Archive for the ‘Containers’ Category

Gorgeous Georges

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

georges briard compoteEven if you’re not really trying, when you’re in the vintage business you learn things, if only to help spin a tale for a sale. Like the names of designers.  Russian glassware genius Georges Briard was one of the first I came to recognize after I picked up a set of his striped drinking glasses.

These were very pop, very modern, so I was surprised when I put his name to other designs closer in spirit to the compote shown here. At first I thought it was fussy and perhaps too period, but with its eclectic modern look it works well in my house. The base is a lowball glass turned upside down.

I don’t know whether Mr. Briard, nee Jascha Brojdo, pissed off somebody from The New York Times during his career, but they dissed him in the obituary department. Here’s an award-winning designer whose work was ubiquitous in the 50s and 60s, a man who created a signature style instantly recognizable even now, and they make his family pay for a crummy four-sentence obit?

The Cox’s Orange Pippins you see here are the ones I wrote about yesterday. They were grown at Threshold Farm in Columbia County New York,  a farm that has never been sprayed or treated with chemicals since it was founded in the 1700s.

Additional info on Mr. Brojdo and collecting Georges Briard can be found here. Scroll down to see the fabulous Coq D’or patterned tray.


Friday, September 11th, 2009

Cap'n Crunch's Crunch BerriesWhen I was a kid, we did not have many sweets in the house. I would occasionally sneak downstairs early in the morning  and eat sprinkles or a can of cake icing. Soda and blatantly sugared cereal were mostly forbidden, but for a while it was something of a tradition to receive a box of Cap’n Crunch as a birthday present.

Every now and then as an adult, I get the urge to consume a box of this “sweetened corn & oat cereal” (usually for dinner, not breakfast.)  I have probably gone a decade here and there without them, but lately I find myself compelled to visit the sugared cereal aisle more frequently. I theorize it may be related to the performance of the economy. The Cap’n Crunch economic indicator.

I know, I know, after wolfing down a few bowls with adult taste buds, it starts to feel like eating glass. But at least I can rest assured that I am eating healthy, since Crunch Berries are a U.S.-government approved Smart Choice pick.

I always liked the plain, disliked the Peanut, and loved the Crunch Berries. When I was young, Crunch Berries came in their natural pinkish color. Today, through the lord only knows what sort of chemical trickery, they come in green, purple, and blue as well. And the proportion of Berries to Cap’n Crunch nodules is now all skewed. But I adapted, I did.

However, about a month ago I looked down at my bowl and noticed a deformed Crunch Berry. It was in the original pinkish color, which was nice, but it looked shriveled, and spikey. As I gazed ever deeper into my bowl, I suddenly realized this was no mere quality control glitch—all the Crunch Berries were grossly deformed!

Alarmed but still coherent, I put down the bowl and examined the cereal box. Apparently, in my supermarket haste, I grabbed a “Limited Edition” CAP’N CRUNCH’S CRUNCH BERRIES, and the Berries had somehow been manipulated into shapes resembling “Sea Animals.” That pink, dessicated, Berry-with-protrusions was supposed to be a starfish. Something to do with a tie-in to SeaWorld.

I use the word “resembling” generously, as it seems the technology that would allow rendering a normal Crunch Berry into a “Sea Animal Shape” has not been fully developed. In the meantime, can someone please tell The Quaker Oats Company to stop messing with the Crunch Berries?

Sometimes a Pepper Mill

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

pepper grindersThere is no reason in the world for me to have this many pepper mills. Of all the mills that have come my way, the one that works the best is the one in black plastic from Ikea.

I’m no fan of the company, but this peppermill has good ergonomics and produces a nice even grind every time. Unlike the other mills, it doesn’t constantly come out of adjustment, since the top does not screw on, it slides on.

Lots of people collect salt and pepper shakers. That’s a whole different ball game. Although some of mine have matching salt shakers, I have no excuse for accumulating all these pepper mills. At least I haven’t spent much; except for the black Ikea model, I got them at yard sales or Goodwill. (Horrible blog confession: I don’t always remove the peppercorns.)

