[greets you as you pull into my circular driveway]
Oh my goodness, it’s you! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Come in, come in! Let’s get you out of that pesky cold tout suite!
[a yippy cavalier King Charles spaniel flies down the steps and clamps down on your pant leg]
Down, Grayson! He LOVES people. Would you like to feed Grayson a piece of Iberian codfish jerky I dried and cured myself? No? Not to worry. Let’s get something tasty in YOUR belly instead!
Now, follow me through the foyer … nice, isn’t? Do you like the garlands? Those are hand-picked from the coastal redwoods of the Pacific. You’re not legally allowed to prune these trees but my lumbermonger, Josiah, is a wonderful guy who trimmed off a few boughs for me when the park rangers weren’t looking. They are simply GORGEOUS. They make all the difference.
Come, sit on the divan. Been an odd year, hasn’t it? As a matter of fact, you’re the first guest we’ve had in the house this whole time. Unless you count the Camemberts visiting us last week. And the Moreheads the week before that. And the Durrenfinches. Oh! Oh, and Nellie Oddenheffler’s youngest son, Asp, boarded with us all summer long. He wants to go to Bucknell, and you know what? [whispers] I think he’s got a chance. He’s a water polo player, you know. Very strong physique. Wowie!
So, congratulations: You’re our first official guest who has NOT summered with us in Cape Jubilee. And we’re so grateful to have you. It’s just a horrible world out there right now. All those people out there yelling and screaming and tweeting and just being so LOUD! Well, here we prefer quiet. And tranquility. And beef Wellington. That’s why we’ve outfitted this house for Christmas with provisions and accoutrements from the Williams-Sonoma catalog. It’s the perfect mercantile resource for people like you and me who tipped generously all pandemic long until the SECOND we got vaccinated.
I won’t lie: I bought everything in this year’s catalog. How could I not? We have the money after all, and what else CAN I spend it on? We haven’t been able to take our annual week in Lombardy since 2019! Can you IMAGINE? I can’t even talk about it. Makes me want to decant all of the vintage Barolo we have in the wine cave and then quaff it until Grayson piddles on the rug with worry!
But I won’t think of that a second longer. Because you are here, and so is the catalog. Care to peruse its wares alongside me? Come. Let’s do that now. Inside these pages the only inflation you’ll find is of useful All-Clad cookware options. You’ll also discover that the supply chain of salmon mousse remains undisturbed. And the only variants herein are for tartan place settings. What’s more, the only thing contagious around this house now … is the ELEGANCE.
ITEM #81-9401782 – RED TARTAN MUG
Price: $51.95, set of four
Copy: “Embellished with a traditional Scottish tartan pattern, each mug has a gracefully curved handle for an elegant look an easy grip. They’re great for serving everything from coffee and tea to hot chocolate and mulled cider.”
Drew says: Wait a second, are you telling me that one mug can be used for ALL of those fluids? Just being able to hold coffee alone is some pretty crazy shit, but tea AND hot cocoa too? Did a gust of Frosty the Snowman’s Christmas Snow blow in and enchant this mug? Is it ALIVE? No one mug should have all this power. It’s possible that I could use this mug to raise my grandparents from the dead.
Don’t sleep on that gracefully curved handle, by the way. Anytime I hold an ordinary mug, I say to myself, in an Edinburgh lilt, “Aye, ‘tis a fine coop. Boot the ‘andle’s fare teh wee fur me thack Scuttish fingares!” Such shoddy handle design on other mugs. Like trying to pick up a live snake! This handle, though … this one’s got it all.
ITEM #89-3197539 – FESTIVE JUMBO MARSHMALLOWS
Copy: “Adorned with royal icing candy canes, Santa faces and gingerbread men, they’re perfect for topping hot chocolate and homemade cupcakes – or simply eating right out of the ribbon-tied gift bag… Made in China.”
