Object Relations No. 1: Duralex Glassware

Let’s get down to brass tacks, dear reader. I’m a sick, sick, sicko when it comes to consumer culture. Much of my messing-around-time consists of reading what B has affectionately termed “rich lady blogs,” as in “I’m a rich lady! I buy things! You should buy things too!” Just for reference, this exclamation works best if you do it in a mocking falsetto.

Having outed myself as a rich-lady-blog reader to many of my [lady]friends, I’ve been delighted to discover that some of the smartest, most stylish, and coolest ones are also abashed readers of such internet pap. All of my friends and I have read our Marx and talk a lot about the evils of capitalism, but nevertheless find ourselves spending an enormous amount of time looking at the contents of strangers’ closets and beautiful homes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that many (most?) of the women writing these rich-lady-blogs are far smarter and more stylish and cooler than I, and therefore deserve their revenue and legions of fans. (And, I know, I know, they also post a hell of a lot more regularly.) But there is a confluence of money and free time implicit in a lot of these blogs that make me feel really uneasy, and the last thing I’d want my dear Bear-Garden readers to think is that I fancied myself to be a wealthy, out-of-touch shiller of luxury goods. Out-of-touch I may be, but I conduct my fantasy life on a pauper’s budget.

That said, everyone who knows me in real life knows that I am incredibly over-invested in the stuff I own. I take brand-loyalty to a whole other level. Much of this I get from my father, who is always eager to sell everyone he knows on his current favorite thing. It’s gotten so bad with him that we now jokingly identify certain objects as my father’s “Product of the Year.” Last year’s winner was a battery-powered wax candle that actually flickers! Everyone and their brother got one for Christmas! However, to parrot my father: “Here’s the thing about it, kid.” It’s not like either of us have a profit motive in telling you about our favorite things, it’s that we both genuinely feel like if we’ve found the very-best-travel-coffee-mug-in-creation that you should know about it. We love you! You deserve the very-best-travel-coffee-mug-in-creation! (It’s called a Contigo, by the way, and it was my father’s Product of the Year 2008.)

With that spirit in mind, I’m inaugurating a new feature here at The Bear-Garden: Object Relations. I’m doing this partly because I want to share with you all of the things I love, and partly to try and get content up on this site with some kind of regularity.

Without further ado, I bring you Object Relations No. 1:  Duralex Glassware.

As the child of proto-hipsters, I grew up drinking skim milk every single night out of a 16-ounce Duralex Picardie tempered-glass tumbler. I didn’t recognize the brand as anything special, though I did associate seeing the circular “Duralex, Made in France, depuis 1945” imprint on the bottom of the glass with having permission to get up from the dinner table. You see, hippies they may have been, but my parents didn’t indulge any of this newfangled nonsense about picky eating when I was a kid. I could leave the table once I had cleaned my plate and drank all my milk. Sometimes it was hard to choke down that final inch or so of bluish skim milk, so spying the Duralex imprint became indelibly associated in my mind with freedom.

Like all things that belong to one’s parents, I thought of Duralex as weird and stupid when I left home and was shopping for my own glassware. It was only after a few years of shattered glasses that I realized how ridiculously well-made and virtually unbreakable Duralex products are. Fast forward to my twenty-something Francophilia, when I ‘discovered’ that Duralex is not only a national treasure in France, but totally ubiquitous at every bistro in Gallic territory. That is to say, not only are Duralex burly beyond belief, but they convey a certain kind of Continental cool. Let’s just say that many Derrida-reading, Gainsbourg-listening hipster men have fallen under my spell, and that probably had more than a little bit to do with the Côtes du Rhone red I served them in a Duralex.

My personal collection began at the age of 22 with a 24-piece set of Picardie tumblers, all of which have survived numerous-cross country moves and plenty of drunken fumbles. Nearly a decade later, while I do happen to possess a fair amount of non-Duralex glassware, nine times out of ten B and I drink most everything out of those very same Picardie tumblers. During my time in Paris, I gleefully “acquired” several out-of-production vintage goodies: a square Lys serving bowl and two ribbed small tumblers.

I say “acquired” because I guess I technically stole these vintage delights. The bowl “technically” belonged the people I rented my apartment from and I “replaced” it with an Ikea version. The tumblers came from some heinous South-American-fusion restaurant on rue Amelot. The food was so terrible and expensive that I somehow rationalized pocketing the glasses. B has described them as among our more treasured possessions, not only because they have excellent hand-feel but also because that theft represents one of the only times he has witnessed my ever-relentless superego, well, relent and break the Law. It only happens once in a blue moon, so it’s good to have a souvenir of the occasion.

My beloved M (Francophile-extraordinaire) is equally Duralex-crazy. Sometime in 2011 we heard a terrible rumor that the company had gone out of business and ceased production. This resulted in a mad dash to rich-lady-blog-Mecca, a.k.a. Merci, where we both purchased a set of smallest Gigogne tumblers. These will be used to serve espresso to my guests in a fantasy, future, rich-lady-blog kind of life in which I have an espresso machine. Currently they are used for tequila shots, and work splendidly for that purpose as well. If you ever want to buy me a present (hint hint), I dream of a full set of 10 circular Lys stackable bowls.

You can freeze them or pour boiling water into them. You can accidentally drop them on the floor or the counter and ninety percent of the time they’ll survive without a scratch. They’ll last about twenty years longer than comparably priced glasses from Ikea (my parents’ tumblers are probably over thirty years old and still look great). They’re simultaneously utilitarian and chic, and might bring back fond memories of that-one-night-at-that-one-bistro-in-Lyon for one of your friends. Frankly, I can’t get enough Duralex, dear reader, and for that reason, it’s first among my Object Relations.

The three smaller photos in this post shamelessly stolen from Duralex USA’s website, http://www.duralexusa.com. While I bought my Duralex in the US from Williams-Sonoma back in 2005, it appears that they are now primarily sold here in the States at Sur La Table. Frogs can pick a more extensive selection up at BHV or Merci. I guess I’m also supposed to say that I haven’t been paid for this endorsement, not that any company would pay for such a meandering and verbose write-up in the first place.

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