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Culinary Curiosities: National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day




If you thought Thanksgiving was the big food holiday in November,  you've probably forgotten about “Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day” on November 15.  What?  You haven’t heard of it?  The idea is to clear out and freshen up the fridge in advance of the food-heavy holiday season that tends to overload this overworked and under-appreciated appliance.

The “holiday” was created by the home economists at Whirlpool Home Appliances in 1999, and the company installed a toll-free hotline that people could call into for cleaning tips. Those of you who work in commercial kitchens know those tips all too well.

What they didn’t have in 1999, however were mimes. We counted more than 10 mimes with a clean out your refrigerator theme, including a stunned cat, the Most Interesting Man in the World, Duane from The Office and Gordon Ramsey yelling.

Before you could clean out your refrigerator, someone had to invent it for you. ‘

Early cold storage systems in America were located not in kitchens, but underground, according to the Americanhistory website. A seven-foot pit found at Jamestown may have been a hut built over the pit to trap cold air and help preserve perishable items that were insulated by ice and straw.

The natural ice harvesting industry in America began to take off in the early 1800s. The process looked somewhat similar to crop harvesting, with horses pulling plow-like ice cutters across frozen lakes and ponds, the AmericanHisptory website says. Ice needed to be 8-inches thick so it wouldn’t melt too quickly while it was being transported.

William Cullen at the University of Glasgow is credited with inventing the first artificial refrigeration system in 1748.

Once the refrigerator became a mainstay in kitchens, lefovers became a goldmine for interprising salesmen of products such as Tupperware.

Ironically the people who need a special holiday to clean out their refrigerators are office workers. Sometimes the problem is an errant coworker who “cleans out” your stash of frozen dinners, other times it’s the leftovers that begin to take on petri-dish personalities that are the problem. Just like the mimes created for this, the internet also has a listing of the best passive-aggressive fridge notes written by co-workers. Our favorite was a woman who warned the perpetrator of her water bottle theft that she had added her estrogen to the water. “Have fun with that,” she gloated.  

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