Drew says: That’s $15 for 24 marshmallows. I can get a bag of Jet-Puffeds—which were definitely also made in China, using the same patented blend of asbestos and corn syrup—for 99 cents at the store. Are Jet-Puffeds adorned with royal icing candy canes? No, because candy canes are fucking annoying. Do they come in a ribbon(!!!)-tied gift bag? No, they come in a plastic bag better suited for strangling hostages than for securing basic confectionery. Every bag of marshmallows in this house looks like the dog opened it. But they still work as marshmallows.
Anyway, I’ve roasted—get it?!—these fancier mallows here in past Hater’s Guides. They’re the perfect example of Williams-Sonoma taking a basic kitchen staple, dotting it with rosy cheeks, adding a ribbon, and marking the price up 95 percent. That’s no ordinary jar of toothpicks you’re buying. They were all hand-whittled in Nepal. No two Buddhas etched into them are alike.
ITEM #89-3197539 – BARK DOG MARSHMALLOW MUGTOPPERS
Price: $12.95, set of four
Copy: “The well-bred treats sit and stay on the rim, then lie atop the cocoa and melt. The marshmallows arrive individually wrapped in a [sic] ribbon-tied cello bags.”
Drew says: Again with the ribbon-tied bags. Christmas in America is a season of decorative waste, and there’s no more high-class form of that waste than four fucking dog marshmallows packed into a cardboard box (with bubble wrap, to prevent shattered ‘mallows), shipped by air and by truck to your home via a series of underpaid middlemen, and then making sure each one is itself wrapped in a decorative goody bag once they’ve arrived. Why don’t you burn a used car on your lawn while you’re at it, fuckface?
ITEM #89-5492269 –PEPPERMINT BARK DOG WITH PERSONALIZED TIN
Price: Starting at $39.95
Copy: “Make our once-a-year holiday confection even more memorable by customizing this keepsake tin with a special name or holiday message.”
Drew says: Hey, that’s my name! The specialest name of all! Who gave you permission to use my name, Williams-Sonoma? I don’t recall ever signing a release. In fact, if you asked me to sign one, I would burn that release in front of you. You have violated my self-branding rights with this stunt. You think I won’t lawyer up? Everyone who subscribes to this website is already a lawyer, and they’re more than well-versed in the realm of intellectual property. I will have your ASS for this.
The peppermint bark ancillary economy is the only thing keeping Williams-Sonoma afloat in the 21st century. If you don’t buy their peppermint bark, and peppermint bark cookies, and peppermint bark crèmes, and peppermint bark quiche, this company would fold faster than a tartan cloth napkin.
ITEM #89-6174851 – CHEESE & CHARCUTERIE CRATE
Copy: “This premium selection from Utah-based Beehive Creamery includes three types of cheese, along with salami, crackers, and wild honey. Family owned and operated, the creamery handcrafts all of its cheese in small batches using local milk from a fourth generation dairy.”
Drew says: That’s $129.95 for fancy Lunchables. Pretty incredible that they threw some crackers in with that deal. Oh, and it comes in a CRATE! Any commoner can get a cello bag that’s not ribbon-tied, or a melty dogmallow that hasn’t been wrapped in a glorified sandwich bag, or peppermint bark that doesn’t have my awesome name on it. But when you tell me that I not only can have cheese and crackers, but that they’ll come in a crate that it looks like I unloaded off a steamship from 1908, you better fucking believe I’m gonna have my wallet at the ready.
Of note: I find it odd that this cheese comes from Utah given that Mormons are forbidden from eating cultured dairy products. That’s a true fact. Check your scripture.
ITEM #89-7108624 – SUGAR COOKIE MIX
Copy: “Whether your baking project is a spectacular cookie tree or a simple holiday favorite, we have just what you need for festive homemade treats.”
Drew says: Oh, it’s our old friend the cookie tree, back once more. If you like cookies but don’t want anyone in the house to actually touch them, this is the baking project for you. And the sugar cookie mix is only $14.95! Think of everything that comes with it: sugar, maybe a cup of flour … sugar. CAN’T GET THAT MAGICAL COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS JUST ANYWHERE.
