Thursday 7 May 2020

Boxing not so clever

How much is left in my wine box? Your guess is as good as mine – and it’s my box.

You might recall that at the beginning of lockdown I bought a box of wine, as a desperate measure when it seemed as if we might never be able to purchase wine again. I went happily along for several days, pouring myself a nightly pichet from the box for supper, before it became possible to order, purchase and drink wine pretty much as ever before. And when I switched to the newly delivered bottles, I lost track of how many evenings I had drunk from “the bottomless well”.

Then Mrs K asked whether it was okay to use some for cooking – and reported back with the ominous news that she had had to tip the box to make it pour. Oh no. Like those wretched rechargeable devices such as radios, which simply run out of power without warning, the box is running out of wine.

It’s hard enough to judge how much is left in a bottle of wine, when you can see through the glass, given that you have to allow for the narrowing of the neck. Can you pour yourself just a bit more, or are you going to leave yourself short for the next time? It’s a difficult calculation, and can have consequences, when you realise you’ve gone that bit too far so that, sod it, you might as well drink the lot.

But with a box, there’s no visual indication at all of how much is left. And shaking it doesn’t really help. There’s just a vague sloshing noise, which I can’t relate to any particular quantity. What does a glass of wine sound like?

Nor does shaking it seem to release any more of the wine. It’s not like freeing the last glutinous contents of a bottle of sauce, of which I was warned as a child, “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; None’ll come out, and then a lot’ll.”

Although I remember drinking with someone once who showed me how they would remove the silver bag from inside a wine box, and literally wring it out to get at the last few drops. It may sound mean, or desperate, or even borderline alcoholic, but actually you’d be surprised how much extra you can squeeze out…

Why get worked up about it, you might ask? Because there is no point in coming to the box and finding that it only pours out half a glass. Assuming you don’t have another box of the same (and no, of course I don’t), what do you do then? Mix it, with something different from the cellar? Switch wine halfway through supper? Down it in one and open a new bottle? Throw it aw… no, forget that one.

It cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise a solution. Like a clear column in the side of the box which shows you the level inside, as with some designs of kettle. Or something like a fuel gauge, which goes down, not so much into the red as out of it. Or some kind of thing, I don’t know, floating on the wine which you can see through a window. I’m thinking of that little flotation device in the dishwasher which tells you when you need more salt. Allegedly.

Or must I resort to weighing the box? There are three bottles of wine in there, so as I think I remember (find the tables on the back of my Silvine exercise book) height times width times depth to get the cubic capacity in inches, sir, then convert to, er, fluid ounces, then 16 to a pint, er, a pint weighs a pound… oh, it says here on the box 2.25 litres. Which is 2.25 kilos. God, kids today…

So I’d have to weigh the full box, noting anything over 2.25 kilos as the weight of the packaging, and then monitor the ongoing weight of the box (minus the weight of the packaging) as an indication of how much liquid is left inside? But it somehow sounds like you're drinking so much more. "You've drunk half a kilo of wine tonight!"

And it’s a bit of a faff, isn’t it? Writing the ongoing weight/quantity on the box itself each night to keep track? Oh, and just where one’s partner can see it and remark upon the amount one appears to have consumed in three nights? Perhaps not.

In the meantime, the box just sits there, guarding the secret of its contents like Colonel Sanders’s recipe. There may be enough wine inside to accompany a meal – or there may not. And having lost track in all this excitement, I can only ask myself one question. 

Do I feel lucky?


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