Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Personal History of Food Wraps

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... History and Old Stuff...

My kitchen has a variety of food-preservation wraps and bags today, but I remember when wax paper and aluminum foil were the main food wraps.

We always took our lunch to school. (Obviously, our one-room rural school didn't have a cafeteria.) My mother usually wrapped our sandwiches and cookies in wax paper. Sometimes she had wax paper sandwich bags.

I was envious of my third cousins, the Saar kids, who brought their sandwiches wrapped in shiny new aluminum foil. Sometimes my mother wrapped our sandwiches in foil so they could be heated on the top of our little school's space heater, but it was never new foil. It was recycled aluminum foil with the wrinkles pressed out, and when we got home and cleaned out our lunch boxes, we saved the foil again.

I was born in 1951, so these memories are from about 1956-1965.

Reynolds aluminum foil for household use was introduced in 1947, bringing World War II technology to the consumer. Our parents often called it "tin foil" instead of "aluminum foil" and so did we. There once was a tin foil food wrap, but aluminum foil, which was more flexible and free of metallic flavor, had replaced tin foil before my memory.

Saran wrap was used to encase airplanes in WWII, and after the war, it was refined for use with foods and brought to market in 1953 by Dow. Plastic baggies by the roll were introduced in 1957, and Handi Wrap, made by Dow, came along in 1960. I don't remember plastic wrap or baggies from my school lunches. I remember wax paper.

Zippered plastic bags are a recent invention -- Dow began test marketing Ziploc bags in 1968.

Wax paper predates aluminum and plastic food wraps by 75 years. Thomas Edison invented wax paper in 1872 when he was only 25 years old. It was a familiar product even back in the 1920's and 1930's when my parents were growing up. My mother probably felt a degree of loyalty to a tried and true product when she wrapped our lunches in wax paper. Why buy plastic when wax paper was cheaper and worked so well?

I always keep wax paper on hand because it's very useful. I use it to cover food in the microwave so it doesn't splatter, to cover the counter tops when I'm doing something messy, to line baking dishes for certain cakes, and to help start a fire in the woodstove (crumpled wax paper).

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Google search: "wax paper hints"
The History of Plastic

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What do you think? Comments are welcome.


KennethF said...

Hey G:
My Dad always took a long sheet of Mom's wax paper with us to the park when I liked to swing and play on the metal slide. He would rub the rain dirty surface with that wax paper and then have me sit on the wrinkled yet restraightened sheet. For the first few runs, I might stop half way down but after a while__ I needed him to catch me at the bottom! :)Ken

Genevieve said...

That sounds like wonderful fun!

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