By the way, this is where I note that if you make plain sugar cookies during Christmas cookie season, with all the other fun cookie options available at your disposal, you should brain yourself with a sheet pan. Every year Americans decorate 58 billion sugar cookies and then throw them away. Oh wow, you mean I can do tedious crafts, eat flavorless shortbread, AND do dishes afterward? I must be on the nice list!
What the fuck.
ITEM #89-5689486 – SENTIMENT HOLIDAY TOWELS
Price: $24.95, set of two
Copy: “NEW & EXCLUSIVE.”
Drew says: Every mom in America has a set of hand towels that they put in the bathroom for decoration and not for drying your hands on. To dry your hands, you must instead wipe them on your pajamas, or hang them on a clothesline, or drive to the nearest Jersey Turnpike rest stop and run them through a broken Dyson Airblade. But don’t you dare use the sentiment towels. I’ve covered ours in plastic wrap so that you remember: no touchie-touchie.
ITEM #89-9452337 – KITCHENAID CERAMIC BREAD BOWL WITH LID
Price: $129.95. My god.
Copy: “WARM FROM THE OVEN. Bake bread at home with—”
Drew says: —Stop right there, Buster Brown. We’re not doing the homemade bread thing. Does this look like 2020 to you, asshole? Are vaccines nonexistent and I’m still cloistered inside my home like the Unabomber? No. No, things are moving again and I don’t have to waste my time trying to become a Bread Guy, mixing up sourdough starter that smells like feet soaked in regurgitated Blue Moon. I buy bread at a bakery now, like a normal person. And here you want $130. For a bowl. Maybe I can put coffee AND tea in it.
ITEM #89-5643061 – LE CREUSET ENAMELED CAST IRON HARRY POTTER™ ROUND DUTCH OVEN
Copy: “The magic of cooking. The wonder of a world full of possibilities. The joy and creativity of two iconic brands … transforms ordinary dishes into magical ones. Wands at the ready!”
Drew says: Are you shopping for that certain special someone who still thinks that the Harry Potter books are the only books to ever have been published? Well, alakazam! Here’s some shit they can toss onto their nerd-ass bridal registry. God forbid a Dutch oven just be a Dutch oven. No no, let’s make sure to turn it into spiritual Comic-Con merch for a bunch of yuppies who outsourced their imaginations to a bigoted ginger limey 20 years ago and never bothered to take it back. The magic. The mystery. The synergy!
They also have a Quidditch-themed Le Creuset, if pretending the rules of Quidditch make sense is still something you do.
I actually cooked Harry’s parents in this Dutch oven, by the way. They were delicious. The meat pulled right off the bone.
ITEM #89-7460370 – LE CREUSET HARRY POTTER™ HOGWARTS™ POTHOLDER
Copy: “Embark on spellbinding kitchen adventures with Le Creuset’s Hogwarts™ Houses Potholder. It’s magically designed to wrap around pots.”
Drew says: This is far too much magic for one catalog. If you’re still the type of grown adult who’s like, “Jenny is totally a Hufflepuff,” I encourage you to ditch this potholder and grab that tray of cookies out of a 450-degree oven bare-handed.
ITEM #89-2159620 – HEDWIG PIE BIRD
Copy: “Modeled after Harry’s pet snowy owl, the Le Creuset® Hedwig™ Pie Bird is visually elegant and undeniably useful.”
Drew says: Undeniably, eh? Let’s find out exactly how useful a pie bird, which I’ve never heard of until just now, is:
Pie birds—or pie whistles, pie vents, pie funnels, or even pie chimneys—are hollow ceramic statuettes that bakers can use to vent steam from their pies in order to prevent a filling from bubbling over.
Or you just put some foil under the pie dish. Then you won’t need a pie weathervane.
Pie folklore suggests pie birds found fame in Victorian Era England and Ireland.
I actually majored in pie folklore at Bucknell. My senior thesis was a 75-page treatise on the harrowing works of Sir Arval Furling-Smutt.
