The Minimal Refrigerator

I placed my containers of fruits and veggies in the fridge, barely able to fit them on the narrow shelves. Our fridge was stocked, filled from top to bottom, and there are only two of us in our home. We had more food than we needed. But our fridge was full, and I felt good.

It made me think about refrigerators from the past, and I wondered, when did they begin to change, and why?

In the 1950s, refrigerators were pretty pastels, round edges, and short in stature, much different than the boxy ones of the 1970s.

Refrigerators more than doubled in size since the 1950s, when a fridge in the typical American home was a mere 9 cubic feet. By 1980, refrigerators grew to 19.6 cubic feet, and in 2012, 22.5 (tested.com)

But let’s go back a bit. The first home refrigerators were in Indiana in 1911. In the 1920s, freezers were introduced. And by the 1940s, frozen food storage was popular. Refrigerators were small, not like the monsters of today.

Why, and how, did they become so big?

As our homes grew, nearly tripling in square footage since the 50s, so did our appliances. But there is more to it than that.

In the 50s, a larger percentage of moms stayed home and cooked for the family, making multiple trips to the store within a week, and placing whole foods on the table. Much of what was served was not what you see in today’s freezers and stocked on the grocery store shelves. (Though it did exist, and it was around this time frozen dinners came on the market.)

The Big Box Store

Today, in many families, both parents work. Time is short, convenience a necessity, shopping more than once a week is nearly impossible, and the desire (and thus perceived need) is for a larger refrigerator. But there is even more.

When families desired convenience, a few brilliant minds got into the game and created The Big Box Store.

The Big Box Store has everything, multiple boxes of tissues, dozens of batteries, packages with more flashlights than anyone knows what to do with, restaurant size mayonnaise containers, bags of beans larger than a small child, and almost anything one can imagine.

My husband and I have (more than once) fallen victim to the Big Box Store, purchasing large packages of tomatoes and sauce that went bad, and a huge bag of rice that ended up with bugs.

But this isn’t an article about the good, bad, or ugly of a big box store. This is about the size of our refrigerators.

With a large refrigerator comes a desire to fill it, much like the 2500 square foot home with empty space in the corner. Beverages are stuffed in the door, little pudding containers and multiple cheese sticks piled in drawers, and sauces and jams of every flavor are placed on the shelves.

All that food makes us feel rich, look prosperous and well-off, makes us well-fed, and ready for any type of disaster. But are these things true?

How Rich Are We?

Having a lot doesn’t mean richness. It might mean we’ve spent more than we needed to. According to feedingamerica.org and mercola.com, between 40 and 50 percent of food is thrown away. If all that food hadn’t been bought, think of the money that could have been saved. I think of that as I see all the food in my fridge, and wonder, did I need so much?

Looking Good

Prosperity is a goal many aspire to, the right clothes, the expensive car, great jewelry. Even a well-stocked fridge is a sign of being prosperous.

But trying to look good for others is deceitful and dishonest, if only to ourselves. We spend needless time and money impressing people. We often end up in debt because of it.

Well-Fed

As for being well-fed, sad to say, but stocked fridge and freezer is not necessarily the sign of a well-nourished family. Processed foods could mean malnourishment, disease, chemicals fed into growing bodies. Processed foods are not a healthier choice, and often, processed foods are expensive.

Being Prepared

If you want to be ready for a disaster, the fridge is not the way to go. Non-perishables, just the necessities, are your best bet. But be careful, because as I mentioned earlier, even non-perishables expire.

It’s hard to get away from an over-sized fridge. You’d be hard-pressed to find a small fridge in any new home today. But we can get away from the attitude associated with huge appliances. We don’t need to fill our fridge any more than we need to fill our home.

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The Healthy Hippie Diet

I guess you could say I have always had food issues. When I was little, I’d sneak into the kitchen after dinner, looking for something to satisfy my never-ending appetite, and anything that would curb my sweet tooth. Needless to say, I gained a few pounds and hated the way I looked. In my early teens I fixed that problem by becoming anorexic, surviving on only diet soda and oranges.

But in high school, in order to fit in with the crowd, I needed to eat. My eating took a turn to an extreme, and I devoured burgers and fries, shakes and Cokes, and anything with the name Hostess on it. I crammed umpteen pieces of bubblegum in my mouth, doused my baked potatoes in butter and sour cream, and ate anything and everything fried. And vegetables? If it wasn’t a potato, corn, or lettuce, it wasn’t on my plate (at least not by my choice).

Even with all the eating I did in high school, I barely gained weight. You see, I had found a way to beat the system. I figured out how many calories were in each item, and knew exactly how long I needed to exercise to eliminate the weight. Often that meant working-out three hours a day. I may have been eating and exercising, but I wasn’t truly healthy (and never really had been). I had just found a new way of being anorexic.

It was late in high school that I discovered a health food store and began experimenting with unique foods. It was a short phase, but one I would remember forever.

After I was married and pregnant with my first child, I began to realize the impact of my eating. With a new baby growing inside me, I knew my food choices were not for myself, but for him. And so it was, for the first time in my life, I began to eat better. (Other than that one late hot summer night when I ate a bag of potato chips by myself. But we won’t talk about that.) Still, I hadn’t included many vegetables. But even without those, I felt really good.

