Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Delights of Mason Jars

Over on the smart palate, Nancy commented, "And why is it so much fun to drink out of a Mason jar?"  The question niggled at me enough that finally I decided to address it.  I'm always fascinated by trying to figure out why we do what we do.

As with those creepy dessert shooters, I found some strong feelings emerging about Mason jars.  But unlike the icky shooters, most of my Mason jar feelings were positive.  I had fun using a Mason jar for a few days to see what observations I could make about this humble object.

Drinking out of a Mason jar is fun because ... it seems slightly forbidden!  It's a natural response to conventional wisdom's hoity toity "One does not drink out of a jar!" with a kind of triumphant, in-your-face, oppositional "Why the heck NOT, dude!" attitude.  There's a little renegade in all of us, no?

Mason jars evoke, at least for certain people of my generation, security and plenty.  We see cellar shelves filled with Mason jars of cherries, tomatoes, relishes, plums, peaches, pears ... as long as you have a tool to open your jars with, you'll have food, even in a national disaster.  My great aunt used to send home jars of canned venison for us (I confess to always feeling a bit squeamish about it, though).  So just looking at Mason jars, and handling them, brings back all those feelings.  When was the last time a mere drinking glass actually evoked something for you?

Clearly, big business has discovered that Mason jars have draw power.  I've long noticed that homestyle restaurants serve beverages in them.  You can even buy faux Mason jar mugs with handles on them, presumably to fill this blatant need of restaurants and marketers to grab hold of our heartstrings and thus our pocketbooks.

I was stunned to discover a veritable plethora of restaurants in all corners of America calling themselves Mason Jar, even one in (gasp!) Manhattan.  Is it just me, or is there something slightly sinister about using such a homey object to lure us in to consume what are no doubt the farthest things (in terms of quality ingredients and affectionate care in preparation) from homestyle dishes imaginable? 
    Finally, a parting thought to create a springboard for even more thought:  Those markings (1/4, 1/2 etc.) on the sides of the Mason jar are spectacularly inaccurate, if they are referring to cups.  Why would Mason put misleading marks on their jars?  Whatever the reason, it is clear that, like Walter Cronkite, the Mason jar is firmly entrenched in America as a trusted friend.


    1. Ha! I am sitting here drinking from a Mason jar while reading this - I love it! I think the appeal for me is the soothingly tactile, back-to-the-land, Laura Ingalls Wilder vibe. I'm thinking of phasing out my drinking glasses and replacing them with 16-ounce jars.

      Regarding the markings, if the jar shown at top is a 16-ouncer, maybe they're actually marking fractions of a pint rather than a cup? hmmm this might require more investigation...

    2. Yes! That's probably the reason for the markings! I just KNEW our friends at Mason wouldn't lead us astray! Now we just need to find out if Mason jars are made in China ...

    3. My friend's mom goes to local antique shops and buys them up all the time, their whole cupboard is filled with old mason jar "cups". Mason jar+straw=extreme nostalgia for me.

    4. Hi BG, it does seem nostalgia is the main effect of these jars. Collecting them from antique shops might be good ... I looked around a little and it does seem that the new ones are made in China! After all the bizarre things turning up in Chinese products, it seems prudent to avoid eating or eating off of anything made there. But not easy to do. Your blog is beautiful and I love the emphasis on health. (But dessert, too!)