It started with a dish rack. I don’t remember where I saw it first — maybe on Food52’s website. But I definitely know I saw it later — with its clean, straight edges, in muted gray, framed by elegant wood handles — at my friend’s house. It was sitting on her polished-wood countertops, beneath artfully arranged shelves and near a window through which sun poured onto it.
When your kitchen could look that lovely, how could you possibly settle for a lesser dish rack? Why buy a clunky, shiny black thing when you could have elegant, streamlined design sitting by your sink every day? Those were the questions with which I silently berated myself when I returned to my own (smaller, less sun-dappled) kitchen, questioning all my appliance choices.
The better question is: Since when did everything get to be so nice? Eliza Brooke explored the topic recently for Eater, attempting to understand how we’ve found ourselves paying $100 for rose gold trash cans and speckled ceramic sponge holders and garlic scrapers. Part of the answer is perfectly reasonable: There’s joy to be had from owning pretty things, particularly ones that you never realized could be so pretty. I love my smooth white Staub baking dish, which is a much nicer vehicle for serving food directly from the oven than a crusty Pyrex.
But sometimes the opportunity to upgrade can feel like an imperative. The moment I started questioning the aesthetic value of my dustpan and brush was when I decided to reel myself back. There’s nothing wrong with a sleek little dirt sweeper, and there’s something to be said for pleasing geometry. But I want to feel fine about my basic rubber tools and my occasionally dirtbag ways. Not every space of our lives — especially our kitchens — must be photo-worthy.
Things to buy
- Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day, co-written by Eater Young Gun JJ Johnson (’14), explores the blending of Asian, African, and American flavors and was just nominated for a James Beard cookbook award.
- Live out your dreams of being the Morton Salt Girl (or your dreams of owning an actually-nice umbrella that hopefully lasts more than four uses) with this Morton Salt umbrella, from the company’s surprisingly good merch collection.
- It’s fair to be skeptical of Kickstarter projects, but the Misen chef’s knife, which began as a crowdfunded product back in 2015, is actually high quality and, as I can personally attest thanks to my wedding registry, enjoyable to use.
- Shoes that you can wear while toiling in the kitchen prepping for a dinner party and to the dinner party itself? They’re rare to find, but Rothy’s flats fit the bill and are front-of-house approved.
Things to know
- A thing you may start seeing soon, though I admittedly haven’t encountered it in the wild yet: “dynamic emails.” As the Verge describes it, “AMP for Gmail is designed to make emails feel more like an interactive webpage without punting users to a browser,” which means you could eventually click to buy something directly from your email without having to open a new tab. For now, only a few email senders have the capability, but Pinterest (!) is one of them.
- News from the DTC cookware world: Nick Kokonas announced that the Alinea Group is investing in Made In Cookware and collaborating on products. (Not to be confused with Alison Roman’s advisor role with direct-to-consumer brand Material, or the other inevitable chef-DTC collabs that are yet to arrive…)
- Your cotton tote bag (or if you’re like me, all 47 of your cotton tote bags) may not be as environmentally friendly as you thought. In fact, in terms of total environmental impact, classic plastic shopping bags are the least damaging, while you’d need to use your cotton tote 7,100 times to get that same “environmental performance.”
- For those who missed the recent launch of Kourtney Kardashian’s lifestyle website, a Goop ripoff called Poosh (yes, really), here are some CliffsNotes: She’s on the organic wine train (with not-so-terrible picks, tbh); her Tokyo restaurant rec is Gonpachi, “the famous restaurant in the movie Kill Bill”; and she’s very excited about this great ingredient called turmeric.