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Novelty salt and pepper shakers divide TikTok, cause existential crises

Why can’t all salt and pepper shakers be this straightforward?
Why can’t all salt and pepper shakers be this straightforward?
Photo: Tetra Images (Getty Images)

Cutesy, slogan-emblazoned home goods comprise a category of merchandise we know all too well. You’ve seen these items while strolling through T.J. Maxx or Target or Sur La Table. They are the very bedrock of Pinterest boards. And now, a vapid little set of salt and pepper shakers have become the source of much strife for one TikTok user, Garret Burns, who recently received them as a gift from his girlfriend. He explains his predicament in the video below.

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Hat tip to Elamin Abdelmahmoud, curation editor for BuzzFeed News, whose post about the video over on Twitter (with the caption “I am having an absolute meltdown”) initially caught our attention. Burns is right to be perplexed; these shakers—one of which is labeled “YOU’RE THE SALT,” and the other, “TO MY PEPPER”—don’t actually indicate their intended contents at all. It’s like that riddle in Labyrinth where one guard always tells the truth and the other one always lies. Furthermore, does the presence of the terms “you” and “my” mean that these shakers are imbued with personhood? The philosophy majors out there probably have names for the theories being thrown around here; I do not.

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Untangling the mystery of which condiment belongs in which vessel is a Sisyphean task that ultimately spans the length of three separate TikTok videos with thousands upon thousands of comments from viewers weighing in. Many of them suggest that you need only look at the holes on top of the shakers to determine which condiment goes where, but commenters are divided on whether salt or pepper gets more holes.

“I don’t think anybody actually knows,” says Burns, after staring into space for a moment to contemplate the enormity of it all. “I think I found a different thing we can argue about on this app.” Perish the thought.

Will we ever know the ultimate truth? Does the designer of these inscrutable, opaque kitchen tools feel properly chastened by this debacle? There is a third and final installment to this saga, and that video can be found here. It’s better if you watch the other two first, though, and then tune in for the twist.

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Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

The correct solution is put salt in both and use a pepper-grinder.