Tuesday, June 14, 2011

.." But they're Le Creuset!"

On Sunday, I bought two small Le Creuset stoneware baking dishes. They were on sale at my secret kitchenware one-stop shop. When I brought them home I was reminded that we already have a whole cupboard full of small baking dishes and ramekins that never ever get used to which I replied, "But they're Le Creuset!" I was so proud of my finds and that I "beat the system" by finding such a high quality object, so on sale. Granted these puppies are small, and I have NO idea what I am going to make with them. Still, they had to be purchased. I mean, "They're Le Creuset!"

So what is the deal with Le Creuset anyway? It shows up on the Food Network all the time, Julia Child used an orange Le Creuset, and my mother has spent years and years collecting it. I adore this stuff.  It's bright, it's durable, and it weighs 500 lbs. And, maybe the most important part, it is here to stay. Last Thanksgiving, I treated myself to my first piece of "Le Creuset" and still smile whenever I boil pasta or place a whole chicken in it to boil and make soup.
my beloved stockpot- enameled steel in "chili red"
part of my mother's collection
Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

So aside from the points above, what makes Le Creuset so special? It's about time I do a "History of..." post. This time, you guessed it, of Le Creuset.

For starters, Le Creuset was founded in 1925 by Armand Desaeghar and Octave Aubecq and to this day is headquartered in Fresnoy-Le-Grand, France. Desaeghar and Aubecq pioneered porcelain enamel glazes and opened the door to a range of beautiful and versatile cookware. They built their business from what they knew; Desaeghar was a casting specialist, and Aubecq, an enamelist.
Photo of Le Creuset Factory in Fresnoy-Le-Grand from "The Potter's Kitchen"

[In 1925] "that same year, the first cocotte, or French oven, was produced, laying the foundation for what is now an extensive range of cookware and kitchen utensils. The Le Creuset signature color, Flame, was born in this first piece. With their new ability to pigment the enamel glaze, Desaegher and Aubecq modeled their first color after the intense orange hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron (“creuset” in French). This vibrant shade became known as the refreshing color choice within a sea of gray." - ( from http://cookware.lecreuset.com/)

To this day, Le Creuset is known for its "Flame" color.

 Flame Casserole dish (and my "famous chili sweet potatoes"

 By far one of the coolest parts about Le Creuset is how they are made. In a world that has been pressed to mass produce objects at the blink of an eye, Le Creuset hasn't succumbed to the pressure to exchange quality for quickness. "Sand molds are made for each individual piece then destroyed, creating each cast iron vessel's unique qualities. It takes two sand molds to produce the desired shape for each Le Creuset piece- one for the interior and the other for the exterior." (http://cookware.lecreuset.com/) That is certainly a lot of work and makes the price tag make sense.

In 1995, Le Creuset expanded their line, adding stainless steel, stoneware (hence my bitty bakeware), textiles, enamel on steel, and silicone utensils. When you enter a Le Creuset store today, you can buy just about anything you need to stock a kitchen including dishes, knives, aprons, Le Creuset cookbooks, display stands, and spoon rests. While Le Creuset screams "France!", it has become an international staple of many kitchens around the world. Iconic indeed!

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