21 August 2011

On Not Having A Fridge


I know this is ostensibly a food blog, but bear with me as I veer off into food politics a bit. I was watching The Daily Show and found this clip from their continuing series on Class Warfare. The quote about the poor beginning about 4:30 in floored me:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over
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So now people aren't considered poor if they have a refrigerator. A REFRIGERATOR!

It started me thinking about the last time I had to live without a fridge. I moved into a house with no fridge and had to buy a new one. I'm obviously not poor, or I would have gotten a 30-year-old used one that sucks up $300 in electricity every year like I used to have.

I bought one at Sears and they said it wasn't in stock and would take a week to deliver. No problem, I thought. I can survive a week without a fridge. I can eat non-perishable food and eat out and what-have-you, because I can afford that stuff.

But if you don't have a fridge and you do want some perishable food, say something nutritious like milk, cheese or eggs, you need ice.

I didn't have an ice chest, because I was only missing a fridge for a week, so I just put the ice and milk in a dish pan and covered it with a baking pan with newspapers on top for extra insulation. Still, I had to buy ice every day. It was messy and inconvenient and expensive, but for me, with my income, it was a short-term problem and I could easily survive.

If you're poor, you don't have the same luxury of eating out and wasting money on small quantities of food and having the comfort of knowing a brand new fridge will be delivered at the end of the week.

Ice is expensive. And heavy. So if you don't have a car - which I'm assuming you don't, if you're too poor to be able to afford a $50 yard-sale fridge - you have to schlep ice. Heavy, cold ice.

Hope you're not old or disabled or live more than a few blocks from a grocery store! And I hope you don't need any other groceries, because once you have a couple sacks of ice, it's pretty hard to carry anything else.

I also hope you have the spare $3 a day you'll need to buy 2 bags of ice. You could make ice almost for free but HEY, THAT'S RIGHT, you don't have a fridge. Sucka. So that's $3 a day - or about $1000 a year you'll need to support your non-fridge habit. And since the federal poverty level is $22,000 a year for a family of FOUR, I'm sure you'll probably miss that $1000 pretty badly.

You could have bought about 750-1000 pounds of dried beans with that same amount of money, but that would be ridiculous. You're poor. You don't deserve a fridge!

And if you do want to cook perishable food, you'll have to buy it in small quantities you can use right away. So instead of buying a pound of margarine on sale, you'll have to buy it by the cube at the corner convenience store, because the market doesn't sell it in tiny quantities. It will cost you about as much as a whole pound, maybe more, but that's the way it goes, right?

You'll probably waste a lot of food, too, from spoilage or getting soaked by water from melting ice, food you can ill afford to lose. But waste is part of the American way! Learn to embrace it.

As you can see, I'm being sarcastic. I'm just hiding the fact that I'm so furious at the numbskulls who think poverty is easy, that it doesn't take cleverness and flexibility and constant scrambling to just get by. They sit up in their studios and have lattes brought to them by production assistants and talk about how poor people have refrigerators and that they are surprised by that. I have two words for them, and they aren't "Bon appetit."

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