The Invisible Egg(s)

In this series of posts, I’ve been focussing on what I have identified as eleven eggs that are part of my salt-and-pepper shaker set collection.  But it has just occurred to me that there might, in fact, be twelve, or even more, albeit more implied than actually seeable.  Consider this set:

chick on basketIt is, clearly, a chicken, and the chicken is sitting on what appears to be a basket.  And why would a chicken be sitting on a basket?  There must, surely, be eggs in it.

In point of fact, the basket has nothing in it–except an empty space under its closed top with three small holes, into which salt or pepper might be placed.  But the eggs are, I think, implied.  I can imagine them there.

This is, incidentally, the kind of shaker set that collectors identify as a “nester”or “stacker”–one shaker that sits on top of another.  Except this time, perhaps, it actually does represent a nester.

The Last Egg

The last egg in my collection of eleven has also appeared previously on this blog in “Go Withs“.  It  is half of this set:
goose and egg

It is a golden egg, and so it goes with a goose.  In the light if the relative size of the egg and the goose, and if I am right in assuming that the goose is the producer of the egg, then I am guessing that it must be a goose in serious pain.

Eggs, Numbers Nine and Ten

The ninth and tenth eggs in my collection have appeared in a previous entry in this blog–Cute Newt–in which I talk about their intriguing relationship to the American politician Newt Gingrich.
humptiesThese shakers have moved significantly away from the more-or-less real-life situations of shakers three through eight, as described in my previous three posts: no chicks, no hatching, but human faces and shirts with ties.  they may actually be meant to represent Newt; they may be a doubled-up version of Humpty Dumpty; or they may have something to do with Lewis Carroll’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who, at least in John Tenniel’s illustration, are also rather egg-shaped.

tweedledumActually: double egg-shaped, with bodies that are shaped like eggs, and also, faces that look an awful lot like the ones on these shakers.


Eggs seven and eight:

hatchingThis pair has chicks busting out all over, none of them in complicated footwear.  they seem much too big for their shells–perhaps as much too big as the pair of about-to-hatch chicks of a couple of posts ago look too small for their shells.  But too big or too small, all these chicks fit equally well into the category of cute.

Although, taking another look at the picture just now after writing that, I have to say that the zoned-out expression of these chicks might be interpreted as being more zombie-like than merely adorable. They look a little like bird versions of the walking dead.

One of Chicken’s Children Got Shoes

The fifth or sixth egg of the eleven in my salt and pepper shaker collection is most notable for its footwear:

egg shoesThis freak of nature was born with its shoes already on, it seems. How the shoes got inside the shell is unclear–unless perhaps, those are not shoes at all, but this particular chick’s actual lower appendages. Perhaps, before giving birth to it, its mother had a passionate encounter with a stranger of the Adidas or Reebok persuasion.

And who knows what else will emerge as its shell breaks further open? A chick in jogging shorts? A tiny human in jogging shorts who has somehow been imprisoned in an egg? On the face of it rather cheerful, this egg and its apparently more ordinary companion are really kind of creepy. I mean, maybe I’m reading the scale all wrong. Maybe it’s actually a miniaturized version of a human-being-sized set of eggs, in which case, the one on the left is just a person wearing people shoes enclosed in a giant eggshell, whereas the creature on the right then seems to be a giant chick about to emerge from an equally giant shell and wreak havoc on horrified bystanders. Or maybe those are just fake chicken feet after all, and the two are just plain human children in unsettling Halloween costumes. Or hey, wait a minute, maybe it’s just a person in jogging shoes and a giant chicken who happened to be just standing there when two huge egg-shaped spheres flew down out of the sky and almost completely surrounded them. It might be a fifties movies called The Attack of the Alien Layers or something.

The point is, the shoes included in what would otherwise be just a pair of chicks beginning to emerge from their shells are a strange and unsettling detail that just doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the picture this pair of shakers creates. The result is a kind of absurdist theatre, a surreal form of wit that I wouldn’t have expected in the context of the salt-and-pepper miniverse.

Note, also, the ongoing humanizing of the animals of the miniverse. Without the presence of chick faces to put lashes around the eyes of and pinkish blush on the cheeks of, the maker of this pair has chosen to add a pair of human shoes–a detail that implies far more than the more conventionally cute blush or lashes do that this is a creature somehow on the border between human and animal, a transitional being neither human nor animal nor humanized animal, and therefore, a disturber of established categories and very unsettling. Deliberately unsettling, or just trying to be cute? I do not know. I just know it’s way too disturbing to be successfully cute.

