Hand-crank mills with which to grind one's own flour ($675.95) are the new artisanal mayonnaise

At Acculturated blog, Abby W. Schachter writes about "bobos," short for bourgeois bohemians, and evidence that big consumer brands are now marketing to them with highly mockable DIY gear that re-creates artisanal (or, depending on your point of view, obsolete) food production methods.

Case in point: William Sonoma's new upscale DIY kitchenware collection, called the Agrarian Guide, where one can purchase "a reclaimed rustic chicken coop for $759.95... a Warre beehive made from “untreated Western Red Cedar” that retails for $399.95, a vinegar pot for $90, an $80 fermentation pot to make “your own sauerkraut,” and a hand crank Burr grinder grain mill retailing for $675.95. The accompanying grain mill clamp will set you back another $105.95."

Read the rest here.

I vacillate between coveting everything in the catalog, and wanting to mock everything in the catalog. Either way, I cannot wait for the Portlandia sketch.

(via Virginia Postrel)


    1.  I’m guilty as well. But I’m not going for the chicken coop predator kit ($79.95 for $10 worth of chicken wire).

    2.  It’s barely bigger than a farm-factory egg-mill cage!

      If it was on wheels, you could move it around your yard every day to help control the pests.

      1. I was going to comment on that aspect actually, but was quite happy that I wasn’t posting a grumble :)

        If I were to get something like this I’d at least quadruple the run.

      2.  Helps protect them from predators too though.  My friends who actually farm will hear the occasional screech and find a pile of feathers when a chicken gets too brave and leaves the pen.

      3. Even with just three chickens in it and moving it once a day it will help you control pests… and grass. 

        Seriously you would have brown rectangular patches of very fertile dirt anyplace you leave that thing for 24 hours with full grown chickens. They love them the green stuff.

        Any picture that shows grass in a chicken run is aiming squarely at the fantasy.

    3. http://www.thegardencoop.com/ this is the one I made this year, I think all told it was probably around 800 dollars. I stopped counting after awhile..  I must say, while I grew up in a rural area, I probably fall under bobo now… but the chickens are the best project I’ve tried. They are hilarious and I am happy that I am now  out of the factory farm egg world. 

      1. Good thing with eggs is that if you buy some from chickens that have been treated like shit, you can tell. I’m very careful about where I buy my eggs but you can’t beat a fresh!

        We live in a high density city at the moment, so even though we’re lucky enough to have a garden it’s not ideal for chick chicks. I’m also not sure if our dog would love them or hate them. In fact he’d probably be very confused by them, which could result in a variety of scenarios. But as soon as I have a bit more space to play with Chickens are first on the list to fill it.

        Price-wise I have to do some odd conversion being based in the UK. Although it’s $800, there’s a reasonable expectation that to get it in the UK you’d be paying around £800 (1:1) which is actually about $1200. Normally due to import and tax, sometimes just lazy marketers, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Either way what you have clearly gets you a lot more bang for your buck!

    4. It’s also not what a chicken coop looks like, after you’ve kept them for more than a few days.
      Green patch and no shit on the ladder? Bobo, please!

  1. Nothing wrong with making sauerkraut, a friend of mine just made some using a big 100 litre plastic bin worth 20 Euros, worked out just fine.

  2. Properly-stored grain has an insane shelf-life compared to flour. It’s not a bad component of a disaster-preparedness system in that regard. But you’ve got to be able to grind it.

    That said, 800 bucks sounds like way too much, yeah.

  3. Feel free to mock it, Xeni.  Small starter beehive? $90 elsewhere.  The $80 fermentation pot to make your own sauerkraut?  I make kimchi in 1-qt Ball jars just fine.  As for the chicken coop, nothing shows off your DIY/maker ethic like a $1,300 coop (shown) that Williams-Sonoma delivered and assembled for you.

    1. Yeah, I’ve purchased much cheaper tools on Amazon for kraut and kombucha. Could have gone even cheaper by purchasing the items used, though it’s hard to find them when you need them.

      And the prefab coop is funny, because I’ve made them with friends for $50-100 worth of Home Depot supplies.

      At the same time, I also feel like the fact that this stuff is becoming trendy may be a good thing. It all leads to people making and eating *real food*. That’s a good thing.

      1. This is the really important thing. So what if someone wants to spend too much money on a sauerkraut crock that they don’t need? If that’s what it’s going to take to convince someone to make their own, I’m all for it.

      2. I’d buy this coop. It’s adorable, and it comes all pre-cut, like those house kits from Sears in the 40s. 
        I can wield a hammer just fine, but cutting things is loud and dangerous!Just waiting for Toronto to change its Chicken stance!

        1. You really don’t need loud, dangerous power tools to make something the size of a chicken coop.  A miter box and reasonable saw can be had for $20.

