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Smaller Refrigerators in Europe Point Up the Broken U.S. Food System

According to this appliance expert, gigantic refrigerators in the U.S. don't mean we're eating better, simply that we have a outdated hoarding mentality when it comes to food.

Growing up in the 1950s, and living in the shadow of nuclear war, we shopped as if we were stocking up for the fall of western-civilization. Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables as well as cans upon cans of corn and peas. My mother would rotate them from time to time…I remember years later, in the mid-80’s, finding cans of corn dating back to the Kennedy administration.  

The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping and eating habits have changed very little since the 1950s, and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse. Today we need to worry about everything from an increase in food-allergies to diabetes—as well as added growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)—and that directly affects our overall health.  

I believe that it’s time to rethink how we eat, what we eat, and most importantly, how we shop and prepare our meals.

For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and recently, the opportunity presented itself to stay with friends instead of a hotel. It has always amazed me that the kitchen in much of Europe, like in the US, is the hub of daily life. It seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different: every meal was a symphony of color, taste and texture, from the morning meal of eggs, cheese and assorted meats, to the evenings meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread and wine.

For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was use to, and that somehow this made the experience different. And then it came to me.

In the middle of a lively debate, over an after-dinner glass of wine and a plate of assorted cheese, at my friend's kitchen table in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American versus European kitchen design, when we happened upon the topic of refrigeration/ It was then that the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me: the average American family was still living and buying food on a 50 year old model based upon an Industrial Food Complex of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all of which encourages mass consumption and storage of food stuffs that have been pumped full with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child, we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end. Hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator.

On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost Utopian lifestyle when compared to ours. Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was—and the smaller fridge was reflective of lifestyle and the daily nature of meal preparation. In many parts of Europe, almost everything is purchased for that day’s preparation and consumption: fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market, or freshly picked from their own home garden.

The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition. Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health care is flawed, because it is based upon the premise of treatment and not prevention. Dr. Hyman believes that the future of health care will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office. He says, “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out.”

I have to agree with the good doctor, I to believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle, and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store and prepare food.

The Natural Kitchen is a healthier as well as a sustainable environment. Here a few simple ways you can change your life, as well improve the world around you.

The Natural Kitchen:

1.   Buy local. Buy fresh, Buy daily.    

2.   Plant a garden…Grow your own.

3.   Use your leftovers.

4.   Store your food correctly for longer life.

5.   Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products.

6.   Replace your appliances to reduce energy consumption.

7.   Compost your organic kitchen waste.

8.   Reduce, reuse and recycle!

9.   Support the Non-GMO Project

10. Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.

About the Author: Director of Business Development at DACOR Appliances. Kevin has over 30 years of experience within the international kitchen community, and is regularly called upon for his unique opinions, insight and direction.