Monday, October 22, 2012

The Obesity Epidemic Explained

Okay, maybe not. It's probably a totally spurious correlation, but after doing some refrigerator shopping, I couldn't help but wonder: is there a connection between the U.S. population going from using this:
to using this:
26.5 cubic feet capacity refrigerator
The number of people in a household has been dwindling, with the typical family having fewer kids in recent decades than they did 50 or 60 years ago, yet the capacity of the refrigerators in our kitchens keeps growing. Why on earth would any household require a 26.5 cubic feet capacity refrigerator? Even when we had kids at home, I think the biggest refrigerator the S.O. and I ever owned was one with 14 cubic feet capacity. What do people fill those humongous refrigerators with? It has to be convenience food (aka junk) because it doesn't matter how big the fridge, fresh food (i.e., salad greens, meat) has a limited shelf life, and even yogurt goes bad eventually. What else can a person fill those multiple door shelves with other than soda or beer? No one has that many bottles of condiments. 

It is, however, remarkably difficult to find a refrigerator that actually matches up with your real world needs. Anyone who's ever seen "Househunters International" knows that quite a bit of the rest of the world manages just fine without the mega-appliances Americans insist on buying: under-the-counter refrigerators not much bigger than a typical dorm fridge here are the norm in European countries. But try finding a smaller refrigerator if you've decided that's what you need -- it's not easy. 

The S.O. and I found ourselves refrigerator-shopping right after getting home from a 3-week vacation the other day. We walked in the door Friday evening and discovered a puddle of Breyer's in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. The appliance had mysteriously chosen to die right about the same time we left Texas. We could tell it hadn't been dead long because the ice cubes were still basically ice cubes, but it was definitely dead. It made noises like it was working, but the temperature in it kept rising. I've had better homecomings.

We were limited in just what size replacement appliance we could buy; the old refrigerator (a 10.3 cubic foot Haier) lived under the stairs in a space that was basically built around it. This is a small house with a galley kitchen; there simply isn't the square footage for one of those mega-Frigidaires. Whatever we got had to be less than 24 inches wide; that considerably narrowed our choices when it came to what was available immediately.

We did toy with the idea of going even smaller than the 10.3 Haier and getting a 4.6 cubic foot refrigerator that would have been small enough that we could have put a base cabinet under it. I was briefly psyched by the prospect of adding more storage in the kitchen. In the end, though, it was the door shelves that decided the matter. The 4.6 models were all set up with a can rack in the door where you could stack your cans of Coke or cheap beer, and we had no use whatsoever for such a "convenience." We found a 12-cubic foot Whirlpool and hauled it home. I can tell already it's more refrigerator than we actually need, but it fits in the space and the price was right. 

According to the various pieces of information I could find on Whirlpool, it's possible this new refrigerator was actually made in the USA. The S.O. did a fair amount of cursing while trying to reverse the doors because the screws/bolts/whatever were actually American Standard instead of metric. He's gotten so used to everything being made in China or wherever that he automatically reaches for metric parts and tools whenever he has to work on anything these days. 

I keep thinking about the Kelvinator we jettisoned earlier this summer. It no longer worked particularly well, but it did still work -- and it was 70 years old. There's a Frigidaire at the museum over in Baraga that dates to the 1920s, and it still works. The made-in-China Haier died after less than 10 years; I wonder how long this Whirlpool will last? 


  1. Refrigerators in Ukraine are tall and narrow as the square footage is pretty tight in most flats. There are some monsters too but not many.
    Some of those old appliances did just keep on going and going, didn't they? But they weighed a ton too.

  2. Haier makes pretty good fridges as far as I know, maybe it was just a fluke that it went out.

    Hard to say how long the Whirlpool will last, they make good shit and bad shit. But with luck it will last longer than you do.

  3. I've gotten to where I check the threads on things with the thread checking things in my tap and die sets.

  4. As a kid I remember the ice box and the ice delivery man . When we were in Alaska we use to keep all our freezable foods in the back of the truck in the winter time (temps 40+ below zero) and in the summers in Alaska when we lived in an RV we had a useful small size refrigerator.

    We also live in a small cabin with limited space; we find the freezer space is more important than the refrigerator size. Larger refrigerators mean more food spoiling. We have a small refrigerator (10 cubic) and a small freezer on the back porch. When snow storms hit we can have food from the freezer rather than trekking to the store.
    the Ol'Buzzard


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