I Bought a Tiny “Parisian” Fridge and I Totally Regret It

published Sep 11, 2017
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Everything is better in Paris. I know that. Attempting to make my American home my own version of a Parisian apartment was destined to be a disappointment. I live on the wrong continent with a different way of life. But I couldn’t resist.

I should have resisted.

The little Parisian kitchen that started it all. (Image credit: Dana McMahan)

Getting Inspired by the French

I spent nine days at the most adorable Airbnb ever a couple of years ago. The Yellow Flat in the Canal St. Martin area of Paris was everything you dream of when you dream of Paris. And I lived the perfect Parisian life there for one glorious week-plus. That included popping out to boulangeries, patisseries, markets, and even La Grande Epicerie to stock the flat with all things delicious. Anything to be chilled went into the darling, minuscule, oh-so-Parisian refrigerator.

How nice it was to have such a minimalist fridge. How magical to store some rosé, a bit of charcuterie, a little fruit, some macarons, those delicious French yogurts, some water (even the water tastes better there!), and to have just a little bit of space still available. Opening that tiny fridge made me happy, just as every little activity of daily living makes me happy while I’m in Paris.

So when my husband and I came home and abruptly decided to buy a massive Victorian to fix up, the correspondingly massive fridge in the horrific kitchen had to go. With double doors looming so large they blocked part of a doorway, our inherited fridge screamed American supersize. I wanted to go the opposite route. Inspired by our little fridge in Paris, I became determined to buy the smallest fridge we could find at a big-box store in the U.S. (Without getting a fridge meant for offices or college dorms.) This rather perplexed the sales guys who tried to steer us toward refrigerators the size of SUVs. “It’s just the two of us,” I protested, as I dreamed of daily visits to markets for ultra-fresh, vibrant produce. “Show me a smaller one. Don’t you have anything slimmer?”

Finally I found it. An elegant, slate gray model that would look perfect with our zinc countertop (also inspired by Paris, naturellement). We splurged on an ice maker for the wee freezer (because I am still American).

It was gorgeous. I was in love.

Then I went grocery shopping. In America. And it was all downhill from there.

Why I Wish I Got a Larger Fridge

Fast forward a year and a half: Instead of opening the fridge with a dreamy smile of anticipation, I do so with a grimace and often a curse word or three, as I plunge my grasping fingers into a morass of Rubbermaid containers, giant gallons of milk, equally giant wine boxes (until I figured out you could remove the plastic bag from the box to save room, albeit making it look like there are bags of bodily fluid in the fridge), and leaning towers of condiments more likely than not to topple when I try to extract the soy sauce for the grocery-store sushi I bought. I bought this grocery store sushi, by the way, because I don’t cook anymore … because I can’t fit anything in my blasted refrigerator.

I thought we would waste less food because there wouldn’t be room for too much excess. Instead, more goes to waste because everything is piled helter skelter on top of everything else and then I forget about that bag of Brussels sprouts I was so looking forward to roasting. I imagined we’d go to the store daily, French-style. But then the last remaining grocer in my neighborhood closed, meaning it’s now an event to go to the store, one in which we must stock up so we don’t have to go again for quite some time.

When we started cooking food for our dogs (yes, we’re those people) I had to go all in and buy a (small!) deep freezer to keep in the mudroom because do you know how much meat an 85-pound puppy eats? That freezer is currently its own gong show of frozen yogurt Popsicles (for the humans) and ground turkey (for the dogs), but the fridge stays a mess. My blood pressure probably soars 20 points every time I open the fridge. Occasionally I go on an organizing rampage and clear everything out and start over with a nice, streamlined refrigerator. A week – I lie, a day – later, though, and it’s back to madness.

Tips on Organizing a Small Fridge

Here’s what I didn’t consider. Dinner here is not an Instagram-ready cheese and charcuterie plate with artfully draped grapes (okay, sometimes it is, but I try really hard to be a grown-up most of the time, and eat a vegetable). My days aren’t spent wandering the arrondissements in search of the perfect eclair, or preparing picnics for leisurely afternoons. I certainly don’t have anything resembling a patisserie, boulangerie, or frommagerie in walking distance of my house. (Hey, I was ecstatic when the neighborhood liquor store starting carrying baguettes!) So to expect a Paris-style fridge to serve my real-world needs was, well, just not very realistic.

But you know, as I sit at my kitchen counter writing this, I do admire its sleek lines. Would I trade it for a giant double door model that could hold half a cow’s worth of meat? Peut-être. It would be nice to be able to see everything that’s in it without having to unload half of it first. Yes, I regret the reality of my small fridge. But I can’t quite let go of that dream of Paris. So the fridge stays.

Have you made any large appliance decisions that you’ve later regretted?