In Praise of Wax Paper

In Praise of Wax Paper

On my bookshelf is a 50-year-old cookbook. Its pages are falling out of its ring-bound cover, and some of the pages are stained and ripped as if a toddler had tried to join in the cooking. Which probably did happen.

This book is The Maine Cookbook and is probably one of those old community cookbooks sold as fundraisers for the local church. Even the cover is ripped so I am not completely sure of the title.

The recipes are simple, using inexpensive, local ingredients. One of those ingredients is lard, which for many years was regarded as bad for you, and now is back with a vengeance as the latest thing in gourmet cooking. Another thing I noted as I used this book recently is that it calls for wax paper to cover leftovers and items that need chilling.

When was the last time I used wax paper? I can remember my mother wrapping our school lunches in it but in my adult life, I’ve been addicted to foil and plastic wrap. Which is not good for the planet.

So I bought some wax paper. I ran my fingers along the surface and found it surprisingly sensuous and comforting, more velvety than sticky like wax.

Maybe it was that reminder of childhood, maybe it was the knowledge that wax paper is not plastic. It is as it sounds, paper coated with food-safe paraffin. I tried taping it to the kitchen counter when rolling pastry and it prevents mess. I put leftovers in a glass jar and cover them with wax paper secured by a rubber band.

But I am dismayed to find that this wonderful product is not environmentally friendly. Paraffin is a petroleum product and wax paper does not decompose in the landfill. But there are alternatives.

I found one recently that claims to be recyclable. It looks and feels like parchment paper with a smooth satiny surface. I look forward to using it, and to being transported back to a simpler time.