If you have ever been in an Amish kitchen, one of the first things you will notice is that something is off. You’ll stand there for quite a few minutes before you figure it out. There is no hum from the refrigerator. You know the hum; the one that we never really ever notice in our homes except late the night when everyone else has gone to bed and we are quietly having a cup of tea or midnight snack.
Oh the Amish do have refrigerators of a sort. There are two ways that they keep food cold. One is by way of an old fashioned ice box. The is a large insulated box that was usually available in the 30s and 40s and even 50s, before the real electrical appliance era began. There is a spot to put in large blocks of ice and a drip pan that must be emptied out every day.
Another method of keeping food cold is by building a cold pantry over a stream. This cold pantry is usually built out of doors, although I have seen one that was actually in a house! The food, usually butter and milk, stays cold by sitting in the stream. Even in the summer, the flowing water is enough to keep things from spoiling.
We have a little stream here on our new property, although I’m not sure I’ll be building a cold pantry over it. Still, I may do it one day!
But seeing the food cooling methods of the Amish make me feel a bit guilty for that huge refrigerator humming away in my own kitchen. it makes me wonder if I could get by, at least in the winter, of turning it off for a week and storing our food out on the porch. After all, the idea refrigerator temperature is 34 degrees or less, so I could get at least a week, if not a month or more of not using the refrigerator.
Of course, I would have to train the kids to not open and stand at the porch door, looking for something to eat. Our refrigerator at least has an alarm if the door stays open for more than three seconds.
What do you think? Have you ever tried outdoor methods for keeping food cool?