(The 2013 edition can be found here.)
I bought a Williams-Sonoma cheese grater for my mom for Christmas once because I had no idea what to get her and I was in a mall and there the grater was, just large enough to take up space under the tree and just cheap enough to let her know that I put NO thought or care into buying a gift for her. Anyway, I paid for this grater with a credit card. And when a place like Williams-Sonoma gets your credit card and thus your address, you are on the mailing list for life. Every holiday season, my mail slot gets bukkake'd with monstrous catalogs packed with shit I would never, ever buy, and the W-S catalog stands out among them.
While certain retailers like Hammacher Schlemmer are almost intentionally ludicrous ("Buy this personal hovercraft for $80,000!"), there's no wink to be found in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. The people at W-S aren't the least bit self-conscious about getting you to pay $35 for mailed gravy. So I thought I would go through this holiday season's catalog, which has spent a solid week atop my shitter, and point out some of the more ridiculous items. Because there are people out there who buy this shit. The question is ... who? And why? Let's try to figure that out now.
Item #02-8592198 Harvest Pumpkin Collection
Williams-Sonoma says: "Ceramicist Barbara Eigen has been designing unique pieces, often inspired by nature, since 1997. Our Harvest Pumpkin Collection is a perfect example of her lifelike work. The tureen and accessories add organic whimsy to your Thanksgiving table."
Price: $40 for a set of four individual tureens
Notes from Drew: This is actually one of the more reasonably priced items in the W-S catalog, as long as you don't consider it a waste to spend $40 on four pumpkin bowls that you will use three times per decade. I used to buy terrible gifts like this for people all the time. HERE ARE YOUR PUMPKIN BOWLS! NOT BAD, EH? Because, honestly, what can you do with a pumpkin soup bowl besides put pumpkin soup in it? If you put tomato soup in it, God will murder you.
Item #02-496059 Bourbon Cranberry Relish
Williams-Sonoma says: "Sauteed cranberries, bourbon, shallots and herb with a hint of orange. 16oz."
Notes from Drew: That's 40 bucks for a bowl of cranberry sauce that everyone will pass up because we all prefer the shit that costs two bucks and comes plopping out of the can in the shape of the can. The second ingredient is LEAD. For 40 bucks, you should get the bourbon on its own.
Item #02-4381232 Acorn Twine Holder
Williams-Sonoma says: "Polished alderwood with 76 yards of linen twine. Made in Italy."
Notes from Drew: Oh, thank God! Thanksgiving was mere weeks away and I was like OH FUCK, WE'RE OUT OF TWINE. AND WE HAVE NO PLACE TO DISPENSE SAID TWINE. Sure, any asshole can go to the store and buy a roll of cooking string for half a penny and keep that twine in a drawer for the one time per year someone in the house has to tie up a raw turkey only to fail miserably and get salmonella deep inside his palms for years and years. But I want CLASSY twine, you know? I want my twine to say something about ME.
Item #02-1496058 Potato Scrubbing Gloves
Williams-Sonoma says: "Scrub potatoes clean while preserving skin that's nutrient rich. Set of two."
Notes from Drew: I desperately wanted it to say "Set of one" at the end. But anyway, who WOULDN'T like to have special gloves for whenever you have to handle potatoes? Potatoes are dirty and smelly, so it behooves you to wear a pair of gloves that will absorb all that dirt and grime and then get soaked through. Be sure to let them dry on your radiator! I also like that these gloves come with the word POTATO labeled across each one. Late at night, I often go digging through my basement screaming, "WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN POTATO GLOVES?" Because I usually end up grabbing the carrot gloves first, you know?
Item #02-2719136 Chef'n Panini Spatula
Williams-Sonoma says: "Wide platform with a slot simplifies slicing then lifting even the largest sandwiches."
Notes from Drew: ZOMG THIS SANDWICH IS SO LARGE! I can't possibly lift it using only my hands or a common spatula. If only someone out there would invent a unique tool that would allow me to lift my panini and then transfer it to a plate. I'm not just gonna pick it up myself, like a DOG. There's hot gruyere in that sandwich! It could burn.
