Liesl's Cure: The Fridge Saga - #1

Liesl's Cure: The Fridge Saga - #1

Maxwell Ryan
Feb 25, 2008

Welcome to Liesl, veteran writer for many New York papers and magazines who now is weighing in on kitchen appliances instead of books for a change.

The Old Fridge RIP

"Ever since I moved into my long, narrow, inconveniently laid-out East-Village railroad apartment in the 90s, (a place I love, and can in no way afford to leave) I've joked about how small the kitchen is—"the size of an Amtrak bathroom." But, as anyone who has visited my apartment knows (I like to entertain and to cook, in spite of the Olympic challenge this presents), this is no joke: it's the literal truth..."

"Whenever I get to cooking (for instance, 200 lamb-date-and-pistachio meatballs, three trays of quiche, 250 chicken puff pastries-- given my space constraints, I give cocktail melees, rather than sit-down dinners), I mentally tread the kitchens I grew up in--spacious and high-ceiled, color-coordinated and inviting, stocked with a Pennsylvania barn's-worth of crockery and kitchen tools, and loaded with enough provisions to feed the entire midwest over a holiday weekend.

In my mother's kitchen, the walls are lined with tall, leaded-glass cupboards. There's room on the counters for blenders and food processors, coffee pots, microwaves, toaster ovens, canisters and massive standing mixers-- all of them opulently lazing on islands of butcher block and marble. A dishwasher stands at the ready (dishes helpfully pre-rinsed by basset tongues), and the cook has free range of two ovens (an Aga and an electric), and three refrigerators--a fridge-freezer combo, a fridge-only, and a freezer.

Again, this is my mother's kitchen, not mine. My own is six feet by nine. With cupboards jutting out 26 inches from the east wall, and stove and fridge jutting out 32 inches from the west wall, the aisle in which I work, as I inhabit the kitchen scenes of my youth, and somehow chop, dice, stir, mix, grease and bake--is 16 to 18 inches wide, tops. If I were realistically to accept the tininess of my work zone, I would not boil water here.

But at New Year's, I made a resolution. I could not move (rent stabilization makes that unappealing). I could not widen my kitchen (despite the many dreams I have in which this is effected--with a kind of reverse "Star Wars" hydraulic shaft that cranks the walls out, instead of in, remember the trash compactor scene?). And I could not have my mother's kitchen. But by god I could have a fridge whose doors I could open all the way.

My GE fridge, which was older than Jamie Lynn Spears, was squat, hulking, and capacious. Because of the narrowness of my kitchen, the door hit against the cupboards once it opened two-thirds of the way. It never broke down; and yet, what's the point of a fridge whose door you can't fully open, and whose crisper you can barely tug ajar at all?

Early on in my tenancy, I began to call the crisper "the rotter," because any produce I managed to wedge into the three-inches of pry-openable "crisper" never emerged whole again. At some stage, it all turned into black goo. Eventually, I stopped opening the drawer.

Surely, I thought, in the many years since my appliance was born--back in the Reagan era, back before Americans ate goat cheese--someone must have come up with slim-line fridges that suited apartment living and would make my kitchen more navigable.

You'd have thought so, wouldn't you? Infatuated, intoxicated, impelled by this vision, I scoured the web, hunting my dream fridge. I also emailed designer and decorator friends for tips. Here were my dream specs: 24"x24" footprint, and more than 6 feet tall..."

- Liesl Schillinger

...Since 1991, she has written for many publications in the United States and Britain, chiefly The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the London Independent on Sunday, where she wrote a column about New York life in 1996-98. She now writes full time, and is pursuing the goal of living like an expat in her own city.

Tune in for The Fridge Saga #2 - Tomorrow!

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