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240 × 156 mm
224 pages
118 illustrations, 65 in colour
01 Oct 2017
Science Museum

Refrigerator The Story of Cool in the Kitchen Helen Peavitt

Humans have been preserving food for millennia, but the refrigerator is a relatively new addition to our homes. Just before the Second World War, only 3 per cent of British households had one. In the interim years the fridge has become accepted as a taken-for-granted necessity blending into the household environment – background noise in the general hum of the kitchen. This book explores the history of refrigeration and how the fridge has become an essential appliance in our homes today.

Refrigeration technologies – essentially a completely new method of preserving and transporting all manner of perishable goods – had a profound impact on society from the nineteenth century onwards. Helen Peavitt leads us through the rooms, cabinets and boxes used to keep food, drink and other substances cool, their prime refrigerating function driven by mechanical means or, in earlier times, ice. The story of the refrigerator encompasses tales of scientific discovery, applied technology, power and steam engines; ice harvesting; industrial design and production; popular culture and taste; public health and hygiene; changing climate; technological aversion, danger and the odd dalliance with environmental catastrophe.

The book also explores the advertising and marketing of domestic fridges, and the ways patterns of food consumption have changed over the decades thanks to home refrigeration. Today our domestic refrigerators are food hubs: the nexus from which we plan our meals, store foods and focus our eating habits. Strikingly illustrated, Refrigerator: The Story of Cool in the Kitchen is an informative and often entertaining history of an object that has changed the way we eat and live.

Published in association with the Science Museum, London.

‘This is a book of hallucinatory wonder by a Science Museum keeper who writes with that rare combination of synoptic, grandiose acedemic majesty and wry humour. Midnight kitchen wanderers know the strange light an open fridge casts into darkness. Helen Peavitt’s Refrigerator illuminates not just our kitchens, but our entire value system.’ – Stephen Bayley, The Spectator

‘Peavitt’s intriguing nose-dive into the history of this pivotal but everyday invention exposes the role household technology and its increasingly rapid development plays in dictating socioeconomic identifiers . . .  Whether you’re packing twenty bottles of Cristal or hoarding a four-day-old lasagna in the run up to payday, the brilliantly researched stories and nostalgic photographs in Peavitt’s ode to cool are bound to make you smile.’ – AnOther Magazine

‘An important book – a masterful study that is both fascinating and entertaining about the every-day appliance that shaped, more than any other, the way we live and eat.’ – Claudia Roden, food writer

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Helen Peavitt is curator of Consumer Technology at the Science Museum, London.