As the Czechs have less than a month to go before accession to the European Union, I’d like to point out a matter of Extreme Importance. Actually, no. It’s just one of those silly things that expats tend to pick up on that they file under ‘What Makes Europeans European’: Europeans have an innate ability to open triangular spread cheese packages without making a complete mess.
If you’re a foreigner looking to get residency in the EU and you can’t open one of these, you’re in big trouble, pal.
For my own part, I’ve never been able to open a foil cheese triangle without getting spread cheese (the Czechs call it tavenÃ½ sÃ½r) everywhere – on my fingers, on the plate of the person sitting next to me, on the counter, on the window of a Czech tour bus I was riding on in Italy – everywhere except where it was supposed to go. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is one of those tests that, like those in the movie “Blade Runner,” separate Us from Them.
The classic Us vs. Them test on That Side of the Pond involves root beer. Americans love it. Europeans – especially Czechs, tend to hate it. Czechs say it reminds them of Communist toothpaste.
But back to spread cheese. Spread cheese is not to be confused with cheese spread. Cheese spread is that weird chemical stuff that comes in a can. You can lubricate your car’s transmission with cheese spread. Spread cheese comes in little foil triangles, and if you buy enough of them, in circular packages made of these triangles. Strangely enough, if you buy enough of those, they don’t come in giant rolls.
I’ve been thinking a fair amount about spread cheese packaging because an acquaintance who is a designer told me about a recent assignment, perhaps one of the most impossible jobs I could imagine, and it involved spread cheese.
There apparently was only one brand of spread cheese under the Communists: a brand called Apetito. There was one factory that made Apetito, and, like many companies in the Era of Privatization, it was broken up and sold to private investors. In this case, one half of the company was sold to a French dairy concern, and the concern continued making spread cheese called “Apetito.”
Then the other half was sold to another French dairy concern. It too continued making spread cheese, except theirs was called “Appetito.” Two P’s.
So the designer’s brief was to make the packaging of one stand out from the other. While keeping the name, which is now part of a bitter fight between the two French dairy concerns.
My problem is that I can’t remember if it was “Apetito” or “Appetito” he was working for. No word on whether he came up with a new way to package the cheese either.