The Goddess Speaks
Visitor gripes about food containers
My daughter recently visited us from her home in Virginia, and in only a few days she became convinced that in Hawaii we're part of a conspiracy relating to the quantity and quality of our consumer goods. She noted that the baby shampoo she bought here was runnier than on the mainland, that there were holes in the Oreo bag where cookies should have been and that even the sliced peach containers she bought here had fewer peaches in them than the same brand on the East Coast.
I thought this was amusing until I read in the newspaper that major food producers are planning to keep selling the same products, but because of rising production costs, they intend to put less weight or fewer items in the containers. So, maybe my daughter has a point about the runny baby shampoo.
Lately I have started paying serious attention to packaging. Indeed, I've become a grocery-store packing pest. I spend my time lifting and shaking all the containers, checking for peaches in the see-through containers and squeezing the Charmin.
However, family preferences sometimes prevail, although it really does bother me when I open a box of cereal and find the cereal hasn't reached the halfway mark inside. I know I leave a carbon footprint in my wake, so I would rather have a smaller container if I'm getting a smaller portion. Wouldn't a smaller holder for less of what is held make more sense?
Anyway, for what it's worth I just don't seem to be able to feed as many people as I used to with one of those 5-pound boxes of frozen chicken thighs. Someone in the chicken business worked it out so that the good bits end up in a nice flat tray sold for double the price, and the rest of us teriyaki barbecue people get more bone and fat for the box.
Even Costco nearly doubled the size of one of their pill containers without doubling the quantity inside. Ergo, we get more packing but less substance. Air is the new normal, and we seem to be OK with fewer peaches as long as we get a pretty label.
I miss my grandmother's Mason-jar fruit, where a peach had some dimension and the syrup was made from fruit instead of corn. No fancy packaging, and the glass was always sticky, but oh boy, that luscious warm summer sun in every bite!
I think the whole packaging-empty-space and runny-shampoo thing is a fine analogy for modern life. Things seem thinner these days, less substantial. Friendships are diluted because no one has the time for relationships, and even our leisure hours run through our fingers faster than they used to.
Instead of enjoying the golden thick hours of the late afternoons, we watch our lives pouring out with such speed that we're often left staring at the empty spaces in our hands and wishing for simpler packing, and more substance, in the measurement of our days.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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