thinking inside the box
11th June 2016
A child of four who was born wise once whispered to me an observation: that God only speaks to us when we are not looking. Neither she or I believe in ghosts or Gods, but I am convinced that great things are sometimes revealed unto us when we least expect them.
Opening a book about Leonardo, I’m ready to be astounded. In the Gobi Desert at sundown, I’m prepared for spectacular aerial effects. Unwrapping a box of fresh pasta, and I’m taken by surprise by beauty.
The plastic sheath was of that crackly, slightly inflexible variety that requires a little effort to tear and can be painful for the nesh. It was covered in the sort of romantic, over-blown graphics that suggest to me the signage at remote Sicilian post-offices, the too-fancy brocade on a Neapolitan traffic policeman’s shako, the music of Verdi, sad women with creamy skin and dark rings under their eyes, dying of boredom in the midday heat.
Alluring, but straight into the recycling. The plastic was just the vamp for the overture: The fragrant, crisp, mouth-wateringly lovely cardboard container.
Outside, a smart shade of Espresso taupe reminiscent of mid- twentieth century plywood, inside, a creamy, chalky tone, the Old White of Morris Minors, a slightly glazed but not shiny surface. The substance is not paper but a very crisp thin card, the sort that makes a true snick when cut with a scissor.
And the folds. It’s all about them. This is built, I know, by a machine. The finished boxes will be dumped by mechanical means into a hopper, neatly stacked on a pallet but slightly tottering when moved by fork-lift to a cool shed unlit by Mediterranean light, waiting as expectantly as card can like D Day minus two, for the call to the plastic and the light and the cargo. I’d prefer them to have been folded by hand, by matrons, by the transistor and by a soft green-tinted florescent light that says modern in industrial places where calendar girls and postcards from holidaying colleagues are art.
Ori means folding in Japanese and kami, or gami in translation, paper, but this tray isn’t held together by folds alone. The beautiful tabs that are so much a part of the whole are kept in place with gum, applied or perhaps always present and simply moistened at the end of the production line, when at last the flat, easily manipulated blanks of card become inconveniently three dimensional and must be juggled by something articulated, able to grip and turn crushable substances with delicacy.
Contents: two minutes thirty seconds in boiling water with two drops of Extra Virgin: al dente. Delicious.