On Top of Old Smoky–and Other Places to Be on Top of

In my last post, I talked about a shaker set that consisted of two parts of Mt. St. Helen’s: the top part of it that blew off in 198o, and the bottom part that remained behind.  According to the website of the Novelty Salt and Pepper Shakers Club,this makes my Mt. St. Helen’s set a representative of a specific kind of shakers:  nesters or stackers.  According to the Club,  a nester or stacker is a set in which:

  • One of the shakers sits upon part of the other without touching the shelf.
  • The base shaker totally supports the upper shaker.

In this case, the top of the mountain sits upon the bottom, and the bottom totally supports the top.  As I look back over shaker sets that I’ve discussed in previous entries, I see that a number of them are nesters or stackers:  the removable breasts of a naked woman sit on her torso, thus making her a stacker–and a well-stacked one (sorry; couldn’t resist);  the two lobster chefs in the processs of preparing themselves for dinner nest inside of the pot they appear to be planning to cook themselves in;  the pearly pink young lady gets stacked on tip of the chair she sits on.  No part of the breast, the lobsters, or the young lady sits on a shelf.

Here’s another set of stackers to add to the collection:At first glance, this appears to be just one piece of earthenware.  But if it were just one piece, it could hardly provide both salt and pepper, right?  And so, it turns out to be two pieces after all: You can choose your condiment from either the man or his hat.

This nesting and/or stacking represents a fairly prevalent ingenuity factor in salt and pepper sets–a way in which they do something more than just represent something–something physical that makes their connection with each other kind of clever and also, (here’s the word again) kind of cute.  Because it’s cute that your pepper shaker would sit on the head of your salt shaker, especially since one is a hat and the other is a head.  I mean, who woulda thunk it, eh?  And yet, once you do think about it, so obvious and apropos.  The hat actually comes off the head, just like a real hat.  So gosh darned, all-fired adorable.  It’s yet another aspect of the set that encourages a kind of response to the set’s adorable novelty (as in, .e.g. the whole idea of novelty salt and pepper shaker sets in general, that they are novel, unusual).  This is an invited response that is both approving of it and, at the same time, more than a little dismissive.  Why dismissive?  Because the ingenuity is so completely and entirely pointless, and really, so completely and entirely without any sort of significance, so entirely self-contained.  The hat sits on the head because the hat sits on the head, and for no other more practical or useful purpose–because hats in reality do sit on heads, and wouldn’t it be cute and sort of clever to represent that in miniature earthenware?  It’s another aspect of the set that makes it little and safe, and admirable in its littleness and safeness.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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