          1. Still sharp and a lot of effort. Nothing inherently wrong with kits! :)
            (I have a cleaning lady, I’m obviously not opposed to paying someone else to do the hard stuff for me. That said, I do see the ridiculousness of it all, but it’s still cute, and I’d still buy it or something like it if I could have chickens. Make kits and sell them to people like me!)

          2.  Actually there is something wrong with kits in that you don’t learn anything and you haven’t actually done anything except follow directions.

          3. @boingboing-6195d11132f279cc38f44534a277b3ea:disqus 
            So?  Most people that want to keep chickens because they want to keep chickens, not because they want to learn how to buil;d chicken coops.

            I agree that the prices are a bit of a push, but really, there’s no shame in outsourcing labour.

          4. @boingboing-6195d11132f279cc38f44534a277b3ea:disqus Yeah… If I was buying a wood working course and everything was pre-done for me, that would be one thing. But I’m buying a chicken coop kit, don’t care to learn wood working, but I would like to learn how to keep chickens.

            Full disclosure: I’m a complete Lego-fiend, BUT you may NOT do anything with any of my many castle/forestmen/pirate lego kits except BUILD THE KIT THE WAY THE INSTRUCTIONS SAY SO! Anything else is verboten! I want it to look like the image on the box, thats why I bought the box!

          5. “Full disclosure: I’m a complete Lego-fiend, BUT you may NOT do anything with any of my many castle/forestmen/pirate lego kits except BUILD THE KIT THE WAY THE INSTRUCTIONS SAY SO! Anything else is verboten! I want it to look like the image on the box, thats why I bought the box!”

            I would hyper-ventilate and have a breakdown if left in a room with your legos, cause I respect private property and all

          6. @twitter-212575908:disqus The only other thing allowed with my sets is to amass giant armies on the dining room table. That’s always fun, but I will get persnickity about them being in straight lines and matching! The archers with the archers, the livery with the livery, etc. :)

          1. Sad story. Guessing the powers that be have their reasons, but that’s as crazy as the people that couldn’t grow veg in their gardens, to me at least.

            We wouldn’t have gotten very far as a society if we had to import everything from miles away :)

      3.  Did you miss the article about the urban chickens and their “real eggs” with the lead in them?

        All food is “real” food btw…none of it is pretend.

        1. Not all urban areas were previously heavy industry as it was in Brooklyn and other NYC boroughs, the only areas examined. The actual article you refer to isn’t as alarmist as a mention of “eggs with lead in them” btw –


          and more people will check their soil as a result.

          “Real food” in this context is about the consumer not the food, even though the taste/appearance difference between farm/hobby eggs and factory eggs is extraordinary.

          A hell of a lot of people have no idea where food comes from or how and that has its consequences. One such consequence, eating nothing but processed foods. I hope you don’t think there are no people doing that. Hands on experiences change how people view food, it’s no longer something that is magically trucked into the grocery, or served in a  bag at Mickey-D’s.

          That can lead to better food choices, healthier living and all the benefits it can bring.

          1. “…the taste/appearance difference between farm/hobby eggs and factory eggs is extraordinary.”

            It truly is.  You just can’t get a rich, creamy, orange-yolked egg from a supermarket.  Sadly, some people have industrial agriculture so deeply embedded in their personal experience that an egg with a high, orange yolk or a soft and sweet ripe tomato actually seems “wrong” to them and they won’t touch them.  (I have one such person in my immediate family.  Direct quote: “Too eggy.”)

        2. Cool Whip is pretending to be whip cream, but it’s not whip cream, and it’s the only “food” that will give me the runs within a half hour of eating it.  I prefer REAL whip cream. 

          1. I’ll trade ya.  I was brought up on Cool Whip atop pudding, jello, even pumpkin pies.  I still like it best among whipped-cream analogues and substitutes.  Rarely have I had real whipped cream.  Not sweet enough for me.

            I was probably nine before I ever tried Reddi-Whip, the stuff in the spray can that tastes like CFCs and singing-Happy-Birthday-to-someone-you-don’t-like.

            As for backyard gardens, we always grew our own tomatoes, bell peppers, plums, lemons, and apricots.  But even when I lived in semirural areas, across the street from horse ranches and such, we never bothered with livestock.  To this day, I don’t mind if my neighbors keep chickens, but on those occasions when they bring home a rooster, I dig in my heels.  Thought we’d solved this problem a couple years ago, but I was awakened at 4:00 this morning by a new one.  Goddamn poultry.

      4. “The fact that this stuff is becoming trendy may be a good thing” I second that! I really think that one of the things holding the environmentalist movent back today is this extremist notion that everything has to be done with a pure heart or whatever. In reality, it’s usually better to do something half-assed than to just heckle disapprovingly from the sidelines. Overprized designer bee-hivees? Sure, why not. It’s not the thought that counts – it’s the results that matter. In this case it puts more pollinators in the air.

