A Meditation on Tupperware
I can’t stop looking at the Tupperware cupboard. Kitchen cleaning and organization was a part of my Yom Kippur prescription for myself and my cupboard is a masterpiece. I also got rid of a pile of stuff from the bedroom and tidied a drawer but the Tupperware cupboard is a portent, a symbol of things to come, teshuvah. I am a friend/victim of Phranc, the Jewish Lesbian Folksinger Tupperware lady, whose pure love of the product foisted me into that “where’s the f—kin’ lid?” vortex. I love Phranc. She is one of the smartest people I know and subversive in a wonderful way, far more than the persona she’s created would belie. Tupperware has contributed to the economic empowerment of women, back from the 50s when housewives would get their hair done and sell Tupperware at parties to earn a little mad money. I haven’t talked to Phranc about her relationship with the corporation (about which a documentary feature was made about five years ago) recently but the gist of what I recall is that Tupperware has helped a lot of people to dramatically improve their lives economically. I remember hearing about a number of single moms tooling around in Tupperware issued minivans. I remember too though that the Tupperware Corporation was less than warm with regard to reciprocating the enormous lovefest it was given by the queer community. If you’ve never attended a drag queen Tupperware party, you weren’t living in L.A. in the 1990s.
Yom Kippur and I’m emptying all this crap from the cupboard and meditating about time and money and plastic. I created a sorting hierarchy. Tupperware in good condition, with matching lid, but not serving a regular purpose in the kitchen was relegated to the garage sale bag. There is a really nice and complete fruit and vegetable freshness storage set that we just never got in the habit of using regularly but is truly a sensible item consisting of, I believe six pieces, including lids. Likewise, a number of bowls and other storage containers with identifiable lids and bearing the Tupperware logo were consigned to the resell area. The second category, I referred to mentally as “recycle” but I knew the housekeeper would go through it before it hit the blue can. It was Tupperware without lids, Rubbermaid and all manner of off-brand plastic goods purchased impulsively and in response to the constant fruitless search for matching lids. Regardless of cost or level of utility, to me, Tupperware is the most valuable plastic storage container brand. This probably has to do with the largeness of the actual Tupperware buying experience (at least with Phranc) and the fact that it does tend to be quite pricey. I knew that before this collection of castoffs actually made it to the recycle bin, my housekeeper would have a go at it, matching up lids patiently and without brand snobbishness, simply because my time is worth more than hers. She would go through the bag with a closer eye and ferret out items that she could somehow profit from. The economic gods have simply deigned that she will have to work harder physically to feed her children than I do to feed mine. She can’t afford to throw away the Rubbermaid, but I, with partial economic responsibility for my own family, hers, and the families of those who work for me, can’t afford to consider it.
The Tupperware which made the cut was a nice set of bowls with good lids, plus an ingenious set of small and large storage containers with a unique twisty shaped lid which fit on each piece and because of the odd shape never seemed to get lost or mismatched, although we did melt one somehow. I also held on to some really large 1⁄2 gallonish containers for storing soup and big casseroles. I don’t know how earth-friendly it is, but I am using simple white cardboard boxes from Smart and Final (available in a number of different sizes) for storing food, giving away leftovers and packing lunches. It seems like eliminating the tyranny of tracking expensive name brand containers and the expenditure of soap and water to wash them makes using these heavy paper disposables a little less reprehensible. Nevertheless, the cupboard looks great. Next, the pantry.
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Glad it gave you good service, good memories and occasion for thought.
I saw a short documentary about the woman who helped propel Tupperware to a household word. Her nickname was Brownie — can't remember her full name.
Tupperware gave her an impressive career at a time when women didn't have many career options. OTOH, they used her to suck in a lot of women who were consistently passed over for promotions and the really lucrative sales territories. What they did do was require their biggest earners to pick up and relocate their families to one new, underdeveloped community after another. They were able to exert that much influence because the best earners were ones who got their husbands pull into Tupperware too. Then the *husbands* got the plummy opportunities.
Although Brownie was the one that developed the concept of the home party that made the company and the one who recruited all the early saleswomen, she was the only female executive Tupperware ever had.