Treasures of Trash

by Andy Dappen

What joy it is for a cheapskate to harvest useful, well-designed treasures right from the trash. Just this weekend I derived as much pleasure by salvaging a plastic jar my wife was trashing as I might receive from a Christmas gift. First there’s pleasure in knowing you can give something a second life (this stokes my environmental ethic); next there’s getting something for nothing (this strokes my economic well-being).

Left, the topic of this article with 4-ounce markings added for measuring purposes. The Gatorade jar on the right is also useful for eating, drinking, and canteen cooking but a tad bigger than ideal.

The jar my wife was so extravagantly getting rid of (and to be fair here, she had it in the recycle bin, not the trash) was the packaging for Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Crème. She uses this product, which could arguably be called synthetic food, for a tasty dip complementing granny smith apples that have been sliced into thin strips (the apples that is), splashed with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning, and laid out on a platter to make a fruit appetizer for parties (see picture).

To make the dip, she whips all of the marshmallow cream from the jar with an 8-ounce bar of cream cheese into a smooth spread that is placed in a bowl next to all the apple slices. It’s a simple yet elegant appetizer. And, depending on the ratio of apple to dip used, this snack can swing from being extremely healthy to a bit of an artery choker.

But enough about a Racheal Ray recipe and back to the good part of the story — trash talk. From the recipe above you end up with a #2 HDPE jar that withstands boiling water, can survive microwaving without meltdown, and is dishwasher safe. The lid creates an excellent watertight seal. And although the jar only came with a net weight of 7 ounces of marshmallow crème, it holds 16 ounces of liquid, making it an ideal size for backpacking.

Carry this jar as your only eating vessel and you have both a bowl for eating oatmeal, rice or noodles as well as a cup for sipping coffee, hot chocolate, and wine. You also have a lightweight, watertight jar that’s rugged enough for canteen cooking. This is a big deal because on multi-day wilderness trips canteen cooking will significantly reduce your food weight and bulk as well as your fuel weight.

Finally the shape of this jar – wider at the base than at the top – makes it comfortable to hold when sipping drinks. More importantly, it makes the cup extremely stable when it’s put down inside a tent or along the edge of your campfire. Give it an accidental tap and it’s not going to spill. To make it topple, you need to smack it pretty good. The only drawback to the shape is that the jars are not stackable — if you want lots of these puppies along for group or family use, they’ll gobble up some pack space.

When it’s all said and done, it’s worth buying Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallow crème simply to have this near-perfect jar. Get five or six granny smith apples and 8 ounces of cream cheese (in a block, not the whipped type) and this little treasure from the trash is going to make you doubly happy.

NOTE: This article was originally posted on 12/11/2014.

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