cold press

cold press

It is not so many decades since refrigerators were unheard of. Electricity to run them was also relatively unavailable. Tilly lamps and accumulator batteries gave slight light and indifferent radio signals.
Food was bought on the day it was eaten, or for the long term, winters, it was dried and hung up or salted, or preserved in jars as pickled fish, meat or eggs, the vegetables and fruits were in vinegars and wine. There were many methods used, but essentially the food, if preserved properly, was good for many months, and it didn’t matter much where it was stored.
In between these two possibilities was the ‘press’, and it was to be found on the coldest side of the house, usually built right into the thick farmhouse walls.
The above drawing gives you a rough idea of how it might look. Note the metal grills open to the outside; they could be closed off in the worst of weather. The shelves upon which everything sat were made of stone slabs (in our part of the world, slate), but I have seen them cut from the prettiest marble. Press size was whatever it could be, but the door to protect the contents was very sturdy and it closed against a wooden or metal cuff all round, to prevent visitations from beasties of all sorts. There were good things in there, breads, cakes, pies, milk, cream, cheese, cold meats, fish, sugar, flours, fruits and vegetables that would spoil in a regular cupboard, etc., etc.,
Most of those presses were much colder than an average present-day fridge and cost nothing to keep going. Most people eat out their fridges once a week anyway, which was well within the spoilage time of the old-style wall cupboard.
Point being that big fridges are not really needed. There is an element of convenience, but most of the time, food is not kept at its best in them, spoilage for many foods is high. Maybe so, I hear you think, but we don’t have stone walls to build into.
Build the press from wood or metal and line it to restrict heat – there are many methods – and remember the tight-fitting door. It doesn’t have to be on an outside wall, it just has to have access to natural cold air.
Unless there are some extraordinary breakthroughs in electrical costs downwards, better wages etc., etc., we will not be able to each have a power-driven fridge; the same applies to many other appliances in the modern kitchen. Older ways of preparing and storing will have to be rediscovered and incorporated into our homes. The dream kitchen, as displayed in so many magazines, is, I think, a short-lived bubble, it is essentially unrealistic and not nearly as emotionally satisfying as the kitchen areas of my childhood.
We, as a family, are beginning to backtrack, we know what to do, and are excited about meeting the latest challenge in daily living.



  1. Your post reminded me when I was growing up and we did not even have electricity. We did not crave for the many fancy things that we have now but still had a great time. I still have this fascination for fried dried fish because drying fish was a common practice then to preserve them. 😉


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