It's a difficult world out there, people. War, poverty, brutality, corruption, social and racial injustice … these are not civil times we live in. Which is why, more than ever, we NEED the comfort and warmth that only life inside the Williams-Sonoma catalog can provide. Follow me, America. Follow me inside these glossy pages, where there is no anger. No violence. No internet commenters explaining why YOUR SO STOOPID.
In here, there is nothing but endless kitchen countertops, and meticulously arranged buffet spreads with pre-made bundt cakes (prep it a day early, and your party is a snap!) that have been drizzled just so with triple-butterscotch icing. There are fancy chocolates enrobed in other fancy chocolates. There are WHIMSICAL TINS (yes, the copy actually says that). There are thousands of newfangled cooking tools and gadgets and devices that only a Greenwich, Conn., kitchen could possibly have space to accommodate. There are dustings and sprinklings and twee little bows, all perfectly arranged for your perfect little evening of perfect holiday entertaining with your perfect neighbor guests and your perfect children standing by the table in their john-johns and singing gaily to you all as you pipe fresh, warm cognac into each other's butts.
There is grace in this catalog. You are safe from the outside world here. It's just you, your $685 Vitamix blender ("No waste and plenty of extra fiber!"), and no possible way for city residents to access your neighborhood via public transit. While the world burns outside, you will be snug and secure with all your loved ones, talking about your times at Princeton (I assume all of you went to Princeton), breathing in the scents from a literal Dutch oven, and spooning out fresh cassoulet from one of your MANY Le Creuset cooking dishes. Isn't life FABULOUS?! Isn't Christmas just grand when you spent thousands of dollars and hours upon hours of your free time making everything just so perfect, so you can spend the rest of your time micromanaging your family into oblivion, so that they are always within your maniacal control? I bet this catalog is for people who freak out if a dog nuzzles against them.
Anyway, as a card-carrying white person, I have once again received this catalog in the mail. So as we did in 2012 and 2013, let's go through it and point out some of the more ludicrous items to be found. I'm sad to report that there are NO chicken coops on sale this year. You'll have to source those elsewhere, amigo. But there IS an Ina Garten cameo here! You knew there would be.
Copy: "Only our bundt pans have a premium nonstick coating that helps capture every detail on the pan."
Drew Says: This is the perfect low-end Williams Sonoma gift because a) it costs $30 but is also somehow utterly pointless, b) there is no way that, in real life, your stupid snowman cake will stay upright (how does all that icing stay up on his face? I call bullshit), and c) it's perfect for making a cake that you do not want anyone to actually eat. How do you slice the idiotic snowman cake? You don't. You bake it, you put it in the center of the table, and then you yell at the kids to not fucking touch it. That's how people roll with a snowman cake.
Copy: "This year, we've partnered with some of our favorite bloggers, bakers, and chefs to create a collection of recipes sure to win at any holiday cookie swap."
Drew Says: Gotta win that holiday cookie swap. I'll be damned if Muffy Carrington wins again with those fucking pecan bars she makes every year. IT'S NOT EVEN A COOKIE. That bitch is gonna burn, thanks to the $16 I spent on this gluten-free sugar cookie mix. It's like a regular sugar cookie, but for pussies! I'm gonna bake these things up, present them on a tasteful, silver-lined plate, and take that bitch to school.
Seriously though, who spends $16 on sugar cookie mix? How hard is it to make your own sugar cookies? I bet this mix is just a box of sugar. "Just mix with eggs, flour, and salt!"
Copy: "Jacquard-woven cotton. Made in Portugal."
Drew Says: Listen, I can't have my apron woven with regular, peasant cotton. I need Jacquard to do it. Jacquard understands what I need from my cotton. There's a little bit of magic in his loom.
By the way, it's worth noting that W-S founder Chuck Williams grew up dirt-poor and fatherless, and was forced to work on a date farm (literally named Sniffs) all through high school. Wikipedia says he also served in World War II as a plane mechanic. He is a legitimately self-made man and a fantastic American success story. So I like to imagine that he created this catalog just to fuck with rich trust-fund babies. "Tell them it's made in Portugal. They'll shit their dicks for Portuguese cotton."
Copy: "Create intricate mini-cakes and top with powdered sugar. Made in USA by Nordic Ware of cast aluminum with nonstick finish."
Drew Says: Oh, do you eat regular cake? How gauche. Here in Beverlytomacnetka, we only eat cakelets. And pie-lets. And tartlets (there are lobster tartlets on page 73!). Can I get you a martini-let?