The Moment of Birth (Ab Ovo)

These eggs show some apparently miniature chicks in the process of bursting through their shells:

two chicks

They thus represent the transition from purely abstract, as the eggs in my last post, to cute.  I’m not sure exactly why, but they even seem to be smiling–very optimistic and upbeat as they enter their new world, wings flapping joyfully.

This set of sort-of-humanized chicks makes me wonder if a representation of the moment of birth would be less acceptable in a condiment set for the dinner table if it represented a birth more exactly just plain human?  A mother and infant-in-the-process-of-being-born salt and pepper shaker set?  Could such a thing exist?  If it did, would you want to shake salt and pepper from it?

Eggs One and Two

The first two of my almost-a-dozen eggs are the most straightforward pair:

WP_000026They are monochromatic white, with no designs or added features.  They are just eggs–or rather, really, not even quite eggs, for the bases that allow them to stand up join seamlessly into their egglike parts, making them look like eggs that come with their own already-attached egg cups–or, really, more like miniature versions of those bodiless mannequin heads that you sometimes see in stores in hat displays. They are actually, in their closeness to the appearance of real eggs, the most abstract and least representational of the entire almost-a-dozen.  They could be read just as meaningless shapes rather than as trying to represent eggs.  Putting them on a table alongside real eggs then might seem like an interesting comment on egginess and eating, on egg shapes that are edible and egg shapes that are not–or they might just sit there looking like shakers with vaguely ovoid tops and not evoke the idea of eggs at all.   They are, unlike most of the other nine eggs in my collection, not the least bit cute, and not the least bit evocative of any of our standard linguistic connections with eggs and egginess–birds, chicks, laying, etc.


Recently, my friend Joseph Thomas made a comment on Facebook that relates to my interest in salt and pepper shakers:

What I think is wonderful about salt n pepper shakers: although they come as a pair, they so often aren’t bound together, save by their maker’s intent or owner’s whim. Thus, even pairs “meant for each other” can have dalliances with other shakers or mills, and should one’s mate be smashed, the remaining mill (or shaker) can make a nice home with a crew of very different shakers. A metaphor for polyamory, these anthropomorphized little critters.

As I thought about that, I realized how very true it is.  Earlier last year, I wrote a number of posts here exploring my particular fascination with the “go-with” aspect of shaker sets, and how it takes some insight into the mental activity of the person who chose them to go with each other to understand just what it is that connects them.  As I said then,

Some of the more interesting sets of salt and pepper shakers I’ve seen in antique shops are ones that are not in fact, clearly sets–or at least were not necessarily designed to be the sets they now are being sold as.  Not surprisingly, for salt-and-peppers consist of two objects that are in fact physically detached from each other.  It’s quite possible, then, that one of the two might break, or that the two might end up somehow separated from each other–a result of a nasty divorce settlement, perhaps, or a simple error in packing when a roommate leaves, or a salt incorrectly grabbed up along with the remains of dinner and thrown in the garbage, while it’s now sadly lonely pepper partner remains behind.  What more obvious thing for a store owner to do when such a sad single shows up in the shop but  to find some other woeful isolate that might by some stretch of the imagination be considered to go with it, and try to sell them as a pair?  And lo, as if by magic, they do, sort of become a pair, as would-be purchasers like me look at them and, more or less inevitably, I think, try to decide what is the intended connection between these two objects now identified on their sales tag as a pair.

The paradigm of the pair is powerful.  It can join what some man (or woman or child) has put asunder.  In the shaker universe, linguistic binarism rules.

As Joseph suggests, and if it’s true that the paradigm of the pair is powerful, then paradoxically, then you can defy the connections made by manufacturers and shopkeepers just as easily as you can observe them–be your own deliriously postmodern creator of new pairs, new combinations, new possibilities.  You can become the new god of the shaker miniverse.

Thinking about all that, and in celebration of Joseph’s idea of polyamory, I remember two particular sets I’ve discussed in earlier posts, this one.


And this one:

briefcase and newspaper

Polyamorous perversity then leads me to this combo:


The sexual politics here are pretty astonishing.  Think about it.

I should also say that I have also indulged in some mismatching of pairs in a previous post–the one about Santa Claus giving a big smack to a bunch of bad guys.