I believe postmodernism is one of the most destructive trends of today. Objects have lost the very functionalities that used to define them. How dare you use my Noguchi table for eating off. What nerve one must have to buy an elegant trench coat and then actually wear it in the rain. How could anyone even imagine putting their feet in a pair of sneakers, in lieu of elevating these limited-edition accessories to the status of art, bought and sold at auction like a Da Vinci. Every company is a technology company. Every concept is a platform. Nothing is simply what it is.
Except for toothpicks.
In this maelstrom of existential nonsense, there’s something sublime about the toothpick. Even the name is beautiful. Obvious. What do you do with it? Pick your teeth. If there’s food stuck in there, get it out. If there’s not… I don’t know, chew on it. It’ll look cool.
The toothpick is considered by anthropologists to be one of the most ubiquitous tools in history – with evidence of toothpicks even predating modern humans to the era of Neanderthals. The Ancient Romans made them out of mastic wood. In the 17th Century, European royalty had them cast out of precious metals, encrusted with gemstones fit for a Baroque 2 Chainz. Yet before the 19th Century, most common folk used to just whittle them at-will whenever the need for the instrument arose. Then came an enterprising gentleman named Charles Forster who utilized a method later employed by the likes of Grey Goose to much success. He had attractive young Harvard men frequent local apothecaries and restaurants in Boston and ask for wooden toothpicks. When none were available, they guffawed and left. Forster would then return to the establishment and sell them toothpicks. Quickly, the illusion of a need for the little wooden utensils arose and they became a common sight all around the country, used both for their God-given purpose and as a kind of fashion accessory.
Now – what toothpick to choose? An artisanal option defeats the purpose although, yes, they do exist. Instead, I highly recommend these Tea Tree Therapy toothpicks. To be blunt – I want them with me all of the time, forever. They seem fancy, but trust me, they’re not. They’re just toothpicks. If you buy them somewhere that’s not implementing an outrageous markup, a pack of 100 should cost $3 max.
This brand makes cinnamon toothpicks as well, but don’t get them. I have a firm belief that using cinnamon toothpaste should be added to the Macdonald Triad. Get the classics. The tea tree oil infusion is alluring, dare I say exotic. There’s menthol in there too. It’s minty. It’s refreshing. It’s supposedly good for your gums since tea tree oil is one of the oldest natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory salves known to man. There is one “innovation” about this particular brand – the top of the picks come indented with a line in the wood. Should you want to look truly insane, as I sometimes do, you can actually snap off this piece, place it on a surface and then rest the toothpick on top with the side you’d chew on hoisted up in the air, safe from any surface-borne contaminants. Should you do this on a first date, or ever, really? No. But is it kind of cool that you could? The product guy in me says yes.
There’s a Rebel Without A Cause feeling about chewing on one of these bad boys. Look at me, toothpick slightly adrift. I might be pretentious, sure. But I contain multitudes. Do I drive a motorcycle? (No). Do I own a leather jacket? (Yes).
I also love chewing toothpicks because it is one of the only vices left that’s socially acceptable. People do it to stop smoking, drinking, snacking – you name it. Freud would’ve loved these things – they solve any oral fixation. They even help me keep my mouth shut sometimes.
Nonetheless, the ultimate use case for this toothpick remains the original one: after eating a fine meal. I know this is a publication focused on health and wellness, but I maintain that indulging is an act of self-care, as long as it’s not done too frequently. In that spirit, when it comes to the kind of meal to eat before chomping down for some Tea Tree Therapy, I recommend a distinctly uncool one. One riddled with gristle and fat. Spicy fermented condiments. Shellfish and organ meat and stringy stewed vegetables. There should be a lot of butter involved and stinky, oozing cheeses. And gluten. Make sure there’s gluten. Stain your teeth with red wine and Scotch whiskey. Just go for it.
And then, on your way out, redeem yourself. Unsheath your Tea Tree stylet like the ever-forgiving sidearm it is. Relish the life-affirming snap of the cheap plastic container as you lock it back into place. Rehearse how you’ll introduce the toothpick to your mouth. Stab away with undignified enthusiasm. Cleanse your palate of all that came before. And then, throw it away and break out a second one. With that fresh pick hoisted ever-so-gently between your lips, walk out into the dusk and think about what you’ve done. Rest easy that your breath is fresh and your belly full. Chew your sins away.
An Ode To these tea tree toothpicks by born-and-bred New Yorker Douglas Brundage who has been writing about culture for over a decade. Formative in the early days of both Hypebeast and Highsnobiety, he focuses primarily on style, art, business and men’s fashion. As a “real job” he serves as Executive Creative Director and VP, Strategy for Team Epiphany, an advertising agency based in NY and LA.
To be blunt – I want them with me all of the time, forever.