This Isn't Stacking Up
The History of the Take-out BBQ Food Container
In celebration of Black History Month here is some brief barbecue history of the take-out food container. Back in the day in the early 1970’s, before microwave ovens were in every kitchen our very first barbecue container consisted of a cheap white paper plate with a torn sheet of wax paper laying on top. You got the same cheap white paper plate whether you ate it onsite or took it home. We’d buy those plates in packs of 100 and a large roll of wax paper.
Everyone's very first duty was to learn to “stack plates". You'd, pull up a stool, sit at the counter and one by one, build towers of plates. The kids like to see how high they could go before toppling over; Plate. Paper. Repeat. Mom would walk through the restaurant like an Army General, and if she caught you doing nothing she'd yell, “You could be stacking plates!” Eventually we'd get out of tearing up all of that wax paper by switching to pre-cut 10 x 10 inch sandwich sheets, but that created another problem, absorption.
Regular customers knew you had about 10, maybe 15 minutes, before the barbecue sauce soaked through the paper plate and brown paper bag. If you could not grab one of the limited counter seats to eat your ‘que onsite, your best bet was to either eat it from the hood of your car, or while sitting on the side of the street curb. If you were taking your ‘que home or back to work, regulars knew to grab a few of the free Classified Flea Market newspapers on their way out the front door to place underneath the bag. This added an extra barrier of protection between their food, clothes, and the seats of their car.
Rib Tip #1: Contrary to what you might have read BBQ served with BBQ sauce is the number one preferred way.
Customers started asking for extra BBQ sauce because of their disappearing sauce, so we switched to pre-cut aluminum foil sheets to prevent the BBQ sauce from being absorbed into the paper plate. This was in the 1980's y'all.
Rib Tip #2: 1980's more and more people and businesses started getting microwave ovens. Aluminum foil lined plates were not good-in fact, they were a hazard. Ask me, I know. . . you could not nuke your BBQ without sending sparks everywhere… That's how I know. So we changed food containers again because of the microwave oven.
By the late 1990’s, we switched again, this time to 3 compartment Styrofoam food containers, and the end of the stacking plates era was no more. Hallelujah! Let the church say, "Amen". Unfortunately that victory was short lived because in the 2000’s a ban on Styrofoam food containers was introduced in the Bay Area. Food containers now had to be either plastic or biodegradable cardboard. So the more things change, the more they stay the same. Get ready because plastic food containers will soon be banned and we will be right back to stacking plates.
By Shirley Everett-Dicko
(C) 2016 Everett and Jones
All Rights Reserved