Die wunderbare Welt der Kühlschränke (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr vom 12.06.2014)
There it stands beside the bar: huge, Veuve Clicquot yellow, retro-curved, chrome-handled. Beautiful.
‘What’s mesmerising you?’ My companion is amused. ‘The waiter?’
The waiter? Well, he’s nice enough. A cross between Adrian Brody and David Beckham. In fact every other female’s eyes are resting on him with a dreamy intensity not usually permissible in public places. But I can’t tear my gaze away from the fridge.
You know the cliché. One always wants what one doesn’t have. When you’re on foot, you want a Porsche. When you’re in an over-chlorinated public pool, you want a private beach. And when you’re about to go home to lukewarm drinks and cheese that’s become more aromatic than its maker ever intended –
‘I want the fridge!’
To be honest, I don’t need this particular fridge. Any old fridge would do. Any cooling system, in fact, that’s more effective than a cardboard box on my balcony.
The fact that I’m lusting after a hunk of whiteware makes me realise I’m no longer the bohemian I used to be. In my early days in Berlin, I lived in a place with lots of floor space, little furniture and no fridge, and I felt happy and free. Fourteen years later, I’ve moved into a place with lots of floor space, little furniture and no fridge, and I’m ready to scream. I admit it: I’m spießig, if it’s spießig to want your beer cold, your milk uncurdled, and your yoghurt white instead of green.
‘I’ll buy you a fridge!’ My companion is famously generous towards poverty-stricken artists. But I’m already committed to a fridge. I bought one five weeks ago from a friend who’s supposed to be emigrating to America ‘any day now’, but unfortunately ‘any day now’ seems to be taking a long time to arrive.
Worse, I’ve begun to feel guiltily responsible for the horrible spring we’ve been having. Whenever someone complains about the unseasonably cold winds and the grey skies, I pretend to agree. But inwardly I’m thinking: Perfect for the fridgeless! Staring at the cartons on my handily north-facing balcony, I send up a secret prayer that summer will never come – at least, not until my fridge does.
My grandmother in New Zealand had no fridge, ever. All meat and perishables were kept in a shady ventilated food safe on her veranda. I used to think, ‘How admirable!’ I used to think, ‘How environmentally friendly!’ Now I think, ‘How did she stand it?’
I take my last sip of well-chilled rooftop champagne and take the elevator back down to ordinary life. On the way home I drop into my local bar. If I saw my fridge-hostage-taking friend there now, I’d bundle her straight off to the airport. Fortunately for her, she’s at home – probably happily making kilos of icecubes.
‘What would you like?’ the barmaid asks. But I don’t hear. I’ve just noticed what I haven’t noticed before: the tall tardis glowing behind her in the kitchen, stocked with olives and cheese and all things chilled. ‘What would you like?’ she asks again. ‘One of those,’ I say, pointing at the fridge. ‘To go.’