Items #66-1649441, #66-57921819, #66-4974309 – Peppermint Bark Cookies ($24.95), Peppermint Bark Marshmallows ($19.95), Peppermint Bark Cups ($24.95)
Copy: "Artisan (Ed. note: Of course) candymakers layer creamy white chocolate over dark Guittard chocolate and then top it with crisp, homemade peppermint candy bits."
Drew Says: Those $30 tins of peppermint bark represent 90 percent of all W-S holiday sales, so it makes sense that they would do a Marvel-style rollout of sequels and spinoffs: Peppermint bark cups, and peppermint bark cookies, and peppermint bark cakelets, and peppermint bark-coated beef roasts, etc. Soon we'll have a peppermint bark origin story. Very dark. Very gritty. I worry about franchise dilution. It used to be about the BARK, man. Anyway, you can make peppermint bark at home with four ingredients, but why do that when you can have an ARTISAN CANDYMAKER do it instead? Let me tell you something: If my kid went through college and then told me he wanted to follow his dream of being an artisanal candymaker named Williamsburg Wonka, I would beat his ass. No remorse. We don't need this many people trying to elevate candy.
But for real, I'd eat the fuck out of all these items.
Copy: "New & exclusive! Award-winning mid-century design from the Dansk Kobenstyle collection. Engineered for uniform heating in heavy-gauge steel with a stay-cool teak handle."
Drew Says: Yes, a hot chocolate pot. Because a fondue pot wasn't quite useless enough. Hey, you know what other kind of pot is good for making hot chocolate? A POT. Like, any regular pot that you already have. I know sometimes it dribbles down the side when you pour the chocolate out, making you want to kill God. But if you use a ladle, you'll be fine. The Williams-Sonoma catalog will not rest until you need a separate pot for every single goddamn thing you make. QUICK! SOMEONE FETCH ME THE GOAT CHEESE FRITATTA SKILLET! No, not the Western Frittata skillet, you MORON! It's $60. For a hot chocolate pot. Goddamn.
Are you ready for the cronuts? Because you know they got some fucking cronuts this year …
Copy: "Let rise overnight, fry, then roll in sugar or add your favorite filling. Set of 18."
Drew Says: I have to fry them myself? FUCK YOU, WILLIAMS-SONOMA. I paid you $40 so that I wouldn't have to go stand in line with all the jackasses at 5 a.m. You fry them. The whole point of this exercise is for me to avoid getting 50 burns on my wrist frying these things. Oh, and just add my favorite filling? HOW? With my croissonut filling pot? Hey, you know what? I'm selling my own cronut knockoff, too. Pay me $80, and I'll come to your house with a bag of flour, and then I'll kick you in the shins. The kick is gluten-free.
Copy: "Exclusive! Grow organic mushrooms every two months for three years … Glass cloche protects mushrooms as they grow."
Drew Says: The cloche does not come with your fungus log; it's an additional $189.95. And you have to buy it, right? You can't just leave your shiitake log exposed to the elements like that. Your mushroom risotto will end up being 50 percent cat dander that way.
Let's be clear on this right now: If you invite me into your home and serve me mushrooms from your home log, I'm not eating them. You are trying to drug me, and I'm not having it. Unless your home has a climate-control system similar to an Ebola quarantine room, I'm not touching those things. Don't be a fungus person. They're right below entomologists on the creepy scale.
Copy: "Restaurant-quality beef cuts from Double R Ranch Co. Four 7-oz. filet mignons, four 16-oz. porterhouse steak and four 12-oz. ribeye steaks."
Drew Says: Twelve steaks. That's it. I could go to a restaurant and order 12 steaks, and it would still be less expensive than the 12 raw ones that this catalog claims will last me three whole months. Twelve steaks = ONE cookout. This ain't three months of shit. If someone built me a fallout shelter and told me there was three months' worth of steaks inside, and I went in to find only 12 steaks, I would push that person out of my shelter and let them be exposed to the incoming hydrogen flame blast. Cut the price in half, send me 90 steaks, and then we'll chat. For now, enjoy battling the mutant zombies on your own. Jerk.
Copy: "Extra-wide cotton napkin."
Drew Says: Lapkin. Got it. Gonna need a lapkin ring for these lapkins, plus lapkinlets for cocktail hour.
Copy: "Gourmet comfort food made in Maine with lobster and shell pasta in mascarpone cheddar sauce with Panko-parmesan topping … four ramekins."
