Things you never knew you needed: Cocottes

While on my lunch break today in downtown Bethesda, I wandered around to catch Pokemon through Williams-Sonoma, because its doors were wide open, beckoning me to enter. I can't lie – it's one of my favorite places to browse. I love cooking, and while I'm generally content with the way in which my kitchen is equipped, when I'm in Williams-Sonoma, I fantasize about winning the lottery. As soon as I pose for the photo holding that big check, I will go straight to Williams-Sonoma and buy all-new gear, starting with an entire set of shiny, sturdy copper cookware. Including the fish poacher. (I would poach SO MUCH FISH if I had one of those.)

As is the case at most of their stores, there's a seasonally-decorated dining table as you walk into the store. Today's theme was, naturally, Thanksgiving, because it's never too soon to start planning. The sub-theme was turkeys. But not cartoon turkeys: REAL ones. Like this:

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Turkey-festooned table setting

Right after I have them box up my new copper cookware, I'll gesture to the table and say, oh, why not – please wrap up everything on this table for me. I'll take it all: The tablecloth, the glasses, the chargers, the flatware, the holiday-themed china, the napkins, the serving pieces. Never mind the frivolity of having an entire coordinated table setting that you use only once a year (where do you store it?). Never mind that I have an entire set of my grandmother's china that works perfectly fine, and still gets used really only twice a year. It doesn't have turkeys on it. So that my guests don't somehow confuse the late-November meal with what's presented in December or late March, I need the subtle coding of turkey-themed dinnerware. That way, no one need risk embarrassment by asking questions that make it obvious that they just aren't paying attention.

In addition to the turkey dishes, the table setting in the store featured these, one at each place setting:

What are these? I wondered. Tiny copper soup kettles? Why don't they just put the soup in the white pumpkin tureen? Don't feel bad; I didn't know, either, that they had a name. But lest I reveal my own ignorance by asking a sales associate, I discreetly searched their website, where I learned that these are mini copper cocottes. 

So adorable! As I touched every single thing on the table, I picked one up and flipped it over. The price tag said $129.95. I nearly choked on my Diet Coke. Over a hundred bucks for a wee, one-cup copper vessel??

Fear not, friends. While it was not obvious in the store, I learned on the website that that's the price for a set of four. And, the website lists them at 20% off. That makes them ONLY $104! For FOUR! Plus tax. But shipping is on the house.

I mean, they're practically paying you to take these.

Alas. If you're like me, that's probably a little bit more than you've allocated to your budget line item for frivolous servingware. But these clever retailers have somehow convinced me that I'm going to win the lottery I need a set of cocottes. So, I searched the website for something more affordable and landed upon the store-brand cast iron set of four, in red, for $74.99, discounted to $60:

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Somewhat more affordable cocottes.

My cooking skills are on point, but a trip through Williams-Sonoma inevitably makes me feel like I need to work on my dining table game. I mean, the feast just tastes better when everything matches, are you with me? And even more so when you serve your soup in miniature versions of high-end cookware. How novel! How… saucy!

I'd like to say I treated myself, but the truth is, I'm far too practical. I did not succumb to the strong urge for a payday impulse purchase.

This time.

I'm reminded of the wonderfully giggle-inducing parodies of my favorite purveyor of self-doubt high-end cookware. If you missed these Hater's Guides, please go read Adequate Man on Deadspin. Here's the 2015 version, and here is 2014. There are others, but I'm not going to spoonfeed you. You know how the internet works. You can find them. I promise, it's worth the effort. 

Progressives

I left one thing out of my post about how I'm feeling my age lately. Actually, I left it out because it hadn't yet happened, but the appointment was scheduled and I knew it was coming:

I got new glasses. But not just any glasses. These are progressive bifocals.

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A long, long time ago, when I was not even old enough to drink, I was studying in the college library, when I noticed something new: the clock on the wall was… blurry. I could see the time if I waited a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then squinted, hard, but that's when I knew it was time for glasses.

I wore contacts for a number of years, but decided they weren't worth the fuss when, shortly after I turned 40, I started having to use magnifiers to read. The double-correction seemed stupid to me, so I stopped wearing the contacts.

I've spent the past few years bragging about how I don't need "cheaters" to read – but I wear my glasses to see distance, and for driving. But recently I found that I had to take them off to, say, read my cell phone, then put them back on to see distance. My eyes were changing, right on schedule.

The real dilemma that drove me to the next step was this: I noticed that whenever I sing in a choral group, if I take my glasses off, I can see the music, but not the conductor's face. (Which is kind of important.) Glasses on, I can see the conductor but not really the music, unless I tried to look out over or under the glasses. (Which is kind of awkward.) 

So I took the next step. I went to the eye doctor, and told him I thought I needed bifocals, and wanted the progressive kind. The eye exam confirmed my suspicion, and the next thing you know I'm out in the store, choosing frames, then trying to understand how each lens costs hundreds of dollars. But that that point? In for a dime, in for a dollar.

I've had them for a week, and I have to say that I don't know why I waited so long to get them. I can't believe how much better I see! I got used to them quickly (I'd heard stairs could be dicey at first). And I was thinking to myself how nice it is to have a distance prescription on the top of the lens, and nothing below. But then I looked at my written Rx, and guess what? He adjusted the bottom, too, which means I have "reading glasses" built in. I guess my eyes weren't as good as I thought after all.

Forty-nine, y'all. It's not for the faint of heart.