Refrigerators in Belgium

The refrigerator and related practices in Belgium in the second half of the 20th century: their introduction, diffusion and formation (preliminary title).

Willem Scheire

Nowadays, almost every home in Belgium has a refrigerator. Very few kitchens do not preserve a prominent place for this apparatus. More so: we open, and thus use it, in general every day, several times a day. This device has made feeding as simple as ‘a walk to the fridge’. The refrigerator has influenced, changed, maybe even made obsolete certain ways of preserving, preparing, cooking and eating food. The refrigerator thus is not merely a passive material object. It is a medium for (changed) practices, and the site of their convergence. This makes it an interesting starting point for researching food habits and material culture in 20th century domestic Belgian kitchens. In this research, the refrigerator is considered as a being in a two way -relationship with humans. In a certain way, it ‘is what it is’: a device to preserve food in a cold environment. Yet the way we perceive it and use it is certainly not god given. How were refrigerator based practices and discourses formed over time? The symbolic qualities we attach to material goods can change over time. The refrigerator wasn’t always taken for granted. So how did we get here? How was the refrigerator integrated into our homes? By researching advertisements and articles, mainly in women’s magazines, this research hopes to be able to find out how the refrigerator, as a medium for practices, was constructed textually and visually. Which arguments were used to convince people that the refrigerator was a necessary or at least desired part of their home and daily food practices? With this research topic, I hope to contribute to knowledge of post-War consumer society, the material culture of the home and food-related mentalities. This research will focus on Belgium in the second half of the 20th century.

  • 2010-2014
  • Geconcerteerde Onderzoeksactie - Human and Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (GOA)
  • supervisor: prof. dr. Peter Scholliers