We’ve reached a point as a civilization that discovering actual cookies inside the iconic Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookie Tin containers comes more as a surprise than finding threads and needles in them.
Not Just Asians
While the meme of the cookie sewing kit has become a staple in online Asian communities such as Asian Life Hacks and Subtle Asian Traits, online threads participated by other cultures show that this has been a global phenomenon.
A viral Reddit thread from 2018 confirms that nearly every country in the world has used the popular cookie tins for storing sewing supplies.
Based on the map created by Reddit user cantfindusernameomg, almost all cultures had been deceived by the unintentional “no cookie prank.”
“I did my best to read all the comments,” noted the user. “Here’s a world map of what’s been covered so far.
“Unclaimed countries for the curious (list is not exhaustive): Bhutan, few African countries, few islands in the Caribbean, Liechtenstein, Vatican, Luxembourg, most island nations in the Pacific.”
Never Ending Memes
There has been no shortage of memes and online jokes about the blue tins. Most poke fun at the disappointment someone gets upon seeing the red tomato pin cushion instead of some delicious treats.
My plans 2020 pic.twitter.com/tA9uzoFczX
— nathan (@868nathan) May 20, 2020
— ダニ●ガール (@dani_girl) December 4, 2019
— Suz🌸 (@RadianceFuel) October 26, 2019
— Royal Dansk (@Royal_Dansk_SA) April 14, 2014
— gina pina (@ginapina) October 17, 2017
Too Pretty to Throw Away
This cross-culture phenomenon makes the mystery of the tins all the more intriguing: When did the cookie sewing kit movement start? Who is the genius behind this practical, recycling innovation?
While there is no definitive answer to this, the internet has come up with very strong theories on the matter.
One theory that has persisted in many conversations online ties the cookie sewing kit mystery to the very history of modern consumer goods packaging.
A Buzzfeed community user wrote in 2015 that her mother explained how, during wartime, people were urged to reuse items instead of disposing them. Indeed, many found the the now iconic blue tins displaying the old Danish farmhouse Hjemstavnsgaard too nice-looking to throw away, so they made use of them as storage boxes for small items.
The sewing kit, which is a must-have item in every home in the pre-RTW era, seems like the perfect fit for the lovely cookie container.
It is worth noting that while companies were already using tin containers for a variety of products in the 1830s, it was not until the arrival of Royal Dansk’s cookie tins in 1966 when consumers decided to keep the containers instead of throwing them away.
The company’s website states: “The tin was used to maintain freshness of the cookies. It was resealable and reusable for storing in general, and some people used it simply as a bowl to serve from. It’s a matter of no surprise that it was known as The Blue Tin.”
Other sources point to a different European cookie company called Huntley and Palmers for popularizing the trend of using intricately-designed tins that are too pretty to just discard.
According to the Smithsonian, fascination for the tin cans grew in the 20th century as intercontinental travel became popular and demand for the imperishable cookies increased. Similar to Royal Dansk’s cookie tins, more people saw them as natural storage containers instead of something disposable.
Today, Huntley and Palmers’ containers have actually become more popular and are considered more of a collectible item than sewing kit storage.
Trying to get to the bottom of whose grandma or grandpa thought about storing their sewing stuff in the Royal Dansk tins may in fact be futile at this point as historians may have neglected this piece of information in their books. However, it is interesting to find how some things can be a source of fun and similarity across cultures, even if it just a seemingly mundane thing as a sewing storage box.
Image via Jo Koy