Refrigerator Envy

On Thanksgiving, everyone could use a large, empty refrigerator that is about twice its normal size. You know — a refrigerator that is large enough to allow you to retrieve a can of Diet Coke without risking knocking over multiple aluminum-foil covered bowls, serving dishes, and gravy boats that have been carefully stacked and balanced to consume every square inch of scarce refrigerator space?

Why can’t somebody invent an expandable refrigerator that you could use for the holidays? Like dining room table manufacturers did years ago, when they figured out that you could design tables to be extended so as to include an extra leaf or two when needed? Ideally, the expandable holiday refrigerator would include a special pie storage area, a beer bottle rack that would project out when the door is opened, and an extra large storage area to carefully secure all of the leftover turkey that will be used over the coming week.

Smarter Than The Average Fridge

Recently I came downstairs in the morning, opened the refrigerator to get my customary glass of orange juice, and noticed that the juice was warmer than usual.  My internal sensors started sounding, and after a little checking I realized that the refrigerator didn’t seem to be cooling anything — or for that matter, working at all.

So, how to try to fix the problem?  The refrigerator is one of those big, multi-section units that was installed by the people who lived in this house before we bought it three years ago.  Given the constant advances in “smart appliance” technology, our refrigerator therefore isn’t at the head of the class, but it’s not like the simple old Norges or Amanas of my childhood, either.

It was a situation that called for some careful analysis.  After an initial examination of the device, I realized that the front display screen, which allows you to set the desired temperatures for the different sections, select cubed ice or crushed ice, and use a “power cool” feature, was illuminated.  I reasoned that that meant that the refrigerator was connected to a power source — which was a good thing because the refrigerator is much too heavy to actually move to visually check whether it was plugged in.  After feeling an initial flush of pride at my deductive powers, I then realized that the “0” in one temperature monitor part of the screen and the “FF” in an adjacent part of the screen were together spelling “0FF,” and I felt like an idiot.

I shook off the embarrassment.  A thorough examination of the interior and exterior of the refrigerator did not identify any switch or other method for turning the refrigerator back on, so the next step involved calling customer service — which was unavailable because it was a Saturday, and who would need to have a working refrigerator on the weekend?  Then it was on to the manufacturer’s website to see if it had any useful information.  There were dozens of tips on the website, but of course none that addressed our problem.  The best guess was to try to cut power to the unit, restart it a few minutes later, and see if it cycled back to the “on” position.  This allowed me to become better acquainted with the circuit breaker in the basement, but it didn’t work either.  At that point, we decided the best course was to just accept that the refrigerator wasn’t working, remove the food that was now at room temperature, and just wait until Monday to call for servicing.

On Monday, Kish called customer service, and was told that there probably had been some unnoticed overnight power surge or brief cutoff that caused the refrigerator to cycle to “off” mode, and she could restart the unit by pushing two of the buttons on the front panel simultaneously.  It worked, and we were back to having a functional refrigerator again.  I was a bit miffed, however.  Would it really have been so hard to have the two buttons to be pushed illuminated and blinking in some fashion, so we would have some clue about how to restart the device, or to have a message flash on the panel that gave us useful instruction?  Or, have clear guidance on the website advising what to do if your refrigerator is showing “0” and “FF” on the panel?  Shouldn’t a “smart” appliance provide such information under the circumstances?

Maybe I’m just mad because my refrigerator apparently is smarter than I am.

 

Back To The Ice Age

20140807-071831-26311110.jpgOur cottage at Rockywold-Deephaven Family Camp — like every other cottage here — lacks a refrigerator.

Instead of the large, humming, ice-making and food-chilling machine found in all of our kitchens, we have an old-fashioned, noiseless icebox. It’s a green wooden piece of furniture with a snug, metal-lined compartment where blocks of ice are placed. The ice is used strictly for cooling, not consumption. The cold radiating from the ice and metal keeps the other contents of the icebox, like Kish’s bottle of diet root beer, chilled.

The ice is made with lake water and comes from the Deephaven Ice House. Every morning male staffers use huge metal tongs to haul blocks of ice out of the ice house and put it in green wheelbarrows, then they hustle from cottage to cottage to replenish the ice in each icebox. It looks like quite a workout. Our iceman who cometh is named Peter, a pleasant young man from the Czech Republic who has worked at the camp for three summers and is looking forward to a fourth next year.

The dining room at Rockywold-Deephaven provides three meals a day, so you really don’t need a big, bulky refrigerator clogging up your cottage space or making noise that interferes with enjoyment of the morning solitude — and it’s kind of nice to live in an appliance-free zone for a while. It’s one of the distinctive touches of this remarkable and very enjoyable place.

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Ice Tray Twist

When I stay in a waterfront vacation rental, I often feel as if I’ve stepped back a decade or two in time.  The appliances, for example, typically have been around for a while, and may not feature all of the most modern amenities.

Consider the refrigerator.  If you open the freezer, you aren’t likely to find an automatic ice-maker.  Instead, you’ll probably see a plastic ice-cube tray.  You’ll need to reacquaint yourself with the lost art of filling the ice tray with water — using the preferred “tilted tray downhill waterfall” method, of course — and develop the reflexes to give the tray just the right degree of twist to free the ice, without applying too much torque and causing the cubes to spring uncontrolled from the tray like escaped convicts and fall to the floor.

If you’re really lucky, the refrigerator will have a metal tray with a handle that needs to be pulled up to break the ice.  That was my favorite as a kid — with the metal fittings frost-covered and burning cold to the touch as you gripped the handle, and the loud cracking sound as the handle was lifted with a yank and the ice splintered into shards.

Appliances that remind you of your childhood, when your grandmother referred to “the icebox” and ice cubes were hand-made, make vacations a little sweeter.