Laura Williamson | Writer & Editor

Humour & OpEd



The great container conundrum
By Laura Williamson

I always feel a little guilty getting takeaways. They’re expensive, they’re unhealthy and there’s something not very green about buying pre-cooked food in a polystyrene tub, eating more than I need to and collapsing in a gluttony-induced coma on the sofa. But they’re quick, and sometimes convenience wins over money, nutrition and the environment. Quick, that is, unless you waste the time you saved by not cooking doing what I did last night: fossicking in a cupboard for 20 minutes in search of a lid to fit the storage container for my leftover curry.

Actually, I only spent 10 minutes looking. Five minutes were spent swearing and another five went to counting. I counted exactly twelve storage containers and exactly twelve lids, yet not a single one fit another. How is this possible?

I thought about this for a long time, made a few notes, and by midnight I had three theories.

One, there is a malevolent troll who lives in my cupboard and collects plastic lids for sport. He piles these carefully next to – you guessed it – his single sock display, as well as the re-charger for my mobile phone which I swear I last spotted on my bedside table on Tuesday at 9pm.

Two, there is a ripple in the space-time continuum under my sink which transports my lids to some housewife’s kitchen in 1980s America and sends her lids back to me. She is going slowly mad in a semi-detached house in suburban Delaware because she can’t find a way to seal her leftovers.

Three, I am delusional.

Actually, the most likely reason that some of the lids don’t fit is because they’ve been warped by the dishwasher, even though they’re supposed to be dishwasher safe. Wondering if there is a solution to this, I had a look on WikiAnswers, which has replaced grandmotherly advice and the Edmonds ‘Sure to Rise’ Cookery Book as the main source for answers to all questions domestic. Sure enough, alongside queries of existential import such as “What songs are on Hannah Montana 3?” and “How do Mongolians make a living?”, someone had left the following post: “What can I do about my Tupperware lids that don’t fit anymore and what can I do to make them fit again?”

Yet, despite 55 million people visiting WikiAnswers in July 2009 (several of whom offered responses to both the Montana and Mongolian questions), no one had an answer for the last one. Apparently, like the tree falling in the forest riddle and that one about the sound of one hand clapping, there is no solution to the problem of an ill-fitting lid.

None of this would matter, of course, except that many of us are trying to do the world some good by storing food in reusable containers instead of wrapping it in aluminium foil, which then gets thrown out and spends the next 200 years oxidising in a landfill. That we are rewarded for our efforts at sustainability with some sort of kitchenware version of the Promethean Paradox is a tad unjust. The gods, it seems, are not only cruel, they’re bad environmentalists as well. 

For now, though, I have them beat. My curry is chilling happily in the fridge, covered by baking paper held on with a hair elastic. And I’ve bought a new set of storage containers, lids and all. They’re hidden in my sock drawer; the troll will never look there.

Incidentally, that’s where I found my phone charger, which might explain the pair of rolled-up knee-highs lying next my reading lamp. I meant to put them away last Tuesday. 

This column appeared in The Otago Daily Times, 24 November 2009.