By now, you know how I feel about labels. When made by someone else, that sucker’s most likely getting ripped off the minute after it comes in our house. But even when made by me, I’d usually rather go without a label at all. There’s plenty that’s tucked away in our cabinets and fridge that isn’t identified by date or written description. The glass jars of dried black beans that we dip into weekly, for instance, feel self-explanatory. Likewise the oatmeal and the rice.
But there are other items that I admit can blend a bit together. Since James started his baking habit in earnest a few years ago, we have become a family in a tiny apartment (with but one cabinet to call our pantry), who nonetheless stocks not just one kind of flour, but many. At the time of writing we have jars of bread flour, all-purpose flour, rye flour, tapioca flour, and rice flour, and that’s just what I can recall from memory. The list, in fact, goes on. Yes, in the case of powdery white-ish substances, a bit of labeling is helpful for telling what’s what. For the past few years we’ve used mostly Japanese masking tape and a marker, but on a reader’s recent suggestion, I started using china markers (otherwise known as wax pencils or grease markers) for a lower waste alternative.
You might recall these waxy pencils, as I did, from grade school. If memory serves, ours were usually red and used for marking up spelling tests and other things written on lined newsprint pages. (Childhood friends and siblings feel free to confirm!) Instead of sharpening them, you peel them, tugging the small white string that hangs near the pencil’s tip to strip away the paper lining and expose more wax. They’re similar to a crayon, but stronger, and designed specifically to write on non-porous surfaces like ceramics and glass.
I like them. But I will concede that I haven’t perfected my use of these pencils for the purpose of labeling. It might be user error, but I find them to be a bit sloppy to work with. It’s possible that another brand offers a different quality, but I used what I could find at my local hardware store (these ones, sold individually for less than $1.50 a piece). I didn’t experiment with other makes, but I did first try using my kids’ water soluble wax pastels. I was hoping the china markers might be an improvement, but I’ve found that when writing on glass, they’re comparable to the wax pastels we already had. Both perfectly satisfactory, but neither perfect.
Still, the pleasure in seeing a simple label wipe cleanly away with a bit of warm water and a rag is enough to keep me going. We’re going to start using them to date Silas’s preschool lunches, too, and for helping each other identify any potentially suspect leftovers in the fridge.
Who else uses them? Who has tips? I’m all ears.