When I spent some time down in the Chihuahua area of Mexico, I was captivated by the culinary habits of the people I met. It wasn’t how they cooked that intrigued me, rather how food was stored. As opposed to the American kitchen, where the refrigerator is a mainstay, many foods we consider perishable — eggs, butter and milk — were kept out on the counter in small Mexican homes. Unlike American households, where food shopping occurs once or twice a week, the Mexican families I spent time around would gather fresh ingredients every day, freeing themselves from the need for a fridge.
Our food shopping habits have changed so much over the years that we’ve lost our understanding of how our fruits and vegetables should be stored for optimal freshness and taste. Artist Jihyun Ryou explores the science of food longevity, creating storage units that beautifully preserve our edibles. In one such study, Ryou developed a wall-mounted trough that contains sand for storing root vegetables upright. “When we keep carrots and leaks at home, we tend to keep them horizontal. But when they are horizontal, they tend to lose more energy because they want to go back to the state they were grown in before, which is vertical,” explains Ryou. The trough keeps the vegetables fresh, while the sand creates optimal humidity.
More than just a study in freshness, Ryou knows that when it comes to food, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind: “I tried to bring your food in front of your eyes… instead of hiding all the food ingredients in the fridge,” she says. Hopefully, by observing our produce every day, we’ll be less likely to let cucumbers and apples spoil in the depths of a crisper drawer. To top it off, Ryou’s study incoprorates a distillation of oral traditions, which the artist sources through a blog called Share Your Food Knowledge. Through relating our individual approaches to food preservation, perhaps this collective know-how will keep tons of produce from winding up in the garbage.
Do you have secrets for keeping produce fresh?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.