Don’t be tempted to pull the bird out of the pie after baking. The filling and crust around it will collapse. Leave it in place and just cut slices. When the bird is fully exposed, you can slide it out of the pie.
So often I’ve said to myself, “You know, this pie is terrific. But you know what it needs? A load-bearing obstacle inside of it that will shatter your crown if bitten into.”
ITEM #89-6177507 – WILLIAMS SONOMA PREMIUM CAVIAR TRIO
Copy: “Indulge yourself or someone special with this ultra-luxurious caviar trio … produced on a sustainable farm in California.”
Drew says: OK, but how special can that caviar really be if it doesn’t have any iconic brand association with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time? You mean to tell me this is just FOOD? Weird.
ITEM #89-2634594 – STAINLESS STEEL AND GLASS COASTERS
Price: $29.95, set of four
Copy: “Inset with a thick pane of glass, our polished coasters add gleaming art deco style to entertaining … Handblown glass has hand-hammered finish. Variations inherent in handcrafting make each piece unique.”
Drew says: I actually became a Coaster Person many, many years ago. This happens when you’re married and your spouse doesn’t appreciate you leaving Kool-Aid rings on the dinette set. I have since placed glasses on coasters and/or cocktail napkins of every stripe. But what I’ve always wanted is a coaster made from glass, so that all of the condensation pools at the bottom of my tumbler and creates a hardy seal with the coaster. That way, the next time I bring a drink to my lips, the coaster hitches a ride, falls to the ground, and makes a deafening impact that could drown out a smoke alarm. I wanna frisbee these bad boys through a nearby church window.
OK, time to stop spanking the gingerbread and get to the heavy hitters…
ITEM #89-9290178 – BREVILLE BARISTA PRO ESPRESSO MACHINE, RED VELVET
Copy: “Featuring an intuitive LCD screen interface.”
Drew says: Now we’re getting our one-percent on. Keep in mind that the biggest-ticket item in the catalog every year is invariably some SUPER deluxe espresso machine that costs $6,000, has more switches and dials than mission control in Houston, and can steam milk while it’s still in the cow’s udder. So this beauty is on the low end of the kitchen appliance scale. Barely a step up from a Mr. Coffee, really.
But can you really put a price on that red velvet sheen? There’s nothing that yuppie Northerners like me enjoy more than red velvet everything: red velvet cupcakes, red velvet cookies, red velvet spaghetti, red velvet Norah Jones albums, all of it. Never mind that the urban red velvet craze petered out at the turn of the century, or that the secret ingredient in red velvet cake is benzidine. New Canaan moms still can’t get enough Southern hospitality in all of their cream cheese-based desserts and hot drinks. Y’ALLER MISSIN’ OUT ON THIS BUTTERMILK LATTE I JUST MADE.
ITEM #89-3084940 – JURA Z10 FULLY AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINE ALUMINUM WHITE
Copy: “The JURA Z10 automatic coffeemaker is a masterpiece of engineering and raises the bar for premium home brewing. From the Product Recognizing Grinder to the Cold Extraction Process, this innovative machine features state-of-the-art technology.”
Drew says: Here we are: the costliest item in the entire catalog. You’d have to mortgage both of your condos in East Hampton just to afford the down payment. But tell me it isn’t worth it.
I am now a coffee guy. It took me 45 years and quitting alcohol, but here I am now: a middle-aged man who treasures an afternoon cappuccino like it’s a leatherbound Hemingway. I have even considered—and this is true—starting a coffee log in my Notes app, so that I can remember notable coffees I’ve had. I used to laugh at all the coffee people out there, and now I’m one of them. Horrible. I deserve a frothed milk enema. The point is that if I walked into your house and you served me an espresso from this countertop war terminal, I would almost certainly enjoy it. But I haven’t and you didn’t, so fuck this machine and fuck you. Four grand. Probably doesn’t even come with everything …
ITEM #89-4113169 – JURA COOL CONTROL BASIC, MILK COOLER, 1L
[I KNEW IT!]
