Find souvenirs in reused food containers like Cool Whip

It was a tweet heard on the Internet. Two images, side by side: a royal blue Royal Dansk box, filled with nested sugar-studded butter ...

It was a tweet heard on the Internet. Two images, side by side: a royal blue Royal Dansk box, filled with nested sugar-studded butter cookies in white wrappers, next to an identical box with a much less appealing assortment of buttons and threads. Written under the first image: “My fall projects”. Under the second, “the Delta variant”.

The August tweet, which followed a popular meme on the pandemic disappointment, attracted over half a million likes and 75,000 retweets. Its author, the film critic Carlos aguilar, was surprised to discover that he had had a seemingly universal experience: reusing a Royal Dansk box as a sewing kit, and the dismay of all the children who opened one.

“This thing that I thought was a niche and specific to being Latin and being Mexican turned out to be a global phenomenon,” said Mr. Aguilar, 32, who grew up in Mexico City and lives in Los Angeles. Angeles.

Food can inspire strong emotions. And sometimes the container it entered can elicit an even stronger response. Royal Dansk Boxes, Cool Whip Jars, Dannon Yogurt Containers, and Bonne Maman Jam Jars – all belong to an unofficial hall of fame of containers that have been redeployed for a myriad of uses, giving them countless lives after death and often imbued them with a special meaning that transcends everything they contained in the first place.

When Folu Akinkuotu sees a Royal Dansk box, she doesn’t think of cookies, but of the time her mother taught her to sew a button. Country Crock’s Taupe Spread Jars, with their nostalgic barn feel, remind him of how his family used them to store leftover jollof rice and egusi stew.

The Country Crock container turned out to be particularly functional, said Ms Akinkuotu, 31, who lives in Boston and writes a snack newsletter called Unbreakable. “It didn’t fade even after going in the dishwasher, even after being microwaved several times, or it was passed down from family to family.”

“I have a relationship with the container,” she said, “not with the product itself. “

In recent years, perhaps spurred on by the DIY spirit of the coronavirus pandemic, these containers have become pop culture totems. In the 2020 Pixar film “Soul” a Royal Dansk cookie box with sewing supplies can be found in the protagonist’s mother’s sewing studio. Doing dose together in a 2019 video, actress Mindy Kaling and Kamala Harris (then presidential candidate) bonded over how their parents stored spices in jars of Taster’s Choice instant coffee. In October, novelist Rachel Khong will launch a podcast titled “Trash / Treasure“; each episode will focus on making a specific container and how it is reused.

Through social media, reincarnations have become part of the cultural discourse as people realize that what they thought was a quirk of their particular community or generation is much more prevalent.

There is no limit to what can be turned into a new goal: purple drawstring bags that cover Crown Royal whiskey to keep Scrabble tiles, Altoids boxes for spare change, coffee boxes Folgers for nuts and bolts.

Some companies are well aware of the attractiveness of their containers. Country Crock’s Instagram page teaches how to turn an empty tub into a bird feeder or the basis for a gingerbread house. Dannon’s has a post on grow a herb garden in a yogurt pot. But representatives for those two companies and Royal Dansk said their packaging was not intentionally designed to be reused.

Jonathan Asher has worked in packaging design and research for over three decades. He said when consumers in focus groups only talked about how they could reuse a container, “it was the kiss of death.”

“It doesn’t make people buy the product if the benefit is only, ‘I can put buttons in this pack.’ “

The American packaged food industry as we know it emerged in the late 19th century. By the time of the Great Depression, reusing store-bought containers had become a popular way to save money and make meals longer, Asher said. For many people today, old containers are a reminder of a more thrifty and resourceful era.

Deva Hazarika, 49, said that when he was growing up in Houston, he didn’t know many families who bought Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or other branded storage products. As for the food containers, he said, there were only a handful that were well designed and widely available, and that came with an inexpensive product.

Mr. Hazarika, who founded several enterprise software start-ups in San Francisco, loved Royal Dansk boxes, for what he called their “false elegance” and “chic” script. He used it to store school supplies; even if they fidgeted in his backpack, the cover would stay in place.

The home sewing kit is the most popular use for cookie tins. The practice became mainstream during World War II, when people were encouraged to reuse materials as much as possible, a spokeswoman for Royal Dansk said.