By the way, you should know that any kitchen utensil designed specifically for one kind of food or meal is essentially useless: a panini spatula, a fondue pot, a steak tartare fork. Unless you plan on eating raclette four days a week, you don't need any of that shit.
Item #02-787713 Williams-Sonoma Cocktail Rimming Sugar
Williams-Sonoma says: "Spiced, Citrus, or Vanilla."
Notes from Drew: Why have an ordinary rimjob when you can add just a touch of Madagascar vanilla? That's how classy folk do their rimming.
Item #02-9663154 Twelve Days of Christmas Crackers
Williams-Sonoma says: "Sets of 12."
Price: $19.95 (small), $29.95 (large)
Notes from Drew: This is not a cracker you eat, but rather a small cardboard tube with two pull tabs on each end. When you pull the tabs, a delightful POP! rings out around the house, and thus much mirth is to be had in the Easterbrook household. These are the perfect fireworks for rich white people. Also, you get a free paper crown inside.
Item #02-4381182 Balustrade Rectangular Dining Table
Williams-Sonoma says: "Seats six, expands with a leaf to seat eight."
Notes from Drew: This is one of the harsh truths you learn when you get married: Basic shit like a table costs a fucking fortune. Two grand for a wooden table. And it's not like the surface of it is a giant iPad screen either. It just sits there and does nothing. This isn't even a big table, and it certainly isn't the most expensive table of its kind. The chairs that go along with this table are $395 each. JEEEEEEESUS. If it were up to me, my family would eat dinner off a milk crate.
Item #02-741009 Callie's Charleston Biscuits
Williams-Sonoma says: "Flaky, buttery, and made by hand by celebrated caterer Callie White."
Price:$72 (set of 24)
Notes from Drew: That's $72 dollars for biscuits. At Popeye's, the biscuit comes free with your order. At Williams-Sonoma, it costs you the rough equivalent of your phone bill. How good could these biscuits possibly be? There's a threshold past which biscuits cannot improve. Even the best goddamn biscuit in the world isn't $72 better than a Popeye's biscuit. Unless that biscuit can make you teleport.
And what kills me is that there are clearly people out there who have shitloads of money and NO cooking skills who order this shit. Who are these people? How are there so many of them that Williams-Sonoma can sustain its business model? Are we all just racking up massive biscuit debts that will soon break the economy? I imagine that 60 percent of Williams-Sonoma's business come from a group of six Persian oil barons, who buy everything in every catalog five times over every year for no good reason at all. Seventy-two-dollar biscuits. WHAT THE FUCK.
Item #02-4229100 European Cheese Hamper
Notes from Drew: Where else am I supposed to put my dirty cheese?
Item #02-410423 Assumption Abbey Fruitcake
Williams-Sonoma says: "Baked by trappist monks at a monastery in the Missouri Ozarks. Order early. Supply is limited."
Notes from Drew: Everything about that sales copy just blew my skull. There are trappist monks in the Ozarks? Do they brew artisanal meth? I don't trust fruitcake to begin with. I sure as shit am not trusting fruitcake that comes from a redneck friar. They'll swap out uppers for candied fruit. And yet, supply is limited. Apparently, the market for $40 Ozark fruitcake is ENORMOUS. White women from Bridgehampton ALL THE WAY to Westhampton rely on the monks to deliver their holiday fruitcake every year. Ina Garten's ADORABLE HUSBAND JEFFREY WHO MAKES A LOT OF MONEY loves the sight of a fine white-trash-monk fruitcake any time he comes home. TIE IT UP WITH THE TWINE!
Item #02-9691155 Found Grain Sack Stocking
Williams-Sonoma says: "NEW & EXCLUSIVE. Crafted from 70-year-old Hungarian grain sacks made of burlap and linen. Made in Hungary."
Notes from Drew: You want me to pay 40 bucks for an old sack? OH BUT IT'S HUNGARIAN. They're known for their sacks!
