Last year, sometime in late December, after reading about some cultures preserve food more through fermentation, drying, and other methods than refrigeration, I unplugged my fridge to see how long I could go without a fridge. I also noted how cool my windowsill was, providing some natural refrigeration so I could keep food there.
I made it until I went to my mom’s house for the pandemic, so it stayed unplugged about six months. I posted my electric bills, which went to zero electrical power used in some months. Time to start this year..
This time, my prompt came from training the upcoming host of one of the podcast offshoots. He walked me through the process I walk guests through. I hadn’t been able to make it a week that time I rode my bike one hundred miles, so I wanted to try again after the weather cooled.
I held off because of the food in my freezer—some bread gleaned from a store getting rid of it a day past its date, some oranges gleaned from a place throwing out food that was supposed to go to homeless, and some jalapenos from my CSA. Instead of analyzing and planning, as school taught me, I unplugged the fridge and will let the warming food force me to figure out how to preserve them.
A quick search suggested solutions. For example, some jalapenos I’ll preserve with vinegar, some with vodka, some I’ll ferment, and I’ll try drying some. The oranges I’ll see if I can eat fast enough.
The movie The Martian showed the main character trapped alone on Mars, initially with a leaking suit outside a base camp not designed to sustain him alone, let alone enable him to return to Earth.
If anyone asked him “Why bother fixing the suit, you don’t know how to return to Earth?” he may not have started. When I cross the starting line of a marathon, I can’t see the finish. I know I have to take the first step, the second, and so on. I know the value of crossing the finish line.
I know from each time acting on my environmental values, I find myself connecting with people around the world helpless to protect themselves from a system we contribute to. I used to fly around the world, imagining I was connecting with people I was more viewing like zoo animals, destroying the ecosystems and cultures I purported to honor and learn about.
I connect more with cuisine of other places and cultures the more I connect with the plants that grow around here.
People view stewardship as deprivation and sacrifice. I find it’s not about what I give up. It’s what I replace those things with. The experience is constructive, not destructive, positive, not negative.
EDIT (November 24): After researching how to preserve jalapenos and oranges, I did the following while listening to the last chapter of podcast guest Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains, so no time lost:
- Combined diced jalapenos, oranges, carrots, radishes, and salt to ferment into a chutney—an experiment, as my first time making chutney and a new fermentation direction
- Put some jalapenos in vinegar
- Put some oranges in vodka
- Put some jalapenos in an old mix of jalapenos and bourbon my stepfather gave me that I’ve been saving.
The rest of the jalapenos look like they’ll last a few days. There may be more oranges than I can eat before they turn, but I figure they should last at least a week. I’ll hold off on my apples and pear in the meantime. I’ll use eating extra oranges as an excuse for an extra run or row this weekend.
The bread looks good for now. I got something like ten loaves free that they were throwing away. Four or five I gave to a charity called House of Good Deeds at an event with tons of people, so I expect someone picked them up. I ate probably three or four, leaving three. At a slice or two a day, I should be able to finish them before they go stale. If not, I fermented some beet kvass a few weeks ago. I’ll ferment bread kvass next time.
The carrots, cabbage, radishes, kale, and whatever else is in there will stay fresh long enough for me to eat them. I put them on the windowsill, which is pretty cold. Some things I put their stems in water, like the collard greens and Brussels sprout stalk.
I could have unplugged the fridge weeks ago! I’ve learned again to solve problems by acting and facing them, not analyzing and planning without acting.
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