Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm Afraid of an Avalanche

When Grams was in elementary school, my mother launched a career as a "Tupperware Lady." In the 1960s it was an acceptable job for a mom with a houseful of kids at home. As a result, Grams was indoctrinated early regarding the importance of "locking in freshness." The most vivid memory I have of her days as a "Tupperware Lady" is delivery day. On delivery day, huge boxes full of Tupperware would arrive on our doorstep. We would haul it into the living room and help sort it first by party, then by customer to make sure all the right Tupperware got to the right hostess. It seemed so organized, although even then I was vaguely aware that this stuff occupied a lot of space.

This leads me to my own kitchen. I'm willing to bet that most of you have a kitchen cabinet that holds various and sundry plastic containers, including but not limited to Tupperware, Gladware, Ziploc, generic freezer containers, and mixing bowls along with lids for all these containers. They run the gamut from round to square and rectangular. Some are shallow and some are deep. Grams is no different.

When Grams and Grandad married, we got lots of real Tupperware for wedding gifts. It's definitely the gold-standard for plastic containers. And it's price reflects that. It's so expensive that if you take it anywhere you have to make sure you put your name on it or don't let it out of your sight. Otherwise it just disappears or you get home without the lid, rendering it useless.

From the get-go I have found plastic containers to be unwieldy and hard to store. It never makes my cabinet look neat and organized like the photos in their ads. It's just a big mess that falls all over the place. Over the last 35 years Grams has tried every conceivable idea for organizing said plastic containers. At various times it's been stacked and sorted by size, shape, color, brand, and a plethora of arrangements. I've bought hangers, racks, and other storage solutions, I've used shoe boxes, and sometimes I've just tossed them all haphazardly into the cabinet.

I even bought one of those "systems" that are advertised on infomercials ... you know the ones that come on a carousel and all the lids fit all the containers. They stack so neatly and only take up about a square foot of space. Honestly, I thought this one was really going to solve all my storage problems. Needless to say, that was not the case. The first set I bought disappeared quickly. (I later found most of them in my son's home in Houston and few in my daughter's home in San Antonio.) So I bought another set that turned out to be of lesser quality. If you drop one, it shatters and whatever is inside splatters all over the kitchen. There aren't many pieces of that one left either.

When we were younger, real Tupperware was a necessity in South Texas. There just weren't any other products that would keep food fresh in our climate. Sometimes the humidity is so high that potato chips become bendable if you don't find a way to seal them. In recent years, the less expensive Gladware and Ziploc containers are good enough quality and are just so much cheaper. When they became available, Grams thought she would never have to worry again about losing them or leaving them somewhere.

But this stuff has an entirely different problem. Unlike the pricey real Tupperware, I can't get rid of the cheap stuff. I thought switching to this cheap stuff would at least create a "turnover" effect. I could leave it someplace and never have to worry about it again, or I could just toss it in the trash, thereby relieving some of the congestion in my cabinet. Hey, it's supposed to be "disposable." That has not been the case. This cheap stuff just won't stay gone. First of all, I can't bring myself to throw it away. I guess it's years of training by my Mom. And, seriously, I could make people sign a legal release before allowing a $30 piece of Tupperware outside of my house and still never see it again. But, neighbors and family members who never in their life returned an expensive piece of Tupperware, stockpile this cheap stuff and bring it home in stacks.

So if you are the recipient of a gift of food from Grams' kitchen that's packaged in a disposable plastic container, please, consider the container part of the gift. Just keep it. If you can't bring yourself to keep it, put something delicious in it and pass it on to someone else. I don't want it back. I'm afraid someday I will open my kitchen door and be buried by an avalanche of plastic food storage containers.

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