With new technology, it's best to slam the fridge

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Looking in America's refrigerators can be an adventure even when you're out of college.

For years, Joni and I have tried to avoid brewing science experiments. But leftovers sometimes have a mind of their own, hidden in the corner behind the jar of olives and the tub of butter.

It can be a scary sight.

Now along come University of Georgia scientists who tell us that our fridges have been war zones for years.

Fresh fruits and vegetables play a survival game inside refrigerators, we are told. Apples and pears emit fumes that ruin lettuce and celery. Peaches and strawberries tolerate temperatures that wither green beans and squash.

Some researchers at the Georgia school think there's a better way to store food and secure peace in the fridge. Their vision for the future includes high-tech fruit bowls that will keep apples fresh, but not cold and hard, and climate-controlled pantries that will allow bananas to ripen but not turn brown.

"You can't just throw everything in the crisper and have everything be at the right temperature and relative humidity," biological engineer Stan Prussia told The Associated Press.

The goal of Prussia and other researchers is to come up with smart fridge drawers that can be programed to adjust the temperature so food will ripen at the desired time.

The high-tech pantry would have nine or more separate drawers, each capable of providing the ideal environment for all sorts of food.

Researchers believe it would initially be built into upscale homes, possibly as a kitchen island the size of Manhattan.

That's just great. Some of us only recently learned how to program our VCRs. Now we're going to have to be computer gurus to use our refrigerators.

Most of us will be forced to dine out because we won't be able to program our refrigerators. All it would take is one glitch to turn our entire fridge into a crazy chemistry lab.

Personally, I prefer the low-tech approach. I like throwing all the food into the refrigerator wherever there is room. I don't want to have to wrestle with a whole bunch of temperature controls.

With refrigerators, I've always felt the best approach is to get in and get out, not linger with the door open like my children sometimes do.

I like the upfront approach. I want the lunch meats, grapes, milk, fruit juice bottles and ketchup up front where the whole family can find them.

Joni is the only one in our family who looks beyond the first line of food to see what might be lurking way back on the refrigerator shelves. The rest of us just grab what's up front, which is generally edible.

I don't want to have to sort the groceries temperature-controlled drawer by temperature-controlled drawer. At that rate, it would take all evening to put away the food.

By then, Becca and Bailey would have turned our living room into a haunted house and we would still be fine-tuning the climate for bananas.

Researchers would do better to focus on improving our groceries so they can get along without a lot of high-tech pampering.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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