Mustard

Sometimes I am a sucker for design.

I recently tossed out an ancient tin of Durkee dry mustard that I think I borrowed from my mother years ago. And, while Durkee spices seem to last generations, this mustard had flavored its last soup. Its shelf mate, the Cream of Tartar was sad, but it had to be done.

I was dismayed at the grocery selection because I know I will be looking at that new mustard for the next five years, minimum. There was quite an array of plastic jars with plastic lids and identical labels and then, near the bottom with other obscure items like organic stevia, there was the Coleman’s double super-fine Mustard powder.

A lovely golden tin with red script lettering. SOLD! for double the price of the plastic Durkee.

In my decision making for purchases practicality wins most often, but sometimes design wins. With mundane objects I usually lean toward design for two reasons: first, why shouldn’t lowly things be beautiful as well as useful, and second, somebody spent time and effort thinking about the design of the thing.

Without going all Franny and Zooey, that anonymous person may have started out wanting to be a visual artist and ended up in industrial design. We benefit because the mug we are holding is elegant and balanced as well as useful. Victor Schreckengost was a designer whose objects I always love. The lawn chair is an excellent example. And his art wasn’t bad either. He thought everything he designed – even his sculpture – should be beautiful and useful.

The person that designed the Coleman’s tin may be long dead, but I still appreciate that their tin is lovely.

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