Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Not Having A Fridge


I know this is ostensibly a food blog, but bear with me as I veer off into food politics a bit. I was watching The Daily Show and found this clip from their continuing series on Class Warfare. The quote about the poor beginning about 4:30 in floored me:
"Whe you look at the living conditions of the 43 million Americans that the census says are poor, you see that they in fact have all these modern conveniences...99 percent of them have a refrigerator."

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World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over

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So now people apparently aren't considered poor if they have a refrigerator. A REFRIGERATOR!

It started me thinking about the last time I had to live without a fridge. I moved into a house with no fridge and had to buy a new one. I'm not poor, or I would have gotten a 30-year-old used one that sucks up $300 in electricity every year like I had back when I made minimum wage.

I bought one at Sears and they said it wasn't in stock and would take a week to deliver. No problem, I thought. I can survive a week without a fridge. I can eat non-perishable food and eat out, because I can afford that.

But if you don't have a fridge and you do want some perishable food, say something nutritious like milk, cheese or eggs, you'll need ice.

I didn't have an ice chest, because I was only missing a fridge for a week, so I just put the ice and small cartons of milk in a dish pan and covered it with a baking pan with newspapers on top for extra insulation. Still, I had to buy ice every day. It was messy and inconvenient and expensive, but for me, with my income, it was a short-term problem and I could easily survive.

If you're poor, you don't have the same luxury of eating out and wasting money on small sizes of food. You also don't have the comfort of knowing a brand new fridge will be delivered at the end of the week.

Ice is expensive. And heavy. So if you don't have a car - which I'm assuming you don't, if you're too poor to be able to afford a $50 yard-sale fridge - you have to schlep 10-pound sacks of ice. Heavy, cold ice.

Hope you're not old or disabled or live more than a few blocks from a grocery store! And I hope you don't need any other groceries, because once you have a couple sacks of ice, it's pretty hard to carry anything else.

I also hope you have the spare $3 a day you'll need to buy 2 bags of ice. You could make ice almost for free but HEY, THAT'S RIGHT, you don't have a fridge SUCKA. So that's $3 a day - or about $1000 a year you'll need to support your non-fridge habit. And since the federal poverty level is $22,000 a year for a family of FOUR, I'm sure you'll miss that $1000 pretty badly.

You could have bought about 750-1000 pounds of dried beans with that same amount of money, but that would be ridiculous. You're poor. You don't deserve a fridge!

And if you do want to cook perishable food, you'll have to buy it in small quantities you can use right away. So instead of buying a pound of margarine on sale, you'll have to buy it by the cube at the corner convenience store, because the market doesn't sell it in tiny quantities. It will cost you about as much as a whole pound, maybe more, but that's the way it goes, right?

You'll probably waste a lot of food, too, from spoilage or getting soaked by water from melting ice, food you can ill afford to lose. But waste is part of the American way! Learn to embrace it.

As you can see, I'm being sarcastic. I'm just hiding the fact that I'm so furious at the numbskulls who think poverty is easy, that it doesn't take cleverness and flexibility and constant scrambling to just get by. They sit up in their studios and have their lattes brought to them by production assistants and talk about how poor people have refrigerators and how that makes it almost like not being poor at all. I have two words for them, and they aren't "Bon appetit."


alienbody said...

*shakes head* I really, really don't know how to comment. I'm still stunned.

Cindy said...

The sad truth is that if you're poor, with out a refrigerator, you will probably eat from McDonald's value menu every day because it's cheaper than buying groceries day to day.

We went 10 days without electricity in June. The worst part was throwing away everything in our fridge and freezer.

I don't know how anyone could make light of the poor and what they struggle with everyday. Shame on those that do.

Aunt Snow said...

Well, one reason poor people do have refrigerators is because their landlords own them - in most US cities apartments come with a fridge. Even the fleabag studio in Lower Manhattan I rented in 1978, on an income of less than $15,000 a year.

Rental houses, not so much.

That said, I remember being housed in a cheap motel for a temporary job out of state. No car - the boss picked me up on his way to work at his site. The only things within walking distance were a cheap coffee house and some convenience stores. I could buy a box of cereal, but to chill a quart of milk I had to use the motel's ice machine. Couldn't cook anything, but I could keep cheese and crackers. I had a can-opener so I could eat tunafish.

It was only temporary, and I didn't starve or anything, but it was weird to realize how limited my options were.

SUEB0B said...

Alienbody - I don't know how we have slid down so far the slope to where these are our standards...

Cindy - you're right. You can get 3 value priced items for the price of 2 bags of ice

Auntie - My landlord is too cheap to supply a fridge.

alienbody said...

Ugh..I hate that I can't change "Alienbody" to my name, Melissa. Tried, but Google/Blogger is a pain in the hiney.

And, scares me, especially raising teenagers (13yro girl and 15 yro boy). Frightening.

bernthis said...

I mentioned this the other day to someone who said, "Well in this country we have a very high standard of living. The poor do have a lot. I mean if you want poor,look at India..."

I'm still searching for words.

Anonymous said...

I love that Democrats are waging "class warfare" for asking that millionaires and billionaires not be taxed more and not get tax breaks for their yachts and private jets, but Rebuplicans complaining about the working poor not paying taxes (because they make so little) isn't class warfare. Compassionate consevative my ass.