Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hooray for Ice!

I'm celebrating the fact that I finally have a refrigerator again! I didn't have one when I moved into my flat, and for the past three months I've been fridgeless. It's not much fun, and ended up being quite expensive, as I had to eat out a lot. Luckily, a friend has come to the rescue and lent me his bar fridge for as long as I need it, so now I can have milk and fresh vegetables again.

I was mentioning this the other day when I visited one of my relatives. She's my first cousin twice removed, and was born in Hungary in 1921. She was saying that she remembers how in the winter when the Danube river froze, they would take a horse and cart and cut blocks of ice from the river. These would be placed in a big pit, which had been prepared with straw. The ice was then covered with more straw and planks of wood, then straw on top of that, and finally a layer of earth. Throughout the spring and summer, they would chip off enough ice to fill the ice box and keep food cool. How laborious!

My father remembers the ice man coming round in Budapest in the 1940s and 50s. He came by at least once a week, and had a horse-drawn cart with a big block of ice in it. If you wanted a piece of ice, he would cut it off, then balancing it on his shoulder, which was covered with a piece of leather or hessian (much like in the photo above from Berlin) he would take it up to your flat. You could buy different size pieces for different prices. The ice would of course melt eventually and you would have to drain the water out through a little spout at the bottom. And I though defrosting the freezer compartment was a pain!


  1. What a great story. My grandmother, who lived on a farm in Northern NSW, had to cook three hot meals a day using a fuel stove. She didn't have a fridge so they would have had to use some sort of ice box too - would have been rather interesting with the fuel stove going and a 35 degree summer day! I always think of her when I am laboriously slaving away at the stove preparing food for my family. Best, M.

  2. Hi!! Cool blog :-D Nice to see another Hungarian around these parts.

    Interesting story about the ice delivery man. I'll have to ask my parents what my grandparents solutions were back in the 50's. I know that part of Europe was no happy place after the war and Romania didn't fare any better than Hungary. We had food rationing up until when I can remember but I'm pretty sure everyone had fridges.
    Though my family is from the country and everyone had their own chickens/geese and other livestock to provide fresh meat and/or milk plus the small veggie patch out the back. So possibly no one really needed a fridge or freezer that desparately. :-D

  3. I can live with without refrigerator,I would like to have the chance of read something about the information that the people need about food in ice!