By David Brooks
When a man finds a woman who used to work for him who is twenty years younger than him with whom to spend the rest of his life, it is imperative that he celebrate by being gifted with items that reflect certain truths.
Here are some of the items I have asked for, and, additionally/more importantly, here are what those items say about my character, or just what I value about character in general.
Eucalyptus Napkin Rings — Set of Four
Eucalyptus trees came from another country. They are among our tallest, most aromatically scented immigrants. Eucalyptus trees have never let anyone tell them what they could and couldn’t do. At the same, time they have been themselves — eucalyptus trees —and they have blended, with soaring majesty — into America’s neighborhoods, gardens and, in some cases, municipal parks. That these trees have generously given a likeness of their very own leaves to surround a napkin — an item that keeps Americans fresh and clean while they are eating, whether that meal is a respite from hard labor, or a well-earned weekend meal with family, or a raucous social occasion like a barbecue featuring items from Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, also on my list — further highlights their selfless generosity.
First of all, this item is only $16. You don’t have to be Maureen fucking Dowd to get this for me. If you are one of the Times interns who somehow slimed your way into my wedding this is something you can totally afford. I know as well as anyone the desire to take a dirty spoon and just set it down on a counter, or on top of a random piece of paper towel. The Sissinghurst Castle Spoon Rest reminds us that we are better. This country was settled by men who wanted the freedom to practice their religion and they wanted to live in a place where spoons had a place to go that was neither cold nor wretched nor begged of them a performance of sullen desperation fitting no kitchen item. A spoon rest is an item that reminds us that there is never a good time not to be civilized.
This item only costs $10. I don’t care how young or poor you are, you cannot just buy this item, you have to buy it in tandem with something else. That said, this is a wonderful tool that I hold in my hand every time I want to remind myself of the dangers of excess, the sins of waste, and of how easy it could be to let a culture that always tells us we can have more pleasure, more fun, more luxury, control our mind rather than controlling it ourselves. When I use a Good Grips Basting Brush to delicately paint oil onto vegetables that I intend to roast in my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (These two items together would actually be a suitable gift from an editorial assistant, the Skillet is very reasonably priced at about $30) rather than simply tossing them in a bowl, I feel the power of modest virtue.
I (we) have many, many items from Berry & Thread Glassware on our Registry. To me, Berry & Thread Glassware represents a sort of durable, reliable transparency that I would like to see in today’s youth. You will never, for example, see a Berry & Thread Glassware Carafe—or any of the 20 other Berry & Thread items we have listed—spend too much time watching pointless videos. You will never see a Berry & Thread item trying to be better than another Berry & Thread item. Why? Because Berry & Thread items are always working together, for the greater good. I would like to see some intrepid young entrepreneur start a high school for young Berry & Thread items; doubtless it could stand as an example to American Youth who are not ashamed to wear their identities literally etched onto them but to also stand with others who have the exact same thing etched onto them.
Sure, I have other “cooler” cookbooks on our list. And yes, I can appreciate a world where Ina Garten’s Chicken Piccata eclipses Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukin’s Chicken Marbella. But I don’t simply forget about Chicken Marbella. To forget about Chicken Marbella is to turn one’s entire back on the past, and to turn one’s entire back on the past is to say “I regret you.” We can’t regret the past. We must look at it. We must know it, even as we admit, that yes, Ina Garten’s Chicken Piccata is the thing for now. For now. But too many people today obsess over Chicken Piccata. Chicken Marbella must not be ignored, or we risk losing the very thing that made the Upper West Side what it was, to a few people, on Saturday nights, sometime in the ’80s. In order for our country to come back, Chicken Piccata and Chicken Marbella must stand together, and cultivate in each other new ways of being what they are, without of course becoming the same chicken dish.