Infinitely self-referential food packages

I just had a creamy, delicious wedge of Laughing Cow brand cheese. On the round package is a cartoon of a cow. She is indeed, laughing, with a disturbingly human expression. Not only that, but she’s wearing earrings. The earrings consist of round Laughing Cow packages, each with the very same picture of that cow – wearing the same earrings.

The implication is that, if the picture were infinitely detailed, it would contain an infinite number of images of that French bovine, receding in endless succession. Smaller and smaller, down to the size of elementary particles – and an infinite number infinitely smaller than that. That cow is messing with my head; no wonder she laughs.

I know I’ve seen the same conceit on other food product packages, but the only one I can think of right now is Maypo, the delicious maple-flavored oat cereal. (At least, one of the designs showed a kid preparing to shovel the hot muck into his enormous crescent-shaped piehole, while on the table, next to the bowl, rested a box depicting the very same scene, including the box itself . . .)

So, what other products have this kind of impossible scene? When did it first appear, and was Kurt Godel involved? I need to clear this up so I can get on with my life.

Not a product per se, but the cover for Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma* is set up that way, though each version is slightly different.

Laughing Cow


I love this sort of thing. It’s done on comic books a lot- they call them “infinity covers” there.

Bottles and cans of Coca-Cola do this, or at least used to; take a look here. Here’s another, and here is some guy’s “collection” of Coke cans. (I’m no expert, but that doesn’t look like much of a collection to me.)

What’s weird about these? Apparently, the Coke people wanted to put something on their label that would clearly identify their product with a feel-good, happy vibe, right? Then, perhaps narcissistically, they decided that nothing makes a feel-better vibe than Coke itself.

So the Coke cans are decorated with pictures of Coke bottles and glasses of Coke. The product identifies itself simply by affixing a picture of itself. It’s as if a cop asked Jack Nicholson for some ID, and Jack just gave the cop an unmarked headshot.

(Just from scanning through a couple pages of photos tagged “Coke” on flickr, I get the impression Coke doesn’t do this anymore. Perhaps all the existential, post-modern angst caught up with them.)

Edit: I guess it’s not “infinitely” self-referential, as the OP describes. It’s always struck me as weird, though.

Not at the moment, but in the 1970s, Campbell’s Soup had a run of special labels on their “kid friendly” soups (like Alphabet Noodle) that featured those weird cartoony Campbell’s Soup twins, holding cans of soup featuring the Campbell’s Soup twins, etc. etc.

Land o’ Lakes butter has an image of an Indian maiden holding a box of Land O’ Lakes butter.

Can’t believe I’m the first to mention THE classic example:

The Quaker on the box of oats holding a box of oats with a picture of a Quaker holding a box of oats with a picture of a…

When you combine the two, do you get this?

I once walked past a dentist’s office with a sign out front with a clip-art picture of a dancing anthropomorphic tooth. The tooth had eyes and a smile. A toothy smile. Which made me wonder if the tooth’s teeth had teeth. And whether the tooth’s teeth’s teeth had teeth as well.

I haven’t been able to sleep well since.

A roll of Smarties has a picture of a roll of Smarties on it, but it’s too simple a depiction to be infinite.

Ah, Smarties. Do they still make those?

Oh. I thought you meant these Smarties.

Not these Smarties.

The former are my favorite candy ever.

The Laughing Cow and the Pink Floyd album have officially freaked me out for tonight.

That cow knows something.

Drewbert’s anecdote about teeth with teeth reminded me of a passage from John Hodgman’s (he’s a PC) comedy book The Areas of My Expertise, in which he claims that inside the dome of the library of Yale University, there is a scale model of the city of New Haven. In this model, inside the dome of the library of Yale University, there is a scale model of the city of New Haven. In this model, inside the dome of the library of Yale University, there is a scale model of the city of New Haven…and so on.

You can’t have Hallowe’en without them!