It’s hard to imagine life without being able to pop to the fridge whenever you fancy a snack, and being able to choose from delicious produce like milk, cheese, cold meats, yoghurts, different fruit and veg, and a whole load else whenever you want. And being able to keep these food fresh weeks at a time in some cases.
But if there was no refrigeration, what would life be like? How would our food taste? How would we cope?
To answer these questions, we first need to go back in time. Back to when ancient civilisations stored food and drink in ice and snow. So if you live in a cold climate, that’s covered. If you don’t, you’ll need to take a leaf out of the Egyptians’ book who used to fill earthen jars with boiled water and stick them on their roofs at night where the cool air would chill it. Or we’d put milk and butter in underground cellars or underwater to keep it chilled.
The taste of our food would be very different too. Meat and fish would have to be persevered by coating with salt and spices or by smoking, pickling or drying, and we’d have to get used to more of these flavours in our diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables would have to be eaten sooner as we wouldn’t be able to store a lot of them as we do now.
Shopping in supermarkets would be very different as many foods are stored in refrigerated lorries when imported and transported, frozen as soon as it’s picked or kept in refrigerated warehouses until it hits the shelves.
Perennial favourites such as tea and coffee would be a think of the past as it would have to be imported, and we’d eat more and more home-grown produce. There’d be no ice cream or frozen yoghurt to enjoy either.
Not having refrigeration would mean we wouldn’t have the convenience we have today. Keeping food fresh and preserving its life would take time more time and effort, as would the way we buy food. Using natural ice can bring problems too, as pollution and sewage in sea and river water could lead to health problems.
We’d have to adapt to stronger tasting foods packed full of salt and other preserves and learn to live with less variety in what we eat.
So next time you open your fridge door or buy a frozen pizza at your local supermarket, spare a thought for how it got there.