Coffee Lids, Cupholder Cuisine, and America's Obesity Crisis

What the history of cups and cupholders tells us about one of the driving forces behind obesity—and a simple solution.

Over at Edible Geography, our friend Nicola Twilley recently wrote about the fascinating historical evolution of the coffee lid, from its early days as a disposable plastic drink-through lid for cold beverages to its current ubiquity.

According to Harpman, “the true efflorescence in drink-through lid design and production can be traced to the 1980s, when we, as a culture, decided that it was important, even necessary, to be able to walk, or drive, or commute while drinking hot liquids.” Twenty-six new patents were issued in the 80s alone, for refinements in “mouth comfort, splash reduction, friction fit, mating engagement, and one-handed activation.”


The disposable cup lid is a design reflecting our car-centric "cupholder cuisine," or what Business Week recently dubbed the "Golden Age of Drive-Thru," where food and drink are designed for eating and drinking on the go. As Jon Mooallem wrote in Harper's magazine in 2005 (subscriber's only):

Research by Culinary Institute of America food historian John Nihoff shows that 19 percent of meals in this country are currently guzzled in cars, a trend reflected both in the variety of foods being shaped into cup holder-friendly packages and in the demand for vehicles that accommodate such expedited eating. A recent study found that a new car buyer is less likely to care about a vehicle's gas mileage than about the versatility of its cup holders.


More recently, statistician Sheldon H. Jacobson observed a correlation with driving and obesity in the journal Transport Policy (PDF), suggesting that if every licensed driver in the United States drove one less mile per day, five million fewer adults would be classified as obese within six years.

Given the attention we've given to designing disposable cups and cars adapted to hold them, I wonder what would happen if cars just came with fewer cupholders.

Drawing via R. I. Stubblefield, 1935. Cap for Drinking Glasses. US Patent 2003657.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

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via Around the NFL / Twitter

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The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

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"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

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Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


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