Southern Voices, Southern Stories: Taking modern women to task over Tupperware

Michael DeWitt, Jr.

Posted March 16, 2022

By Michael DeWitt, Jr.

“You did not just go buy Tupperware. You went to a Tupperware party, where I assumed there was drinking and poker and probably fistfights. I would learn, to my disappointment, there was rarely even a banjo.” – Rick Bragg

Modern women, I have been there for you, respected you, supported you, but some of you have let me down lately.

I was there with you in spirit in the 1920s when you marched for suffrage. I applaud the time when, led by Rosie the Riveter, you drove the war efforts for an entire free world. I would certainly have been there for you in the ’60s and ’70s, when the bras were burning and the love was free. Even today, as you shatter those glass ceilings and take the workforce equality that is rightfully yours, I am your ally!

But it appears that many modern women, including my own dear wife, are no longer buying or using real Tupperware, and that is an American tragedy.

My Daddy drank from the same Tupperware cup in Hampton County’s steaming Westinghouse plant for 40-plus years. Today, sadly, many modern women have never even been to a Tupperware party.

The modern woman I married grudgingly wears bras but has never purchased a single piece of real, name-brand Tupperware. Instead, the misguided lady buys knock-off brands from “the dollar store” and then trashes them when they get too stained from tomato dishes or too twisted up from the microwave, or simply if she just doesn’t feel like washing them.

That is not the American way. That, my bride, is what is wrong with our plastic, disposal modern world.

Not alone in my love for Tupperware

To me, Tupperware means that someone – a wife, mother, aunt, or grandmother – put a lot of time, effort and carefully selected ingredients into a meal and wanted to save it for you. To me, Tupperware didn’t just preserve food, it preserved love and something from the heart to share with family and friends another day.

Over time, once a piece of Tupperware got broken in good, becoming stained red from spaghetti or goulash or chili, a miracle happens.  Every time you heat it up, the flavors of a hundred, home-cooked leftovers ooze and infuse into your meal in some kind of magical osmosis.

I am not alone in my adoration of Tupperware.

As a child, one of my favorite authors, Rick Bragg, wore his momma’s  Tupperware bowls on his head and pretended he was Spartacus. According to Bragg, it seemed like the best of life came in a plastic tub.

“Tupperware meant reunions, dinner on the grounds,” wrote Bragg. “It used to be, when you saw Tupperware coming, it was a celebration. Banana pudding arrived in Tupperware. Potato salad came in Tupperware. Cold fried chicken arrived in Tupperware, resting on a warm cloth.”

Tupperware even began life with a celebration, he added, which is more than can be said for those disposable, one-dollar imposters: 

“You did not just go buy Tupperware. You went to a Tupperware party, where I assumed there was drinking and poker and probably fistfights. I would learn, to my disappointment, there was rarely even a banjo.”

The real history of Tupperware

Google tells me that a Yankee named Earl Tupper invented Tupperware in Leominster, Mass., just after World War II. But that is not the story that I will pass on to my grandchildren. My Southern descendants will go through life hearing this version of history, as I sit in my rocker sipping from an old Tupperware cup:

“Lewis Grizzard’s grandmother invented Tupperware behind enemy lines but it was a dark and evil time. She had to smuggle it out of war-torn Germany in her brassiere (which she would later burn to protest toxic masculinity) in order to keep this wonderful but powerful invention out of the hands of the Nazis. After outrunning a fleet of German U-boats, Mrs. Grizzard was so excited to make landfall in South Carolina that she hosted a Tupperware party right there on the beach to celebrate, and the rest is history.”

Alas, for many people, Tupperware is among the forgotten artifacts of grandmothers and aging mothers of a different era, and there is nothing that I can do about it. But Tupperware has a way of finding a place in new kitchens – and new hearts.

My wife’s grandmother passed away in Toms River, New Jersey, in 2021. The family knew it was coming, but it was still a hard grief to process. Sometime later, a package arrived at my wife’s kitchen: grandmother’s Tupperware, with her name still written on it in permanent black marker, a trademark of all smart American mothers.

These used Tupperware dishes are among the few items she now has to remember her grandmother, who lived 13 hours away.

I now have strict spousal instructions:

“You don’t take this Tupperware to work, you don’t dare leave this in your truck, and you definitely never let anyone borrow it!”

I understand, dear. I can live with that, my modern woman.

“One more thing,” she added.  “Absolutely no spaghetti!”

Michael M. DeWitt, Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian, an award-winning journalist, columnist and outdoor writer who has been published in South Carolina Wildlife, Sporting Classics, and the author of two books.

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