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Requiem for a lost era – long before the ubiquitous book club, there were Tupperware parties


Jeremy Maggs is a veteran journalist, television and radio presenter, and MD of communications firm, Bold. He is the author of ‘WIN!’ and ‘My Final Answer’.

My personal Tupperware favourite was a keyring which was the tiniest of bowls attached to a chain in case you needed to take a micro-snack to work – a single banana slice, a shaving of cheese or a small wedge of cucumber.

If I recall correctly, it was always something of a suburban high-table occasion. They’d arrive in floral swing and sheath dresses sensibly hemmed at the knee, chittering in high expectation of new products.

Racy Aunt Vivien once roared up our slasto paving driveway in her open-topped turquoise Sunbeam Alpine wearing a jaunty pill box hat in a matching colour. She was an estate agent, and they knew how to dress in those days. She even had driving gloves.

Before the actual display, discussion and sales component of the afternoon, during which products would be stroked, caressed and even fondled, a lavish tea would be served by a domestic worker in a starched white uniform.

On the tea trolley, delicate triangular, three-tier rainbow sandwiches; the hardy annual Victoria Sponge and once, in a daring display of avant garde culinary experimentation, a pineapple upside down cake that sadly flopped in the middle and caused spiteful and unnecessary gossip for weeks.

To the sound of lawnmowers in the distance, tea would be served in bone China crockery and then the party would clatter through to the dining room where it was all on display.

Behold, the Tupperware party had begun.

On one occasion there was great excitement about a citrus peeler that had just joined the range of ubiquitous plastic kitchen items. Apart from making your experience with an orange much easier it could also be used as a letter opener, butter knife and even cuticle pusher. Who wouldn’t want one?

My personal favourite was a key ring which was the tiniest of bowls attached to a chain in case you needed to take a micro-snack to work. Come on, how often hasn’t the occasion arisen in a moment of high stress when you’ve needed a single banana slice, a shaving of cheese or a small wedge of cucumber. I know I have.

Then there were items like bottle spoons which could scoop out the last remnants of tomato sauce, or something called a strawberry huller, a gynaecological-looking instrument that could extract the stem from the fruit. Looking at pictures of this device now, it might also find a home in your local Adult World franchise.

On one occasion, in a moment of spectacular food theatre, I was called in to rotate my wrist and turn the lettuce washer, which was a deep bowl into which you placed the salad vegetable, in water, and turned a lever around at high speed to facilitate and enable crispy freshness as the label said.

For my efforts I was rewarded with an ice lolly made in a special mould from freezing whatever tartrazine- and sugar-infused cordial my mother happened to have on hand. Bedtime that night would be a lot later, but it was no matter as the day had been profitable.

Take a moment…

Now that time is coming to an end, I read with profound sadness. Seventy years after making the world save leftovers in a fresh and neat way, I learn that the brand is “actively engaged with management to improve the company’s capital structure and near-term liquidity”.

That’s corporate speak for saying we’re on a ventilator and about to expire. Its share price resembles stored cheese where the lid has not been clipped down properly.

Read more in Daily Maverick: My world is shattered: A paean for the demise of my beloved anchovy toast

Tupperware was founded by landscaper Earl Tupper in 1938 after his business went belly up, and we owe a debt of gratitude to housewife Brownie Wise who nine years later came to Tupper with the idea of holding events where people could show their friends how Tupperware worked.

Three years later Tupper pulled the product from stores and business was done exclusively through Tupperware parties.

I would ask you today as you open your fridge and look at the vast array of stuff in containers, that you pause, reflect and open it with reverence and thanks. DM


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  • Jill Gribble says:

    I still have one of those citrus peelers; and it works! After moving to a new town, it took a while for one to be included in the Tupperware circle, but once in, one knew one had arrived socially.

  • Viv Hart says:

    I have a few containers left, wonder how many years I’ve had them, sad that they’re coming to an end. I especially liked the small ones, handy to keep in your bag, for sweeties, or a couple of cookies, or even to put your used teabag in, for the 2nd cup.

  • Ritey roo roo says:

    Tupperware parties! Ours always had lots of wine. I haven’t heard of one for many years. I still have and also use many of the items from those bygone party days.

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