Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Condiment Packet Gallery

This one doesn't quite have it all together, but I'd like to think it's weird enough to mention. The Condiment Packet Gallery is run and maintained by Chris Harne, who began collecting condiment packets of various types in November of 2003. His goal was simple: provide the internet browsing public with as many examples of condiment packet design as possible. In that, he succeeded: if you go to his site, you can find scans of a lot of different condiment packets. Despite this overwhelming central triumph, however, the gallery itself is not without its flaws.

Harne lays out four collection criteria, which are as follows:

  1. Only squeezable packets are acceptable. No bottles, tubs, jars, etc. He's looking for the small timers, the also-rans, and flat out weirdos. No super market mainstays to be found here (though their smaller packeted cousins are represented).
  2. No spices/sugars in the collection. Granular? More like gettouttalar (I'm so sorry).
  3. No extra large packets, though this isn't elaborated upon. How large is extra large? This is left to the readers imagination.
  4. Very similar packets are acceptable. Harne makes it clear that this could mean as little as a change of font in the ingredients list. Which, we can agree, makes all the difference.\
Here's the thing: the front page of the site is a massive wall of packets that takes forever to load and is instantly overwhelming. Clicking on a packet brings up a larger, high quality scan. No metadata is provided! Though one can argue that the packets themselves contain a lot of metadata right on the front (ingredients, date manufactured, etc.) this isn't always the case. And besides that, it still doesn't help for text based searching.

The site can be searched and browsed by "sauce type" (mayonnaise, mustard, and the always kinda scary when it comes to food 'other') and "special categories (which seems to refer to eatery of origin, essentially: Arby's, McDonald's, etc.) Which begs the question, if Harne went about classifying his sauces in such a manner, why not integrate the results into some sort of metadata system? I mean, clearly this is a guy with time on his hands.

In the end, I'm well aware that this is more or less just an internet oddity. But who knows! Maybe there's some one out there who wants to track down a sauce they had at some diner in the middle of nowhere and desperately needs some sort of packet database. Unfortunately, said person would be out of luck: the site hasn't been updated since 2005.

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