Monday, May 18, 2015

The thing for which I am thankful #34,751: Reliable Refrigeration

It's a small thing, seemingly, but it really helps save time and money. We have what is basically a dorm fridge in our kitchen here, and it's nice to have a place to keep meat and leftovers and chill drinks. We make-do. It's not large enough for all of our produce, so we're left keeping a constant stream of fresh produce at room temperature. Besides it's a fritzy fridge, and will freeze everything without warning. If the power goes out for more than a day, we're left with a bunch of defrosted meat that needs to be cooked and eaten.

It's doable, but it requires more frequent trips to the market. And sometimes, a regretful trip to the woods to toss the rancid meat when the power goes out and we don't cook it.

Recently, our neighbor came to ask if she could keep some meat in our fridge, hers had stopped working properly. One whiff, and I knew the meat was bad. I almost vomited. I told her it had already turned and would make her sick. For her, she said, it wasn't a problem and wouldn't affect her health. I suggested, maybe you should cook it today? No, that wouldn't do because she had just cooked some meat; this meat she would cook and eat in two weeks’ time. She just needed the meat to get cold again, and it would be ok. 

We eventually came to an agreement that I would keep the meat in our fridge for a day or so until she had time to take it to her sister's house. I really didn't want to keep that gross, smelly, rotting meat... but when your neighbor asks... what can you do? She was so sad and disappointed when I wouldn't help her.

This woman is poor, and meat is pretty expensive, so she didn't want to toss the bad meat. I'm sure she has an immune system better equipped to handle this environment and climate and lifestyle than mine, but I'm also sure that eating that spoiled meat is a poor choice, health-wise. How do you tell that to someone who just spent 5-10% of her take-home pay for the month on meat that then went bad? In the moment, it seemed to me that her refusal to throw it out was only due in part to a belief that the meat was still ok, and that in her gut she just could not accept the loss.

Now, my neighbor is lucky! She has a refrigerator! Granted, one that doesn't work, but most of the world can't afford that, or can't afford the electric bill that goes with it. When offered coffee, a man here refused it, because he didn't want to start an addiction he couldn't afford. A wise choice! A sad choice, because coffee grows here.

There are so many things I took for granted in America: the ability to chill my food, the ability to brew a morning cup of joe without strain on my household budget, running water in my house. Now, I realize what gifts those are, and I am grateful.


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