Thursday, June 4, 2015

Life without Tupperware

Yes, I was excited about this. My mom was having a party. On a Tuesday, no less. I didn't know what a Tupperware was, but this would be the theme. "It's plastic bowls 'n stuff, and the ladies sit around and talk and buy things," said Mary Beth Pfister in a confidential playground confab. Could this make me miss "Dobie Gillis"?

My Deep Bowl source added, "When the lady demonstrates the lid, she closes it, then she 'burps' it." What gravitas could this carry? Then again, Mary Beth Pfister's word was gold. She once told me that Pauline Giambalvo liked me, and, true enough, Pauline, a comely Italianate with corrected dentition, had let me hold her hand for a good fifteen seconds in the mummy room at the Peabody Museum. This was the extent of my intergender touching in grade six at St. Dymphna's.

The gals go uber-Tupper
I helped Mom put out pastries and other toothsome dainties for the gals. She said I could sit in on the party. I was gripped by anticipation. Even Aunt Hazel's (who seemingly liked nothing) appearance could do nothing to numb my excitement.

The gals began to arrive. My mom's pinochle pals; some neighbors; a few others. They had dresses on. Heels. Nylons scritched noisily as thighs rubbed. Even Mrs. Tichey from across the street got dolled up. I noted, with dismay, her sausage-colored hose rolled up beneath her knees. My Sin and White Shoulders assailed my nostrils.

The Tupperware Lady herself had me swooning upon exiting her vehicle. The beauteous, busty redhead allowed me to cart boxes in from her Nova (a convertible, no less!). They weighed practically nothing, as was the air I walked on. She wore a clingy emerald shift, sans sleeves. Her arms were not the fleshy, beached-whale, elbow-indented sides of meat like Mrs. Lutz had. Jangly, dangly earrings. When she walked, her hindquarters swayed in a luxuriant ... oh, never mind. I was twelve.

She started placing objets de Tupper on a folding table. A brigade of pastel bowls, containers and other impedimenta soon took over the room. I couldn't take my eyes off the Tupper Queen, even though I had no idea why her wares were so special. As she started her presentation, I noticed two tiny dark crescents limning the armholes of her dress. This deterred me not. She was my auburn paradigm of perfection.

"Now ladies," she said. "Here's what makes Tupperware so special. You just don't close the lid ..." Which she did pertly, with a little flourish of a slender, braceleted wrist. "Then, guess what happens?"

I seized the moment. "YOU BURP IT!" I blurted. Heads spun. My mother's eyes drilled me with palpable heat. Miz Tupper turned abruptly. And beamed at me. American-LaFrance-crimson lips parted, showing pearly whites that no Viceroy had ever sullied.

"THAT'S RIGHT!" she said. "Looks like I have a smart little boyfriend here!" She patted my cheek, which I immediately resolved not to wash. Forever. I conveniently deleted her middle adjective, dwelling on smart and boyfriend. Even Pauline Giambalvo had not let that appellation spring.

Our leader then demonstrated the technique I would perfect over the years. The tiny hiss of escaping effluvia meant that the T-ware's contents were sealed tighter than Sister Hilda's lips when she was ticked off.

The party turned out to be a huge hit. I wasn't even disappointed when I learned that no one would be receiving anything Tupper that evening, that the ladies would order through my mom, who would distribute the plastic pelf.

The Tupper Goddess gave me a little hug as I helped her reload her car. I went back inside, already dreading my next Sacrament of Penance with Father Bundock.

Of course, Aunt Hazel had already convened a chorale of gossipeuse. I heard her whisper, "That lady wasn't clean ..." Someone else said, " ... there was an odor." Fiddlesticks. No odor could dim my ardor.

Tons of boxes arrived in a fortnight. My father turned a blind eye to the fact that my mom used her commission to buy even more T-stuff. I marveled at the Wonderlier bowls and their offspring. Even salt-and-pepper shakers. I lidded, snapped and burped to my heart's content.

My reverie was short-lived. I asked Mom when she was having another party, keeping my motives tacet.

"Oh, we'll have more," she announced. "But I'll be the hostess. I'm a Certified Tupperware Ambassador now. People will buy from me."

Wait. No fair!

And so we became a Tupperware family. Mom trotted them out with reckless abandon. I would still help her put food away, fondling the bowls as if they were ... oh, never mind again.

The Magic Mac Bowl
The piece that stayed with me was the sturdy white mixing bowl. It was made of extra-heavy goods, with a reinforced snapping rim on the bottom. Over the years, my grandmother used it solely for her exotic, exclusive, extra-eggy macaroni salad, which was a huge hit whenever she made it.

As time wore on, the bowl did not wear out. It did turn a wan, nicotine color after repeated lardings of said salad, which tradition my mother continued. And folks continued to lap up the wonderful contents. "The flavor's in the bowl," I bragged.

One fateful day, I blandished Mom to make up a batch for a feed at the Sons of Sweden. I put it out on the buffet. Then the seniors attacked like locusts. The bowl, in its dun, maize wonderfulness, was soon deforested. I washed it it, and, making sure I had marked its bottom with our surname Sharpied on masking tape, hid it in the kitchen and repaired to the bar.

After a few conversations with a bottle of B&B, I headed home. Bowl-less. I awoke in a fog the next day and realized my gaffe. I waited at the club for the doors to open and raced to the kitchen. No bowl. I recruited a forensic team of afternoon quaffers to seek and find, to no avail. Everyone sympathized with me, since they were huge fans of the Magic Mac.

That night, I visited Mom and mumbled the news, accompanied by an apology. She shrugged it off, "Oh, that old thing," she said. "Lord, it's no big loss."

But she never made macaroni salad again. I even noted said dish in her obituary.

In the years that followed, I have tried to recreate the culinary nirvana of the two women I loved the most. The results have improved, and, while edible, are a faint tracing of The Real Deal.

Worst of all, try as I may to evoke the recipe, I have nothing in which to put it.

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