Susanne Freidberg


On her book A Perishable History

Cover Interview of April 17, 2009

A close-up

The chapter on eggs shows how and why refrigeration used to be controversial, which these days many people will find hard to imagine.  It also contains a good story about the ironic consequences of consumer demand for genuine freshness.  I don’t want to give away the punch line, but it starts from the basic fact that the egg used to be a highly seasonal “crop.”  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t before I wrote this book.  An egg can also under certain conditions last a really long time, which made it an attractive commodity to the early 20th century cold storage industry.  The problem with the egg, of course, is that it’s impossible to tell a fresh one from a stale one just by looking at it.  This led to all kinds of marketplace deception and resulting controversies.  These faded once more-or-less fresh eggs were available year-round—the chapter also tells how that happened—but not without a cost to both consumer and producer (namely the hen).