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Everyone loves a good package
September 20, 2012 - David Alexander
My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law (if that is a relation) were in town this past weekend. The topic of packaging came up. My wife’s cousin is a packing engineer and we quipped about calling her so I could figure out how to open something with which I was wrestling.
(As a side note: Yes, I am an idiot who basically thinks screaming at packages is the best way to open them).
But when I got to thinking about it, packaging matters. It really does. I don’t just mean packaging on products, although that is important as well, but just the general ways in which we choose to label things — how they are put together. The categories we lump certain things into make a world of difference on how we consume them (e.g., water from a garden hose would magically taste better if someone put it in an Evian bottle without your knowledge).
For instance, take food. Never would I sit down and eat a bag of chips for dinner. But, I have no compunction about eating nachos, which are just chips with cheese on them, for the same meal. If you doubt this claim, go to any restaurant and look at the breakfast menu. I mean, come on, waffles? Oh my God, waffles. Even the most decadently sweet dinner — I am looking at your Monte Cristo — can’t hold a torch to waffles, which are nothing more than hot candy.
The same goes for the “coffee” everyone drinks. The word “coffee,” just like many words, has become a faulty syllogism. Just because you call something “coffee” doesn’t make it coffee. A half of a gallon of steamed milk with four ounces of peppermint corn syrup and chocolate hiding beneath a ziggurat of whipped cream topped with sprinkles and caramel drizzled across it, is not coffee. It’s desert.
Why do we choose to label these things food and not snacks? The answer is because of the way they are packaged. Things on the breakfast menu are “food” and you buy “coffee” from a café. Who would ever question those assumptions?