Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar II 5760 - March 15, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by











Home and Family
Reflections on Refrigerators - or - The Iceman Cometh
by Malka Adler

Purim, the festival of feasting.

While you are still anticipating filling up your `fridge' with Purim leftovers and shalach monos freezables, and are not yet contemplating the (unmentionable) task of cleaning it, let your fancy wander with Malka and her
Reflections on Refrigerators - or - The Iceman Cometh

The most trafficked area in the average home has to be the kitchen, and the refrigerator seems to be a central gravitation point. The `fridge' is actually a reliable barometer of the family's lifestyle, members, activities and sometimes it is a historian as well, by its very contents...

Initially, shiny new and fingerprint-free, it contains the first culinary efforts of the new bride: a decidedly lopsided, heavily frosted cake, the burnt casserole, globs of pasty spaghetti and fiascos that even the most well intentioned husband would hesitate to sample, let alone eat. Then come the baby food jars, bottles of formula, quickly replaced by clownface cookies, brown-tinged peeled apples & bananas, half nibbled eggs, a slice of bread minus one bite and sticky lollipops and occasional - but necessary - antibiotics.

The early chidlhood period will feature tuna, cheese or peanut butter sandwiches (in Israel - chocolate spread) in clear plastic bags with fruit, in readiness for tomorrow's school lunch. And the inevitable slew of leftovers from picky eaters with eyes bigger than their appetites. The teenage years bring with them a combination of bingeing and a tempting array of nosh - carbonated drinks and snack food to be followed by dieters' celery and carrot sticks. When the yeshiva boys are home for Shabbos, their favorite dishes are prepared with much love and considerable labor. By now, their adolescent sisters are often into creative cookery.

Then there are the youngsters who can only cool off by opening the freezer door, leaning a hot brow against its cool interior and inhaling deeply. And please - a steady supply of ice cubes! Better yet, the freeze-it-yourself popsicles called `igloos', here.

Filled to capacity might indicate a company-filled Shabbos, a busy Yom Tov or a special simcha. The shelves are overflowing with meat pans, kugels, cakes, side dishes, attractively arranged trays and the freezer with same, plus yummy desserts. Something has definitely been cooking!

Without dating myself, hopefully, I can still recall, as a very small child, the excitement when the iceman arrived on a hot summer's day. He would make a delivery to some of the neighbors who still had wooden iceboxes. He would expertly haul out a huge block of ice with his sharp ice pick, place it, already dripping, on his back and proceed to climb the steps. News spread quickly and all the children in the immediate vicinity would follow. We were hoping to catch slivers of ice as they fell. Cats would be drinking enthusiastically from puddles; birds would cautiously take a refreshing dip. Apparently, everyone benefitted at delivery time. It was an era of inexpensive and uncomplicated entertainment.

[I recall the iceman delivering ice to our fish store who had an attractive glass showcase bordered with artificial greens. No, this was not before the days of electricity, but ice was apparently cheaper than a refrigeratored display case. He would hack off a huge block of ice and feed it into his noisy grinder, out of which emerged shaven ice. Enterprising kids would beg for shaven ice to lick. My husband recalls a different iceman - an Italian vendor who came with horse and wagon (he predates me). He shaved off flakes from a big ice cake with a knife, packed it into a dixie cup and filled it with syrup of your choice. These delicacies were five cents cheap, came with a wooden spoon and were called ice balls.]

A more recent episode took place about thirty years ago when we had just made aliya. All Israeli refrigerators were small and white at the time, in fact, many actually half a refrigerator whose top doubled as counter space at waist level, while ours was huge by comparison and avocado green with side-by-side doors.

At first, it was mistaken for a kitchen cabinet. "So where are you hiding the refrigerator?" It was inconceivable that an American family not have an item which was still considered a luxury in some homes. These, and even neighbors who did have their own, knew that we usually had some extra space to spare for them.

On one particularly memorable occasion, a rather naive neighbor (who was unaware of my addiction) came up with a huge containor of ice cream, chocolate - no less, and asked if she could store it in our freezer. She planned to send up her children with empty cones and my assignment would be to fill them as rewards. (A sense of honor is such a blessing!) [So is a sense of humor!]

At this point, I had the initial strength of character to inform her, that is, warn her, in my best Hebrew, that if there was one thing I could not be entrusted with - it was ice cream. Vast sums of money or the crown jewels would be no problem, for me or my freezer. But with ice cream, I would be compelled to take off maaser or generously more, each time I was exposed to it. Now, how could anyone who was thin to the point of looking ethereal understand a nosher's constant battle, with few victories scored, against the yetzer hora?

She looked a bit puzzled, smiled at what she thought was typcial American humor, and said, by all means, I should feel free to help myself. And so I obliged. Whenever her offspring appeared, at least once daily, I cheerfully gave each a modest scoop (an additional American wonder - a scoop spoon that disengaged a lovely molded scoop with a pushbutton) and was enticed to promptly and religiously claim my tithe. After a few, fun filled fattening days, the supply had dwindled down to almost nothing and my fingers were in danger of turning blue from frostbite. How painful the scene when the little ones appeared with their eagerly outstretched cones. Racked with guilt and pink with embarrassment, I gently explained, "Nigmar. Finitto." They looked pitifully disappointed. In the safe haven of their freezer with THEIR mother as custodian, it might have lasted weeks. Looking devastated, down they tramped to tell their mother the sad tidings.

Early the next morning, I knocked at their door and apologetically handed the mother a bag full of ice cream pops and cones. Not surprisingly, during the dozen or so years that we continued living in the building, she never requested freezer space again - except for raw chickens. This item she correctly assumed would be safe within my greedy grasp. As they say, "Experience keeps a dear school, but some people can learn in no other."

And speaking of the `experienced', when most of the offspring are either married or away at yeshiva or seminary, many parents find themselves suddenly becoming more health conscious. This becomes especially apparent upon opening the refrigerator door: everything seems to have sprouted - bean sprouts of various thicknesses, yogurts, mysterious salads, cut raw vegetables, strange soups and enough mineral water to float a rowboat. Visiting offspring tend to inquire: "Is there anything Normal to eat around here?" But when the grandchildren are expected - all kinds of fattening, chocolaty treats seem to materialize again!

Nowadays, aside from what we can learn from the appliance's contents, one can actually garner a "garden of information" from the outside, too. Invitations to simchas are prominently displayed in the hopes they will be remembered at the appropriate times. Children's tests and/or grandchildren's original artwork are proudly exhibited. Notes of "Things to DO", Bills to Pay, are all firmly anchored by colorful magnets with messages that range from: "Be nice - it's contagious" or "Those who indulge - bulge" to "I never met a calorie I didn't like."

It's all there at the meeting place that attracts both residents and visitors. And to think there were times when the rerigerator was only used for food storage!

May we always enjoy the appliance and its inner and outer contents in good health and happiness.

Purim Somayach!


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.