My new baby was welcomed into the world, and as he grew and began to eat, I knew I had to do something I had never done. If I ever wanted my children to eat vegetables, I knew I had to eat them too. So slowly, I introduced vegetables into my diet. That was the beginning of a grand love affair.

But love affairs often fall apart, and with a busy life and growing family, I usually didn’t find the time, or energy, to eat right. Maybe I thought eating healthy required too many steps, that I had to grind and slice foods, and make some great creation. Maybe I never realized that healthy eating could be easier than that. So instead of simple, healthy eating, I often found our meals being substituted with frozen pizzas and burritos. To top it off, I drank soda, lots of it, to stay awake during my busy nights of work.

Thirteen years ago our family moved to the Pacific Northwest. Once again, I discovered new foods on the grocery shelves, and once again began to eat a little healthier, and even lost a few pounds.

But all my efforts fell away when I endured a brain injury six years ago. It took away my ability and desire to eat. I would have to retrain myself in healthy eating.

Sometimes, I think things happen for a reason. Sometimes I think we need to feel the depth of despair before we can truly appreciate life. My health was its lowest after my brain injury. Pictures from that point show me as weak and frail with dull, limp hair. I had broken teeth and a malnourished body. I truly couldn’t get much worse.

It was through many avenues that I would find the key to a happy, healthy life, and through much, much trial and error.

If you are struggling with health issues, I encourage you to look towards your food. Food sustains and nourishes us, but also takes away the ability to live a full, healthy life.

As Hippocrates says, “Let food be they medicine and medicine thy food.”

Here is the diet of a simple hippie:

Meats – Minimal amount, and minimally processed-preferably not at all. Grass-fed and organic, when possible. Used more for flavoring than as a main attraction, though I do like the occasional bison burger.

Veggies – Lots and lots of veggies, a wide variety, and at every meal.

Fruits – Almost as many fruits as veggies, though veggies win out.

Nuts – I am nuts about having nuts. I try to eat them every day, in homemade nut milk, fudge, or just a small handful.

Extras – Ghee (clarified butter), Coconut, Cocoa, and Honey as a sweetener.

There aren’t a whole lot of other things in my diet, except for the few chips I eat with salsa and avocado. The diet is simple and minimal – it’s what we were given when we were first placed on this earth. Besides, what more do you really need?

(Watch for healthy recipes coming soon!)

One final note: As ridiculous as it sounds, I am grateful for all that has happened to me. I have finally found what true health really is.

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Let’s Talk About Diets

I love the smell of freshly baked bread, cinnamon cookies, and chicken roasting in the oven. I love the sight of bright red apples sitting in the center of my counter. I love the feel of chocolate melting slowly on my tongue. I love everything about food, the aromas, the texture, the appearance. Except lutefisk, I don’t love that.

Food is a necessary ingredient of life. It’s sustains us, gives us energy, keeps our minds alert. Without it we wither and die. Obviously, God gave us food for a reason.

As I ate my lunch today (salmon cakes with homemade pickles, and a blended drink of carrots, oranges, mango, and ginger), I began to think about the different foods in the world, how blessed we were to have them, and how some people have eliminated many of these foods from their lives.

That got my mind wandering further (as it often does) to the types of diets that have existed over the years. I got a little curious and began to do some searching.

There have been a lot of diets over the past decades: Paleo, grapefruit, vegan, vegetarian, detox, kosher, fruitarian, lacto-ovo, flexitarian, pescetarian, plant-based, gluten-free, SCD, plus a host of others, including those that are based on our blood-type, the area our ancestors lived, and diets of the rich and famous. (Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.)

Some diets are necessary, like one that keeps a celiac from gluten, or a diabetic away from sugar. Some diets are understandable, like foods prohibited in one’s religion, or those based on other personal beliefs. But some diets, they are just plain silly, like the junk food diet. Did you know there was such a thing? Don’t even get me started on that one.

The problem I see is this, we are often sucked in (by the grand media) to believe that a certain diet will make our lives better. We will: Feel Better, Look Better, Be More Appealing, Lose Weight (sometimes with no exercise!), and most importantly, Be Popular. Who doesn’t want that?

But I wonder, was eating meant to be that complicated? Were we meant to be on constant diets, always monitoring our calories and food intake? I don’t think so.

I’ve tried other diets. I’ve been vegan, and vegetarian. I am gluten-free (out of necessity), and eliminate other foods from my diet as well (gotta love allergies!) But as for any food my body willingly takes (without my throat closing-up, or my stomach going into a frenzy), I will gladly eat it.

Diets are difficult. It’s not hard when you eat at home, preparing your own meals (as long as it is from whole, unprocessed foods), but try going to a restaurant when you are a vegan, and I can guarantee you most restaurants don’t get it completely right. Mixed inside those ‘vegan’ meals are often things like casein (protein from milk), red dyes made from crushed-up beetles, and beef gelatin. Even miso soup (a vegan staple) may contain fish flakes.

I just don’t believe eating was supposed to be this hard. We were given whole foods, fresh, growing on trees and in the ground. We were given animals to treat responsibly and eat in moderation. God set our bodies up for that. Why do we insist on changing it? Oh yeah, it will us make us popular.

But I don’t care about popularity. I just like my life simple. So I will pull an apple off the tree, a tomato from the vine, and blueberries from a bush. I will eat a simple meal of fish and organic vegetables.

Diet really is simple. We just make it difficult.

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