Thursday, July 25, 2013

Object Fetishism

The theme of this year's Oxford Symposium, held a few weeks ago, was Material Culture. It has gotten me thinking deeply about the tools in my kitchen, particularly those on which I absolutely depend. There are a few without which no kitchen could function: knives, spoons, spatulas, I'd add tongs. My grater too. None of these are trophy items. I don't own a single big very expensive knife, though I do have a lot of them. I think of them as tools, nothing more. But then I realized that my most prominent kitchen drawer, above the cutlery, holds these right up front. Why? One corkscrew would do perfectly fine. I actively use all 15 of these, and that's not counting the rabbit, and 6 or 7 other kinds of corskscrew I own but almost never use. So the question is why I fetishize these objects. I think it's because I can tell you exactly where each one came from. I have explicit memories associated with them. And of course my favorites have the most interesting stories. I emphatically don't collect them - especially since corkscrews haven't been allowed in carry on luggage for the past decade. But I'm still wondering why this particular object, apart from the fact that I use them every day? Are there objects any of you hold as dear, and if so, why?

10 comments:

runningknows said...

In corkscrews this is my favorite.... delightfully overengineered but truly beautiful, like the bike gear they make.....
http://www.campagnolo.com/jsp/en/world/index.jsp

Ken Albala said...

You know, I own a few like this, and some that make opening the bottle so easy that it's no fun. As you can see, most of these pull with leverage or literally just free pulled.

Em said...

My wooden Swedish butter-knives. Because they smell great (juniper wood), they remind me of home, and most people don't use them in this country (UK) so they're mine, somehow. Maybe it's an identity thing. Also, I love butter.

Glenn said...

Carry bags is my...object. Backpacks, shoulder bags, equipment cases...I was recently looking at a ThinkGeek ad, and was pondering this lovely single-shoulder backpack thing before I saw the $120 price tag and shook it off. I've never understood the female complaint of having to transfer things to a new purse...

As far as corkscrews, I have one in the home kitchen, one in the camp kitchen, one in my traveling kitchen tool bag (see, another bag!)...but the one I always use is the Swiss Army knife corkscrew in my front left pocket.

Anonymous said...

I probably have enough knives to outfit a pirate ship

Jeremy said...

The set of bakers' marks a jeweler friend made me 15 years ago. I don't bake very much anymore, and I hardly ever use them. But I wouldn't give them up for anything.

Ken Albala said...

Em, I bought one last year in Sweden and it sits right near the cutting block. But I still haven't used it!! No idea why.

deana sidney said...

Don't get me started on objects. I love them and believe they do have stories and things that make them important to me. Often private little stories but beloved none the less. That is one fab collection of corkscrews!

Linda M-B said...

Ken, to further indulge your corkscrew fetish, consider visiting Dinastia Vivanco in Briones, Spain (www.dinastiavivanco.com),a wine museum which houses the world's largest corkscrew collection including some erotic ones!! the rest of the exhibits are pretty good too. We easily spent 2 hours there in June and could easily wiled away 3.

Cecilia said...

Great!