The salad crisper is a lie. That's what today's post is about. Spoiler alert (pun not intended, but I'll roll with it), I've concluded you should use the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator for anything but vegetables.
Let's begin with the background and motivation. In short, I am tired of finding soggy, mushy, liquidy, half dissolved vegetables in the back of the salad crisper drawer. I'm guessing you can relate.
Success in this situation means that I'm eating vegetables way before they go bad and also probably eating more of them, while also maintaining spontaneity around what I eat.
I spent a fair bit of time considering why vegetables in my fridge went bad, and I think it's a simple case of out of sight out of mind.
Most of the fridge has open shelving, where there's generally a line of site to all items if you peak over what's in front to what's in back.
The vegetable drawer on the other hand, has a clear front, but the top is blocked by both the shelf above, and whatever else is on that shelf. Plus stuff tends to get piled up within the drawer.
To see all the way into the vegetable drawer requires fully opening it, prodding and poking at whatever might be on top, and really digging in there to find something.
The alternative is careful meal planning, which can take the fun out of cooking and snacking, or keeping a careful log of what's in the fridge. I've tried various combinations of magnets, whiteboards, sticky notes, or shopping lists stuck to the fridge, and they work for a little while, but they take a lot of effort to maintain.
Does the crisper even crisp anything?
When developing solutions, it's also important to question assumptions. For instance, I question whether the crisper setting on the vegetable door even does anything. I can't imagine that the airflow through a few small vents amounts to much, particular that when the fridge doors are closed, where they then vent into an enclosed space.
This is clearly a situation with a well defined hypothesis, well suited to the application of the scientific method, using a control batch of vegetables and an experimental batch on the shelf. We could conclusively settle the matter.
Well, I say phooey to that, even if the crisper was keeping veggies crisper, they're still in there so long that they're melting. Lack of visibility is the real problem here.
There's a reason I love open front, hanging/stacking parts bins, and use them both for my laundry and my kids' toys. And it's because I can see in to the bins without opening them.
The fix was simple. Place the vegetables on the open shelves where they're easy to see. To make up for the lost space on the shelves, we had to decide what would get moved around and would now live in the drawer.
It turns out that items with rigid packaging tended to fit better in the drawers, so one drawer is now used for dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream and the other is used for beer, soda, and other single serve beverages.
I can say, without a doubt, that this is a better way to live. The vegetables are easier to see, I eat them more often, and if I open the fridge to see what's there, I'll make a mental note to consume an item if I see it and realize it's been in there for a few days.
I'm now of the belief that all refrigerator layouts need to be completely rethought by their manufacturers, and I don't care if there's any science on it, the salad crisper is still a lie. Change my mind.
aka THE Awkward Engineer