Thursday, October 20, 2005

Beautiful Wretched Excess
I read "Forbes FYI" magazine. I don't know why. Probably for the same reason that I look at the ads for fractional ownership of jet aircraft. Such shiny, glittering, pretty things! And so wonderfully, wonderfully expensive! But I don't live in Oregon. I didn't even pass through Oregon and buy a PowerBall lottery ticket. So no NetJet. No Bulgari jewelry. The Rolex Oyster encrusted with diamonds will just have to wait.
Then what is it that makes me tear the page out of the magazine and write "blog this" across the top in big block letters? The Sub-Zero PRO 48 refrigerator. Here's what Richard Nalley has to say:
This is "the refrigerator as heartthrob. With its two doors and four sliding drawers it combines the muscular, industrial effectiveness of restaurant cold storage with the asymmetrical, cabinet-of-curiosities appeal of an old apothecary cupboard. We're talking here about 800 pounds of sculptural reference in welded stainless steel."
This, according to the good folks at Sub-Zero, is a paradigm shift. This icebox is for those "who aspire to a professional kitchen lifestyle." The Forbes FYI article wisely grasps the deep and fruity import of that statement, noting that it is "a flight of fancy that would strike people who actually work in professional kitchens as hilarious." Spot on. And let me quote further: "But the point here is the 'aspiring' part; it's all in the approach." It's like looking at NetJet ads. Aspire - aspire like a madman.
Now, for the personal aspect of the PRO 48. I like it. I'd say I love it but I don't. I love stainless steel in the kitchen and the glass door on the refrigerator side is weirdly great. But it is too angular and sharp for my taste. And, ay, here's the rub: $12,000.
Six times the price of a very good commercial brand. This is just stupid money. And there are a lot of people with stupid money. My momma might have raised a fool but it wasn't me. So my interest in this beast becomes a kind of look under the hood of modern culture because this beast is an expression of 2000's America. So the personal aspect poofs into sudden vapor.
As the article begins: "There are refrigerators now with TVs in the door, refrigerators that look like Victorian farmhouse appliances and refrigerators so shy about being refrigerators at all that they melt into your cabinetry." Of course no kitchen needs to have a TV in the fridge and retro styling and 'dissolving' appliances are all well and good. It's part of the rich pageantry of life and I celebrate the opportunities of modern Americans to live precisely the way they want. Be it retro, be it multimedia food storage or be it a kitchen that seems to have no food storage at all.
But I question a $12K fridge (I'm still tempted to call it an "icebox" as a poke in the eye to the good folks at Sub-Zero) which is faux-industrial. It is not just style; it is foolish pretense. "HelLO! I'm Wolfgang Puuh-uuck!" But you're not. You never will be. Your aspiration to gourmetdom will not be aided by a $12,000 food cooler. It is there not to help you with food but to appear industrial. This is kitchen butch for the dilettante. $12,000 proabaly could buy you a real, albeit small, professional refrigerator. But this is, let us recall, "aspiration." I like aspiration. I admire aspiration but this is not really about aspiration. It is about posing.
And that's just kind of sad.

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