Most of us take it for granted that even on the hottest days we
can buy meat, milk, and even ice cream, knowing that the fridge back
home will protect our food from spoiling and melting. Not that long
ago food chilling was done in a whole different way involving man and
horse power rather than electricity. If you live in a northern state
like Maine you may have seen pictures of folks out on frozen lakes
with strange looking implements. Maybe you've seen these tools in
museums. If you're anything like me you've sensed that there's quite
the story behind them. Laurence Pringle tells it brilliantly in Ice!,
a lively narrative nicely enhanced with period photos and drawings.
Before the refrigerator or even the icebox preserving food took
a lot of ingenuity. Meat and fish could be smoked or salted. Root
cellers and streams provided a natural chill. As for access to ice,
it was a matter of location, location, LOCATION. If you
lived in the north (or were wealthy enough to have legions of slaves)
you were in luck. Otherwise, fugedabouthat!
Then there was this guy from Boston who had well learned the law
of supply and demand. His family used ice harvested from their pond
to chill food and drinks in the summer. Frederic Tudor realized that
people in warmer regions would pay big for this luxery. In 1805 he
laid out a plan "for transporting Ice to Tropical Climates". The
reaction? People thought he was a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
It's true that there were a plethora of real world challenges to
this idea. Tudor and his peers, however, did not back off.
Incrementally by trial and error these drawbacks were overcome and his
vision came to change the world. ICE! is a fascinating history of the
ice industry--well worth reading.
My favorite piece is the story of Josephine Walter. Not all
those who worked out on the lakes were men and boys. Josephine would
lead horses out on the lake and attach ice blocks with chains so they
could pull them to shore. Not all people thought this was appropriate
work for a girl. In fact on payroll she was listed as Joe to keep the
company in the dark.
On a personal note, I promised last night I'd tell you about my thrift
shop find. It is an exquisite floor length evening gown embellished
all over with fancier bands at neck and hem. Opera gloves included.
I slipped it on and felt transformed. Just a little long but nothing
the right shoes couldn't fix. Since I hadn't brought friends with me
I let the staff and other customers vote on whether I should buy it.
There was a consensus on YES!!! Too bad school board business isn't
A great big shout out goes out to writers who carefully and lovingly
research life in days gone by to give the rest of us up close and
personal peeks into a history much more fascinating that names and
dates involving rich white men, often spin doctored to make them seem
a lot better than they really were.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod