The “I Remember When” Product

“I remember when this was invented,” I said to one of our fantastic Miss NiNi bakers. “I think it was in the 1950s.”

My age 20-ish dessert-baking friend seemed perplexed. I pondered if she truly believed my statement. After all, buzzing around inside her intelligent brain might have been these sound bites: “Miss-NiNi-can’t-be-that-old,” and “Hasn’t plastic wrap been a food-saving-protective covering since the beginning of time?”

As “curiosity killed this cat,” I excitedly searched the Internet to verify my blast-from-the-past hypothesis.

I wasn’t too far off, Dear Readers!

According to Plastic News Europe (PNE), plastic film for food preservation was discovered by accident—by a college student, no less.

From Idea to Invention

Ralph Wiley was a typical college student in that he was trying to make ends meet financially. He began working as a janitor with Dow Chemical. His cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness job philosophy was tested when he found a vial he was unable to scrub clean.

What did he call the stubborn residue, Dear Readers? No, it was not kryptonite or carbonite or even foo-foo dust.

“He called the stubborn residue ‘Eonite’ after an indestructible material made famous by the comic book, ‘Little Orphan Annie.’”

The timeframe of 1933 was the setting for this invention. That’s a far cry from the 1950s as Miss NiNi had touted. But the story gets closer to my original hypothesis of the mid-20th Century.

Realize that researchers at Dow Chemical knew this accidental discovery by an accidental scientist could be an “Aha” moment of nonaccidental significance to the world!

“Dow marketed ‘Eonite’ as ‘Saran’ (as in Saran wrap). Its initial use was as a protective coating for World War II fighter planes,” says my PNE source.

More Than Protective

However, it was discovered that compared to other plastic wraps, “this plastic wrap was able to contain aroma molecules, flavor, and water vapor more efficiently. Using this thin sheet of plastic helped in preserving food while retaining a dish’s aroma and flavor.”

Fast forward sixteen-plus years. Finally, in 1949, this extruded film was sold commercially. Then, following in 1953, the plastic wrap was sold commercially in the US market.

Dear Readers, you might label the handy-hidden-in-your-kitchen roll of clear plastic film that keeps food fresh as plastic wrap, food wrap, or cling wrap. Chances are, though, that you know it as Saran Wrap after the well-known S.C. Johnson product.

If your life’s story dates back to yonder time as mine does, Dear Readers, you might recall the days when plastic wrap was clingy and stretchy? That is no longer true!

Health scares about the plasticizers in the product led to the change in its scientific makeup.  It now comes prestretched but lacks the strong cling of traditional plastic wrap.

The every-kitchen-has-a-roll product has a further interesting story, Dear Readers.

The Original is Still Around

Though the original stretchy, clingy plastic wrap is not available in the supermarket, it is still on the market as a lifesaving aid. Yes, that is correct! The original “good stuff” is used by hospitals to wrap premature babies as the wrap helps bring up the body temperature of those precious tiny newborns.

It does not matter if you are a 20-ish pretty-fantastic dessert baker or a seasoned one as is Miss NiNi, plastic food wrap has given the consumer an opportunity to keep millions of pounds of food fresh and usable.

Dear Readers, the next time you tear a piece of plastic wrap from its roll, consider the dollars saved in your food budget because of the discovery of Mr. Robert Wiley.

Even though the product was discovered in 1933, the 1950s’decade was when plastic wrap started to become a staple food wrap in the kitchens of homemakers far and wide! How well I remember that time!

Miss NiNi