Item #02-1514454 Breville programmable espresso maker with integrated burr grinder
Williams-Sonoma says: "Built-in conical burr grinder produces 15 precise grinds."
Notes from Drew: I guarantee you that whoever buys this won't be using it personally. The programmable-espresso-maker-with-integrated burr-grinder duties will inevitably fall to Guadalupe, the live-in maid, who will then be lashed thoroughly when she does not grind the burrs properly. I SAID I WANTED IT FINE BUT NOT TOO FINE, YOU FUCKING WHORE. I'M CALLING I.N.S. ON YOU.
Item #02-4276309 Chocolate-chocolate croissants
Williams-Sonoma says: "Delivered January 1-11"
Price: $39.95, set of 15
Notes from Drew: Wait, the croissant itself is made of chocolate? I've wasted my entire croissant-eating career not knowing this. By the way, any chocolate croissant that doesn't have enough chocolate filling is grounds for suicide bombing.
Item #02-6818686 Waffle batter dispenser
Williams-Sonoma says: "Measures out uniform circles in three sizes."
Notes from Drew: How about a spoon? How about you use a fucking spoon to dole out your waffle batter? The waffle iron itself tells you when it's had enough batter. If you overload it because you're a fat greedy pig, the batter spills off the side. You don't need a dispenser. OH BUT HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE USED THE EXACT RIGHT AMOUNT OF BATTER?! Now this waffle will never fit in my grain sack!
Item #02-1478627 Williams-Sonoma Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce
Price: $16.95, set of two $30
Notes from Drew: Perfect for my miniature pumpkin tureens! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.
Item #02-6126122 Ebelskiver miniature pancake pan
Williams-Sonoma says: "Makes seven mini pancakes."
Notes from Drew: My wife bought one of these pans for $3 at Home Goods once. They're useless. The fuck am I gonna do with seven very small pancakes? I feel like I'm on the set of a puppet show. But I'm glad we have an extra pan to wash. This really grinds my burrs.
Item #02-759472 Reclaimed rustic chicken coop
Williams-Sonoma says: "Built exclusively for us in their urban garden workshop, Laughing Chickens Coops have a classic, old-world design, constructed from the highest quality reclaimed redwood. $65 delivery."
Price: $759.95 (with painted chicken), $599.95 (plain)
Notes from Drew: This is a real item in the catalog. And honestly, if you're buying a goddamn chicken coop from a catalog, why NOT spring for the painted chicken? It was hand painted in an urban garden workshop, people. You CANNOT say you are a true farm-to-table household unless you have a coop to call your own. Muffy Wilshire and her fam bought a coop last year and now they can't live without it. Could you imagine having a frittata made from STORE-BOUGHT eggs now? I shudder at the thought. You can also get a beehive box for $500 if you're a fucking crazy person. Seriously, a chicken coop. People with money are so good at throwing it away.
Item #02-375097 Holiday Chocolate Sampler
Williams-Sonoma says: "Peanut butter caramel cup (1), coconut caramel bars (2), s'more (1), mini mud pie (1), chocolate peanut butter crunch (4), sticky paws (2), and whammies (2)."
Notes from Drew: OH HOLY FUCK THAT SOUNDS GOOD. Look at the picture of all those items stacked on top of each other. I bet it took the food stylist four hours to get the caramel to drip just so. And there are little bits of toffee crumbles on the bottom and GOD I WANT THIS. Now I get how Williams-Sonoma lures you in. Just one taste of peppermint bark and suddenly your budget is screwed for life. This is the kind of thing I would buy for a co-worker only to eat myself and then give my co-worker nothing. Listen to the description of whammies: "Pretzel topped with peanut nougat and salted caramel, wrapped in milk chocola—" (rips out own tongue). I want that in my body. This catalog does nothing but give me pantry envy. All I have in my pantry is flour and gum. I don't even HAVE a pantry. I have a cabinet. Rich people have pantries. Rich people have entire food closets lined with whammies and biscuits and emergency rimming sugar GOD I HATE RICH PEOPLE SO MUCH.