    2. If someone really wants to do it the authentic way, they should be scouring the junk and second hand stores for the sauerkraut pots and hand grinding mills that went out of fashion and were dumped in favor of newer gadgets.

      Using the old gadgets isn’t “better” and doesn’t necessarily do a more effective job, it’s just different. Hand grinding your wheat in a mill cannot equal the fineness or consistency you can get in say a Vitamix.  It does offer a different experience, though. Even grinding matcha, which must be done very slowly to prevent generating heat and degrading the tea, is now more efficiently done by machine. Although, there is something soothing about hand grinding your own matcha for consumption (assuming you have access to raw materials). 

      Pick up “Consider the Fork” by Bee Wilson to look at the evolution of culinary tools for an interesting perspective on this. 

        1. I still have my grandmother”s hand grinder & use it when the task is appropriate.  But until then, why spend the time grinding when you can spend it making bread & sharing it with those you love? 

      1. ‘Pick up “Consider the Fork” by Bee Wilson to look at the evolution of culinary tools for an interesting perspective on this.’
        Done!  Or at least wish-listed.  Thanks for the tip.

    3. I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room the other day, bored, and looked over and saw that she was using an old style stoneware kraut jar for a vase.. I exclaimed that I had been wanting one and she took me downstairs where she had about 10! Nothing like finding the real thing!

        1. I do! but she sells them a flea markets.. I think they are actually relatively common around here in flea markets but if you are still in need something could be arranged :)

    4. Small starter beehive – 2 – 3 hours labour with 20 bucks of wood, if you buy it, cause a few pine pallets will provide enough and the nails too. Actually, buying the wood chops an hour off making it yourself, I think in reclamation time.

  4. I’m always torn looking at this sort of thing…  I’m a boy from the NH suburbs married to a VT farmer, who’s put some work into rehabilitating an existing outbuilding into a coop on our rural plot – and spending a couple hundred on materials doing it.  We love our chickens (2 dozen) and I sell the eggs at work.  For me, this is something fun I’ve picked up as an adult.  For my wife, it’s how she grew up.  Am I a New Redneck, or am I just a bobo?

    1. 2 dozen average producers will pay back food and shelter in just a year if you only spent a few hundred in materials. Then they just have to pay back food, while providing goodness for your garden too.

  5. I think the problem isn’t the products themselves, it’s that many of them could be built cheaper, sturdier and more affordably from raw materials at your local hardware store (come on, a pre-fab chicken coop!?). It’s a sliding scale though – an $80 sauerkraut fermentation pot is insane given the same effect can be achieved with a clean plastic bucket. But if you have the land and you’re into growing your own grain, a $675 mill might be a solid investment. As with many bobo pursuits, we’re often fooling ourselves if we believe they’re environmentally/economically more sustainable. That doesn’t discount the sense of satisfaction you get from doing it yourself though.

  6. In the same way that the Flip This House-style TV shows were the harbinger of the housing collapse, this is definitely a sign that the whole artisanal food movement is jumping the shark, though I do think the underlying philosophy has more substance than other trends. 

    In the end a bunch of wealthy bobos* will try making their own kambucha and making their own sauerkraut from home grown cabbage, but they’ll quickly realize it’s easier just to buy it from the “mass artisan” manufacturers. And that’s not a bad thing – most of them are much healthier and more sustainable than the large corporate alternatives. Those who aren’t wealthy (or who just can’t stand the idea of paying $9 for a jar of pickles or $300 for a planter box) are ever-more equipped to make their own, and that’s an even better thing.

  7. Do you have to grind the grain yourself, or can you just pay the staff to do it? It is still home ground.
    Earning all the money for your new bobo toys is thirsty work. The best place for bragging is the wine bar.
    Somehow I think it won’t last.

    1. Sometimes you have to grind it yourself, because you can’t get no grindin.  Sadly I have been doing this for quite a while.

      1. There’s no shame in asking for a helping hand. People can be very obliging, you know.

        Seriously, the point I was trying to make is that many of these gadgets would have been designed essentially for homes with domestic help or small businesses which employed more staff and were much more labour intensive than most viable businesses these days.

        Very often people did not ‘make their own’ but paid others to do it for them, just with more unadulterated ingredients and at a much more local level.

        I do not know if we have the exact equivalent of bobos in the UK. The middle class may go for this but they are also often the wannabe upper middle classes who are much more likely to be found in wine bars in Chelsea than actually getting dirty producing their own food. They have servants for that.