Copy: “For those who enjoy milk-based espresso drinks, the JURA Cool Control milk chiller is the ideal addition to your stay-at-home coffee station. This slim countertop unit cools and stores milk at the perfect temperature.”
Drew says: Know what else does that? A fucking refrigerator, which you already own. Imagine looking around your kitchen and exclaiming, “There’s no good place to chill milk here!” like a complete shit-for-brains. They wouldn’t even put this gadget in the Chopped kitchen, and I won that show. No normal cook is frantically searching around for a reverse kettle to keep their stupid milk cold. Now I’m pissed.
ITEM #89-7964578 – ASH WOOD ROUND CHEESE BOARD, SMALL
Copy: “Natural variations in color and grain pattern make each board unique.”
Drew says: You won’t find unique color and grain pattern variation in just ANY piece of wood, lemme tell ya.
Lemme tell you about cheese boards: They’re something that sounds fancy and cool if you’re a young couple looking to start throwing dinner parties like civilized folk. Then you buy a cheese board, stick it in the back of a cabinet, and never lay eyes on it again until the day you move.
ITEM #89-562854 – CLOISONNE ‘TWAS THE NIGHT NAPKIN RINGS
Price: $99.95, set of four
Copy: “A TRADITION OF ‘TWAS. Meticulously crafted from pressed copper, they’re hand-filled with vibrant enamel before being polished and gilded.”
Drew says: A hundred goddamn dollars. I’ll tell you people something else that’s about to be hand-filled: your ass.
By the way there’s also a ‘Twas “nut dish” in here for $14.95 for all the twerrific ‘Twas fans out there. If you find regular dishes inadequate when formally presenting an assortment of Planters cashews to your guests, this is the dish for you.
ITEM #89-6964953 – WILLIE BIRD SMOKED TURKEY BREAST
Copy: “When a whole turkey is larger than you need, this precooked, small breast is the perfect menu choice.”
Drew says: You have $100 to spend. What’s it gonna be: four napkin rings, or the worst part of a turkey you already ate four weeks ago? REAL SOPHIE’S CHOICE, THAT ONE. I don’t get you turkey-at-Christmas people. I’ll defend Thanksgiving turkey against the haters, and I have. But after November, I don’t wanna see another turkey dinner plate again until I have to attend an AA meeting at Boston Market. Williams-Sonoma has prime rib ($179.95), beef Wellington ($109.95), spiral ham ($180.00), and beef tenderloin ($249.95) in this catalog, too, for the record. If those are your Christmas dinner options and you pick plain turkey breast, then you’re from Indiana and you get right the fuck out of my house. No, you can’t have my pie bird.
ITEM #89-6976057 – REVOLUTION INSTAGLO R270 TOASTER, PLATINUM
Copy: “FOR THE TECH LOVER. Revolution Cooking™ transformed breakfast time with the launch of its smart technology toaster and, with the InstaGLO R270, it takes more leaps and bounds innovating the market … 34 different bread options, including gluten-free”
Drew says: Do I need that many bread options? I only need three toaster settings: Light, Dark, and Burnt. That’s it. I don’t need my breakfast transformed. I don’t need my toaster connected to my Parler account. This “revolutionary” bread option cyborg doesn’t even come in red velvet. It’s haute garbage as far as I’m concerned. But no matter. Modern industry will still put a touch screen on every product and say, “The techie in your family will enjoy it!” You know who loves tech in my family? EVERYONE. Every goddamn American likes tech. We don’t have a choice. I can’t get insulin for my kid without checking in on an iPad at a clinic first. Exactly three technophobes exist in this world right now, and they don’t order from this catalog. This is because they were sent to prison in 1970 and don’t know what tech, or what a fucking InstaGLO toaster, is.
But now you do. And aren’t you so happy to know? This is why we celebrate the holidays every year, and why that slice of marble rye I toasted on setting Umber.6 came out so crisp and even … not unlike the snow laying round about on the Feast of Stephen! MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!
Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, is on sale everywhere books are sold. Defector is currently offering trial subscriptions for a dollar a month. That’s $99 less that those napkin rings. Think about it.