Corn Marina feng, 28, a reporter for HuffPost, said her family discovered that airtight cans maintained the taste of wood-eared mushrooms long after they were purchased.

The family of Megha Desai, 42, found the boxes to be the perfect size to store the papadum. And these weren’t the only reused containers in the home in the Boston area where she grew up: Dannon yogurt jars could hold “exactly two to three portions of dal,” and several could fit in the refrigerator at a time, she declared. Nescafé instant coffee pots have been put into service for the masala chai. The jars of Vlasic pickles contained lentils. (Ms. Desai, who now lives in New York and heads the nonprofit Desai Foundation, couldn’t understand why her family had so many jars of pickles, but never ate pickles. Turns out her mother had arranged with an Italian restaurant to take her empty jars.)

As a child Leslie Stockton, 48, an educator in Alexandria, Va., Used Country Crock pots to keep Play-Doh wet, and her grandfather used them for nails and screws. She recently turned a five-year-old into a gardener. Unlike many other containers, she said, Country Crock bins are stackable and easy to clean.

Elizabeth McMullen, 34, publicist for the Bio Valley dairy cooperative, recalls that Cool Whip containers were also appreciated for their versatility and sturdiness in his grandparents’ home in western Wisconsin. If the containers fell, the lid would not come off, she said. The plastic was easy to write on, so her grandmother could label the leftovers. And when there was no label, Ms McMullen loved the mystery of opaque containers – Is this one filled with mashed potatoes or whipped cream?

Not all containers are recognizable on the mass market as a Cool Whip container or a Royal Dansk box. But they can still have special meaning.

Christina Valle, a publicist in Boston, thinks of the Doña Maria mole pots, which her grandmother used as drinking glasses. “It looks like fancy crystal glass” once the tag is removed, she said. When she was young, drinking lemonade in one of them always made her feel like an adult.

Her grandmother died three years ago, but her family still have the pots. “I’m allergic to nuts so I can’t really get a mole,” she said, but “it brings back fond memories of her.”

Ms Valle, 30, was embarrassed by her grandmother’s obsession with reusing containers. “It showed that maybe you didn’t have a certain social status,” she said. Now she’s proud of it, just like the others she sees posting on the internet.

Ms Akinkuotu, who writes the snacks newsletter, says she and many others her age have realized that their families aren’t the only ones reusing the packages. “I think especially as millennials we like to think that all of our experiences are very unique,” ​​she said. “A lot of them aren’t.”

The containers that she and others her age reuse tend to be from a more recent vintage than, say, the Country Crock Jar: Crofter Jam Jars, Talenti Gelato Cups, or Gravy Jars. Classico pasta. But containers like Country Crock’s remind it of a bygone era – when pastels and minimalism weren’t the predominant aesthetic of products, and before revelations about corporate abuse returned the concept of brand loyalty. extremely complicated.

“You can’t miss the real experience of eating these items,” she said. “But interacting with these brands and having a relationship with a brand,” as she once did, “you kind of miss it, in a weird capitalist way.”

Eric Rivera, 39, owner of Seattle restaurant Addo, traces his love affair with a brand since childhood, when his mother used Country Crock containers to store sofrito. “Whenever I see something Country Crock, I always think there is food that is dope.” he said. “I’m not sure now that means that.”

Despite all the warm feelings they evoke, these containers are not necessarily containers of unadulterated virtue. Some are not recyclable, and the plastics that make many of them so durable are harm global ecosystems. Brian Orlando, Marketing Director for North America at Upfield, which makes Country Crock, says the company tries to come up with environmentally friendly paper packaging for the spread that can always be reused.

As traditional containers disappear, people can get even more sentimental about them, just like they did with vintage pyrex bowls and vinyl records.

Mr. Rivera bought several boxes of Royal Dansk Butter Cookies on eBay when he opened Addo in 2018, so he could incorporate his childhood memories into the dining experience. From time to time, he finishes a tasting menu by placing a box in front of each guest. They open the boxes to find a sugar cookie flavored dessert, like ice cream.

But one of the boxes does not contain any dessert. Inside are sewing supplies.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Find souvenirs in reused food containers like Cool Whip
Find souvenirs in reused food containers like Cool Whip
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