Egg and cress

Vintage food labels in box

This post is about a set of things. Not often read about here, it’s true. But some things shouldn’t be separated one from their others.

In the days before cling film, shrink-wrap and other see-through plastics – food was labelled by, erm, sticking a label in it. Usually a plain label, with just the food name written upon it. Or perhaps, more often, the name and the cost of the food by weight.

I usually prefer the plain no nonsense approach to labelling. But this set of illustrated labels (all below) are the exception that prove a little bit more is sometimes a little bit more.

I have no idea where these were made, although it was somewhere ‘foreign’ as one label has that stamped on it’s back. I am not very sure of their date but I’d hazard a guess at early 1920s, judging by the plastic. And they came to me squished in to a little cardboard box from somewhere in London. They have probably lain in that box since the 1920s.

But what thought has gone in to the illustrations for such a seemingly inconsequential set of things. The egg is joyous, the egg and cress more joyous. The waving crab would sell itself to a vegetarian. The monocled salmon comes smoked, or not. One cheese seems to be turning its nose up at a smellier cheese. The ham has a tutu and the cucumber wears what appear to be hobnail boots. The poor old chicken, meanwhile, seems to be in his cooking pot already.

I can only imagine how these must have perked up the food display in a grocer shop. For they most certainly perk me up.

1920s plastic food labels