Saturday, March 11, 2006

On "against throwawayism" and other matters

casserole 1 (looks good, feels good)

So, as you may remember, a number of weeks ago we featured an iittala casserole on one of our top ten lists (top ten #4), and we left a brief, cryptic nod to iittala’s philosophy of “against throwawayism.” If you are an especially discerning reader, you might have concluded that this casserole was received as Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa gift (you would have been right). You see, a few months ago now—it must have been around October—Michelle and I made one of our regular trips to Les Touilleurs, around the corner from here, to check to see if they had anything new and interesting in stock and to generally ogle the merchandise. And on that fateful occasion we came across the iittala casserole you see above. It was so well designed, so appealing to the eye, that we noticed it from across the room and literally charged over to take a closer look. It was even better looking up close and in personal: gorgeous lines, sturdy cast-iron construction, beautiful enameled interior, and a clever detachable wooden handle that doubles as a lid-removing utensil. Michelle was nearly moved to tears (I wish I was exaggerating) and she immediately started to fantasize about “the cottage” (the one that exists only in Michelle’s imagination) and how we’d bury that casserole in the fireplace’s ashes and slow-cook our meals while we read and toasted our feet in our respective easy chairs and the cats lolled about beside us. (It’s safe to say that Michelle has an active imagination, but her fantasy life is only stoked when she comes across images like this one

olney's fireplace

in Richard Olney’s The French Menu Cookbook). That’s when I knew things would become obsessive if someone somewhere didn’t take action. Sure enough, every time we passed by Les Touilleurs for the next couple of months, Michelle found herself unable to resist the lure of that casserole, and over and over again I found myself taking part in yet another edition of Fantasy Cottage. There have been times in the past where I’ve seen her react similarly to other kitchen utensils, but never with this level of enthusiasm (in the full-on religious sense), and, frankly, this time I secretly agreed with her. That iittala casserole came with a rather significant price tag, but compared to a lot of other items on the market, this one seemed absolutely worth it. It all has to do with “against throwawayism.” If you didn’t bother to follow the link to iittala’s every-so-stylish website, you might have found yourself wondering, “What the hell is ‘against throwawayism’”? Well, it’s more or less exactly what it sounds like: the radical belief that home furnishings should be well designed and well constructed so that they’ll last a lifetime and you’ll never need or want to replace them. In the realm of casseroles, with names like Le Creuset and Émile Henry on the market, “against throwawayism” doesn’t seem all that unique (or radical), but in this day and age in virtually every other aspect of our lives it’s an approach to life that's absent (Remember when everything from cars to shoes to furniture was designed and built to last? Unfortunately, I don’t. But I know they were.)

casserole 2 (well designed, too)

Well, lo and behold, what should turn up under the Christmas tree addressed to Michelle but her very own iittala casserole. And that casserole promptly made its way onto our top ten list, but as opposed to the Global chef’s knife that some other lucky devil received that very same Christmas Day, it made it there purely on its wonderful design, not on its actual functionality, because we never actually christened it until just the other day. Partly it was because we were left in awe by its mere presence. Partly it was because we never found ourselves with a day where we had the hours needed to properly slow-cook a meal the way that casserole demanded. Partly it was because we were having a hard time settling on what meal to christen it with. Well, when Michelle found out a few days ago that she’d received an unexpected Friday off from her regular duties at Les Chèvres, we knew that was some kind of sign and we quickly set about trying to finally decide on a meal. We consulted at least half a dozen cookbooks and two dozen recipes and tossed around innumerable possible options before we finally settled on something. What meal did we christen that casserole with? Well, you’ll just have to come back and see tomorrow.



Anonymous said...

you know, it's really cruel to leave those of us who are stuck working in front of their computer on a Saturday night wondering: "What, but what could they have made with that casserole?"



Anonymous said...

It's Sunday, it's raining and I have a wonderful Le Creuset hand-me-down (still looking as sexy as when my grandmother used to use it... mental note: should never use "sexy" and "grandmother" in the same sentence) just waiting for your recipe... you know sometimes leaving people hanging creates an aura of over-promise. Will the recipe live-up to the wonderful black casserole? Saddly we spotted it last week at Les Touilleurs and it also caught our eye... Xmas is so far away...