It’s one of my favorite treats from the grocery store: The Laughing Cow cheese wedges, Original please. There’s more than a few reasons that I so enjoy this product, and find that it’s akin to my joy of vintage, retro, collectibles – that whole gallery of items. Why?
Start with the fact that it arrives in a soft cardboard package. None of that hard plastic that will never disintegrate and that damages tender fingers and requires heavy instruments to pry open. The round of paper feels good in my hand. It’s a textural pleasure. After I’ve admired the look and feel of it, a second joy awaits me. To open The Laughing Cow, I pull a little red string. Amazing! The little red string never fails; it never breaks in mid-pull; it never ruins the cardboard. It’s a smooth glide around the diameter of the package, and reminiscent of former simplicities. I recall real lead pencils. I smell freshly cut grass. I slide back into a state of positive recollection when life was easy and clean and slow.
Once I unseal the lid, my eyes feast on the sight of six wedges, wrapped in their light aluminum coats, points facing in, cozy, untainted, symmetrical. I pull out my first cheese wedge and find another slip of red. I pull gently on this flat, dainty drawstring and voila! the light aluminum parts to reveal the cheese. I pull further and the entire package unfurls like a three-sided blossom. There is the treasure: a triangle of white, moist cheese. It is perfect. My taste buds perk. And the taste is unfailingly wonderful. There’s a hint of tang, a remnant of nuts, green pasture, a sense of openness, bright skies, birdsong.
The Laughing Cow is a constant amid the crowded flow of newness on the grocery aisle. Its logo has remained the same for as long as I can recall. It’s introduced new flavors and the label reflects these. But in general, The Laughing Cow I purchased ten years ago is identical to the semi soft cheese wedges I purchased yesterday. How’s that for longevity, for reliance upon what works, for treasuring a treasure?
What I call “vintage” gives a similar delight. Materials that are closer to the earth. Texture and color as built-in sensory devices. Durability. No weak points. Pleasure recycled. That piece of California pottery is as wondrous today as when I first eyed it ten years ago.
The irony of all this is that the humdrum and mediocre must exist as a counterbalance for laughing cows and California pottery. Otherwise, I’d never recognize perfection.