2009-10-01 / News

Waxing nostalgic for wax paper

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

Of the many items I purchase for my kitchen, one of my favorites is wax paper. I always have some on hand, and while I don’t use it every week, it’s one of those things that comes in very handy on a regular basis.

I know. As soon as I bring this up, everyone will immediately reflect back on a childhood project that involved encapsulating freshly fallen colorful leaves between two sheets. I used to love to do this in school. The class would hang the finished leaves in a window to pay homage to autumn. I don’t imagine that elementary school kids still do this because it requires a hot iron to seal the paper around the leaves, but parents and grandparents can still do it at home – just because it’s fun and it’s an instant gratification-type project that gives good results with absolutely no artistic talent.

Wax paper also reminds me of my junior high school cafeteria. Every day there was a hot lunch selection, but if the shepherd’s pie or sloppy Joes weren’t appealing, there were always two sandwich choices – bologna or tuna salad – wrapped in wax paper. I remember admiring the perfect folding job some behind-the-scenes lunchroom aide must have taken great pride in. Each sandwich was wrapped by somebody who made perfect “hospital corners.” I imagine her at-home kitchen was impeccably clean as well.

This is one of the great things about wax paper – nice crisp folds. Another great thing is that it never sticks to itself, and it cuts perfectly straight on the edge of the box.

I don’t buy plastic wrap anymore. I’m just plain sick and tired of wasting half the roll trying to get it to cut correctly. I can’t even imagine how much time I have spent trying to find the end of the roll to begin using it. I once bought one of those giant rolls of plastic from a warehouse store. Ugh! Five years of misery versus six months. After a few bouts with it, I threw it away. It wasn’t worth the effort.

If you look in my refrigerator, you will find several objects that are wrapped in wax paper and secured with an elastic band. It looks like the 1950s in there. It can be a challenge to figure out what’s in each package, due to the opacity of the paper, but it gives me something to do when I am bored.

Wax paper is the best thing for wrapping cheeses and baked goods that need to breathe a little so they don’t get mushy.

The Reynolds Company owns Cut-Rite wax paper and they produce it in two forms. A 75-square foot roll and a box of sandwich bags, but I don’t often see the sandwich bags in the market.

If you do an Internet search on uses for wax paper, several good ideas pop up.

If, after cleaning your marble or granite countertops, there is still a residue, take a sheet of wax paper and use it to polish the counters to a shine. This also keeps future food spills from sticking. On bathroom and kitchen chrome fixtures, use a wadded up ball of wax paper to remove water spots and make them sparkle.

The Reynolds Company suggests that the sheets be used to line the microwave oven before cooking something that spatters. Also, I use wax paper on the counters to roll out piecrusts or cookies – it eliminates the need to dust the counters with flour and clean up is easy as pie!

Making a rudimentary musical instrument by wrapping a comb with a sheet of wax paper will give the kids something to do for at least five minutes. For the uninitiated, you put it between your lips and hum – much like a kazoo.

Although I have not used this tip, I will the next time I have an opportunity. Roll a sheet of wax paper into a temporary funnel. You can use this method to fill spice jars, salt and pepper shakers and the sugar dispenser – all without losing any product or creating a mess.

One tip suggested using wax paper to “lubricate the car antenna.” I have never, ever lubricated my car antenna. Will it bring in stations from far-away lands, or what?

One drawback to using wax paper is that it is not recyclable. It is made from tissue paper that is impregnated with paraffin wax, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry. That said, whereas it is not possible to find an Earth-friendly substitute for plastic wrap, there are a few wax paper products that are fully biodegradable and can even be put into the compost pile. Look for unbleached bags that contain soy wax instead of paraffin.

Now, I’m just waiting for the first autumn leaves to fall so I can festoon my windows while I play along on my home-made kazoo.

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