Drew Says: Four fucking ramekins, for $100! At least the $180 ham in this brochure is 18 pounds. I wanna run a business where people pay me that much to ruin lobster. Why does mac and cheese get a pass from the "don't put cheese on seafood" rule? Is it because Americans just blindly eat any mac and cheese you put in front of them? OH WHAT A UNIQUE TWIST ON COMFORT FOOD. There is nothing comforting about shelling out that much money for four frozen thimblefuls of lobster glue. For a hundred bucks, I want LOBSTER. I can make a pot of Kraft mac on the side if we really need it. Otherwise, send me a five-pound Tupperware filled with nothing but shelled lobster meat, and then I will decide the proper way of deploying it.
But this is the genius of Williams-Sonoma. They know that rich people love small portions of impossibly decadent food. Jacking up the price on your lobster mac to a hundred bucks is just one method of keeping you rich and thin. They could probably sell a gallon tub of this at the same price and it wouldn't sell as briskly.
Copy: "As the host of Barefoot Contessa and the author of nine cookbooks, Ina Garten knows how to make entertaining look effortless."
Drew Says: Of course she does! She has a fuckload of money, a house in the Hamptons, and no kids! That tends to make for smooth sailing in life. No wonder she looks so pleased with herself. I could build a sister peak to Everest if I didn't have these kids around gumming up the works.
But this is ALWAYS the dream they sell at W-S and Barefoot Contessa and Martha Stewart and any other doily mill: the idea of EFFORTLESSNESS. Not only must you dazzle your guests with fresh lobster marshmallows and candied steak-tip pie, but you have to look as if you made that shit appear on the table as if by magic. No sweat. No strain. You must be the neighborhood's fairy godmother, waving your wand and SUMMONING all the lapkins. HOW DOES SHE DO IT?! God forbid a bead of sweat drop on your Jacquard apron. I knew Ina Garten would pop up in one of these catalogs one day. It was inevitable, like seeing Pitbull and Ke$ha do a song together.
Copy: "A spoonula combines the flexibility of a silicone spatula with the handy curve of a spoon. The result is an ultra-versatile tool for scraping, stirring, and folding … also available in yellow or pumpkin."
Drew Says: Don't fall for BIG SPOONULA's sales pitch. You don't wanna try to ladle soup into a bowl using the world's shallowest spoon. It's like trying to carry a martini glass across a minefield. No, thank you. I will use a spoon for spooning and a spatula for spatula-ing. A spoonula is only useful for the ultra-light brand of BDSM that your standard New Canaan housewife shows an interest in once every three years or so. Get that spoonula out of my face.
Copy: "New & exclusive. Rustic faux evergreen boughs and natural pinecones with hidden flexible wire."
Drew Says: There are actual trees outside! Many of them! Just go get your decorative table garbage there. I really dispute the "new and exclusive" tag being used for fake branches. How exclusive can a fake branch be? That is a patented branch design, people! One of a kind! Our workers in Portugal slaved over getting the needles just right.
Copy: "Features automatic grinding, dosing, tamping, and milk texturing."
Drew Says: Oh, well, if it textures my milk for me, I'm all in. I wanna meet the couple (and it has to be a couple) who share such an obsession with coffee that they need to drop two grand on a NASA-designed espresso spaceship that grinds every burr to a precise atomic measurement and heats up your coffee cup to a temperature that was calibrated using advanced fractals. I wanna find this couple, and then piss in their coffee. I really do. Send me their address, and I'll figure out a way. No jury would convict me. Just be happy with plain old coffee, America.
Copy: "Double-winged, double-grooved auger crushes and presses food for maximum yield and minimum oxidation."
Drew Says: Whoa, hey, who put OXYGEN in this carrot juice? GARBAGE. That's the difference between your standard slow juicer and an ELITE slow juicer. RG3 will never know how to juice like this.
And you'll need your triple-steel AstroGlided rip-grooved lemon drill for after the holidays, when you've stuffed yourself full of peppermint bark-crusted tenderloin, and soiled all the lapkins with gluten-free cookie bits, and downed all the croissonuts in a fit of stress-induced binge eating because PEOPLE ARE EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF YOU OH GOD YOU CAN'T HANDLE IT AND WHAT IF THE MILK IS OVER-TEXTURED?! You will need that elite juicer to grind down leek smoothies and purge your system of the holiday entertaining season for good. Because the holidays are exhausting, no matter how much fancy crap you buy to try to cover it up. Merry Christmas, consumer America!
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter@drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew's book,Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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