When the name of your product becomes the name for the category itself (think Band-Aids, Kleenex or Q-tips), you’ve hit the big time. Just ask Earl Tupper, who created his famous airtight food containers in 1946. The Guinness Book of World Records named Tupperware one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, and Good Housekeeping states that a Tupperware party is held every 1.4 seconds, raking in billions in revenue each year.
I’ve never understood the appeal, especially after spending 20 minutes unsuccessfully rummaging through 40 Tupperware lids in order to throw my leftover spaghetti in the fridge.
Tupperware ruins friendships. We lose our best Tupperware whenever we deliver food to a party or sick friends because it rarely makes its way back.
Successfully bringing Tupperware home from a party (with the correct lid) should be celebrated, like a Grammy or Armistice Day. “Tupperware Parties,” the direct marketing ploy that catapulted the company’s popularity in the 1950’s, became an opportunity to guilt friends into buying frivolous products to line the host’s pockets. It was the gateway drug to Amway: soon we were being invited to jewelry parties, adult toy parties, knock-off purse parties and more. We were forced to develop survival strategies like buying the cheapest item just to make it out of the party without offending the host. “But, I made you a cheese plate — certainly you’ll buy the new mint green Jello ring mold?”
Every household has a “system” for organizing Tupperware, it’s just that none of them work. Basically, whoever empties the dishwasher gets to decide how to organize the lids, and everyone else gets to spend the next few years cursing like a sailor as they try to figure it out. In this age of diversity, matching Tupperware lids are the final refuge of socially accepted homogeneity.
Tupperware was the bane of my existence as a child. Normally, the foods I hated (namely vegetables) spoiled quickly in the harsh environs of our refrigerator.
Tupperware kept those wretched morsels alive for days on end, allowing them to return to my dinner plate like leafy zombies at the next night’s meal. As if that wasn’t enough, its distinguishing characteristic was a “burping seal” that expelled the air trapped inside the container. Linking the unpleasantness of burping with the leftover food people couldn’t quite stuff down their gullet in one sitting was never my idea of solid marketing.
Before they had numbers on the bottoms of plastics that suggested we’d die if we reused anything, my mom collected what we referred to as “homegrown Tupperware.” Margarine tubs and cottage cheese containers were reused for food storage. Old bread bags were used to wrap our sandwiches, the fancier oval butter bowls for cereal. The shrimp cocktail glasses we used for juice were one of the few matching sets we had in the house. Cool Whip containers in the freezer stored bacon grease, a hidden danger for careless kids looking for something to put on their pumpkin pie.
The microwave rendered the Country Crock margarine tub holding my reheated tortellini into something out of a Salvador Dali painting. We quickly replaced the lid so it would cool back into its original shape. All foods were flavored with that patina of polycarbonate plastic that seemed to scream, “Cancer never tasted so good!”
These days, Tupperware is a necessary evil because I don’t want to add to my carbon footprint and we’ve already filled up an entire drawer with the stuff. I’ll just do what I always do when trying to find that matching lid: give up, and use aluminum foil instead.