The largest pepper mill I own is just under eighteen inches. You can get a three-footer at And no, it’s not a phallic thing, it’s my quest for a perfect pepper grinder thing. Although anybody that grinds his pepper with a 36″ pepper mill…

Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find peppercorns in bulk packaging. Some supermarkets only carry the little plastic bottles of peppercorns with the grinder built in. This is lame, worse than disposable razors. And compare the per pound price of the peppercorns in these flimsy grinders with the bulk peppercorn price. Yes, a total rip-off.

Stephanie thinks I (we) have too many pepper mills. But she is a salt freak. She once took a continuing ed class about salt.  When my brother went to Paris this spring, she made him promise to bring back a container of Le Saunier de Camargue, Fleur de Sel.  Fancy salt like this is often served in a salt cellar.

What’s in a Bowl

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

green metal bowlI grabbed this olive green bowl from the top of a kitchen cabinet yesterday to hold some dark purple grapes. Mostly it sits up there high above the stove with two other bowls, one black and one dark brown. All three are the same shape, all made of enamel-coated metal.

On the other set of cabinets I have three more enameled bowls, one the same shape but white with a mushroom pattern, a smaller one in red, and one bigger and not as steep in black with a white lotus pattern.

All the bowls except the last were designed by Kaj Franck for Arabia Finel of Finland. The lotus-patterned bowl is from Catherineholm. Catherine is not a person, but the name of a Norwegian company. These familiar designs are the work of Grete Prytz–sort of.  Although she came from a family of well-known enamelists in Oslo, and became the chief designer at the Catherineholm factory, the in-house lotus pattern was added to her collection without her approval. Apparently she never liked the design.

As a rule I’m not a fan of things stuck on top of kitchen cabinets. Baskets on cabinets I don’t like. Random cookie jars, fake deli meats, old steins with (or without) lids, plates with farm scenes—somebody likes these things on top of their kitchen cabinets, but not me.  These bowls, however, look great. And when I take them down the cabinets look naked.

I’m not sure why I should like my bowls so much. Bowls are containers, and many people enjoy collecting containers of one sort or another–jars, boxes, bowls, teapots, piggy banks, the aforementioned baskets and cookie jars. I don’t know why. Maybe because vessels allow us to hold and possess and squirrel away things. And of course, many of these containers were skillfully designed and crafted and are beautiful objects themselves.

Though they are in excellent condition my bowls are not relegated to a purely decorative existence. Enameled bowls do have limits, because they scratch easily and can lose enamel at the edges. Still, I would use them even more if I would remember they are up there when I need a bowl.

It’s A Jar

Friday, August 21st, 2009

jar with homemade cleaning pasteSince she’s been pregnant, I’ve been haranguing my partner Stephanie about the avoidable dangers of cleaning products for the home, and how, using vinegar and a few other non-toxic, inexpensive ingredients, we could save money, be safe and get the house just as clean.

I was surprised when, several days after one of our (rarish) cleaning expeditions, complete with harangue, a box arrived at our door full of empty spray bottles and screw top jars, all rendered in unadulterated, pure, clear, plastic.

Part of me protested that ordering a slew of containers over the Internet to package your homemade cleaning products was not fully in the spirit of hardcore DIY. I had in my mind an idea of rinsing out used up commercial product containers and refilling them with our homemade recipes.  I was about to do this at any moment, in fact.

But I could not deny that a certain satisfaction can be derived by putting something or other in a nice clean jar and labeling it with a fancy custom label. I believe it may be a variant of the human emotion engendered by running around the office supply store, grabbing organizers and folders and pens and paperclips.

I briefly and half-heartedly tried to make a case for the financially nonsensical feasibility of the plan, but I couldn’t get hard numbers—after further inquiry I was only able to narrow down the expense of the jars and bottles and labels to  “less than fifty dollars.” Anyway I was still getting over the fact that a harangue had actually produced a result of any kind.