No Sugar Added: The case of the vanishing Tupperware
I’d like to touch upon a disturbing topic: things that vanish.
Any adult who has done laundry knows that socks disappear. This has been a source of both fodder and much head scratching over the years. We all know the tale of woe – you put four pairs of matching socks into the dryer, and you get seven socks back at the end of the day. To where did sock number eight disappear? Who knows? As a society, we don’t even try to figure this out anymore. We’ve just accepted the fact that someone will occasionally be wearing non-matching socks, or one lonely sock will be going into the trash or relegated to the position of shoe-shining rag.
So I’m well aware of the sock phenomenon. But in the past year or so, I’ve also become aware of additional items that start out as part of a “pair,” or exist in seeming abundance, and then vanish into some sort of household black hole.
Let’s consider the plight of Tupperware, or any other brand of plastic food storage container. OK, there is the actual container, and then there is the lid. We purchase these container “sets." They are sent off to school or on a picnic or whatever, they go into the sink or the dishwasher, and then, bam – all hell breaks loose.
Recently, in an unusual act of domesticity, I woke up with a deep-seated urge to take every piece of plastic storage-ware and spread it out on our kitchen counter. In our house, we keep these items in the bottom section of a freestanding vintage “Hoosier” cabinet. The containers are stacked according to shape (round, square, rectangular) and the lids are in a separate basket. It’s not easy to access, and if you lack flexibility, you can forget about finding a container for your leftover coleslaw. (But we’re not a particularly practical family. We generally value aesthetics over ease of use in most everything, and thankfully, our knees and backs are still in good condition.)
Anyway, as I pulled out all of the containers and lids, it was already clear that something was amiss; the basket full of lids was in definite disproportion to the stacks of receptacles.
In the end, I tossed at least a dozen topless containers into the recycling bin, along with approximately two-dozen bottomless lids.
How does this happen? Did they have arguments, and march off to someone else’s lunchboxes or picnic baskets? Did they not like living in our Hoosier cabinet? Was there a mutiny at some point?
Clothespins are another household item I find challenging. Long ago, I ascertained that buying a $3 package of 100 wooden clothespins and using them as clips to close bags of chips or cereal, etc., was preferable to spending $3 on two plastic “chip clips.” I may not have majored in economics, but I do know a marketing scam when I see one.
The need to hermetically seal every item in our kitchen became apparent upon moving to a seaside town; were it not for those clothespins, the Raisin Bran that Charles opens at 9 a.m. would be stale and inedible by 9:18 a.m. of the same day.
Therefore, we have a vintage yellow pottery bowl in our kitchen that I routinely refill with new clothespins. Why is this? Where do the clothespins go? Admittedly, some are in use, and one breaks upon occasion, or accidentally gets thrown away with the stale Cheerios. But what happens to the rest?
My family keeps the clothespin industry in the black, apparently.
Perhaps my strategy is wrong. Perhaps if I sprung for the $1.50-each plastic clips, they wouldn’t disappear – much like when you purchase cheap sunglasses you inevitably lose them after a month, but when you splurge on the ones in the locked display cabinet, you have them for most of your adult life.
At this point, I fully expect anthropologists to one day find sprawling underground caverns, filled with mismatched food containers and lids, mateless socks, and lone clothespins sadly searching for open bags of Goldfish crackers.
Meanwhile, I have surrendered to the forces that be.