Packaging

In my father's day, people who did specialized, skilled things were called engineers. He was an electronics engineer. He maintained the radar apparatus at Chincoteague Island, watching for German U-boats. Later he designed circuitry for guided missiles. He taught a night class for beginning engineers.

His tendency was to call skilled people engineers of one kind or another. He was old-school and always complained about "women drivers." My mother, as it happens, did not drive.

In the fifties, one of his rants was about "packaging engineers." He should see how it is today. Since the Great Poisoned Tylenol affair, much packaging has become difficult to deal with. And not just pills. Some genius packaging "engineers" have come up with a material that is apparently a hybrid of plastic and paper. It is nearly impossible to rip or tear and I reach for the scissors every time I want to open a bag of frozen vegetables. Rubber bands to close the package back up for the freezer.

Here in the flyover zone I buy a lot of frozen fish because there is no native seafood to be had unless one catches trout in a stream with a fly rig. In the Great Lakes region there are some very good fish to be had, although they be can hard to find in stores sometimes. Anyway, I must content myself with salmon or ahi (yellowfin tuna) from the Pacific or cod from Alaska or the Atlantic. Out come the kitchen shears again. Frozen fish is mostly packed in seal-a-meal plastic, usually dead up to the contents, so one must cut right where the fish abuts the wrapping.

Seal-a-Meal packaging was popular among pot growers on the Big Island of Hawaii in the 80s to get the product past the drug-sniffing dogs in the post office. Most of the pakalolo was sent to the mainland in the mail. I'm about to open some frozen tuna. Cut along the plastic, let the juice drain out, then rinse the plastic thoroughly to kill the fish odor. How I long for the times when I could buy fresh caught fish from guys selling fresh-caught fish out of pickup trucks on the road. No packaging, no tax… No engineers.

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