet they stay crisp for weeks? I bet newfangled fridges can do that for you.
Our refrigerator is new but it’s humble. It looks good, and for someone like me, often the way it looks is more important than what it does. It’s not because I’m shallow, although it’s certainly within my repertoire to be shallow. But in this case it’s a visual thing. Jim’s functional, but even he seems to enjoy the new fridge. It is wide on the inside, not too many shelves. We need to bend down lower than with the more sophisticated fridge that we bought for the kitchen remodel but couldn’t use in our new house because, well, our new house is actually an old house.
Maybe I love our refrigerator because it reminds me of days when I ate cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches on soft bread. Not Gruyere or dill Havarti, but plain old yellow cheese. Before we knew that mayonnaise would clog your arteries and that soft bread would make you soft, too, and when the only people who ate chewy bread was the woman in the Nude Drawing class who wore her long braids in two buns on each side of her head, and the only way she got chewy bread was by making it herself.
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