  8. I just want to be able to grind my own almond flour.  My burr mill coffee grinder is designed so that it is ineffective at doing so and all the other good alternatives are stupidly expensive :(

    1. Some/most food processors/choppers can do that for you, almonds break down quick, just remember that they won’t be dry like flour from dried grain and adjust recipes for water/oil accordingly.

      1. I want a finer grind than I can get from my food processor.  I like making Parisian macaroons and while the texture on almond flour from my food processor does’t affect the taste or mouth feel of the final product, it does change the visual part.  I want a perfectly smooth shell, but that’s just be being a neurotic home baker.

        1. Perfectly reasonable IMO, I recommend scraping it from the food processor into a mortar/pestle since it seems like you’re trying to get it paste-fine. Unless you’re making enough to feed a moose for a week it’s not that much labour at all since you start with the processor, and mortar/pestle can range in price from cheap and effective and still cool to expensive and effective but real cool looking.

  9. This seems a little petty. Yep, they are too expensive, but this is a philosophical extension to what’s great about the Maker movement and should be supported. No one bats an eye about buying/making a $2000 3D printer, but a nice looking chicken house to grow your own food is a problem.

  10. Ick. Mock away. I think I paid $30 for my Corona hand-mill which does corn meal, coffee, and cracked grains perfectly well, and for another $40 converted it for flour with a stone kit. Screw a bolt into the handle end of the auger and chuck on an old power driver/drill with a reduction gear, and you don’t even need to hand-crank it.

  11. All for all of this, although the prices seem steep.  The chicken coop looks cool though.

    Not quite sure how you’d tell the story of the Found Terra Cotta Board – http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/found-terra-cotta-board/?pkey=cagrarian-garden-homemade-kits&cm_src=agrarian-garden-homemade-kits||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_–_-

    For £110, three old roof tiles and some wood.  Who’s getting snowed on this winter, eh?

    As for grain grinders – that one sure does look like Dorothy and Toto could’ve whacked the wicked witch with it, but this one is waaaaay cheaper – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Victorio-Hand-Crank-Grain-Mill/dp/B0018P54TS

    Nice stuff, yes, but concern about replicating the post-70’s hangover and rebellion against natural stuff.  Trends come, and trends go when they over-trend …

  12. I’ve always thought that the essential charm of a chicken coop is its funkiness, caused by use of whatever was lying around as building materials.  This negates that charm entirely, replacing it with a Victorian doll-house sort of charm.

  13. Anyone that hand grinds their own flour will quickly realize why it was that people switched to other power sources as soon as they were able.

    1. I’ve got three grain mills (for all-grain brewing) — a hand crank, a small mixer attachment and a drill-powered three-roller hopper. Cracking grain used to be an hour(s) long process, depending on how much beer we were making. Now it is just minutes. Not even double digit minutes. The drill-powered hopper cracks grain just about as fast as you can shovel it in.

  14. “I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of…wherever.”

  15. Must appeal to the Martha Stewart class of “gentlemen farmer” who want to dabble in the rustic life but still look gorgeous and want to show it off while doing it.  You can’t buy just any old grain mill when you live in upscale Connecticut.

    1. About a year ago, I got a gift card to a book store. On impulse, I bought a book by a woman who had previously worked in Manhattan, I believe in the clothing industry. This  book was about how she had given up the fast paced life and now she was roughing it somewhere upstate – with the help of a hefty retirement fund from her previous life. It was literally the most boring book I read in my entire life. Like when she described how she had to purchase blue jeans for the first time in her life and how difficult that was to do, and how she gave up her old ideas of what life was really about when she stopped buying  underwear that cost hundreds of dollars. That just did not bring her real pleasure like digging in the dirt planting heritage tomatoes. 

  16. I love how the “do it yourself” fad is actually just another marketing ploy to sell you something to make you think you are actually doing something.
    Srsly, if you really want to do it yourself you don’t BUY a chicken coop.

    1. Yes. The vibe I’ve grokked is …

      “If you actually _need to_ do it yourself, because of economic necessity, I don’t feel safe allowing my kids to hang with your kids.” You’re an unknown to me and you’re not one of us.  

      Except under the controlled, close supervision by me, my spouse and/or others, of, or close to my level of socio-economic-spiritual enlightenment so we can feel good about ourselves. Even then, if you use our toilet or pool, these will need to be drained and sanitized after you finally leave. But alas, we need to appear friendly so that we may retain our standing in the New Frontier.———————————————————————————–Oh,the attached pics are of valued William Sonoma  customers when he or she sees a possibly out-of-place white or coloured person to whom he or she had not been previously pre-introduced (by security, or the coop-board) behind the gates of his eco-village, boutique eco-community or other such rarefied place.It’s my understanding the sound can break glass and make security shooty.  

      1. “If you actually _need to_ do it yourself, because of economic necessity, I don’t feel safe allowing my kids to hang with your kids.”


  17. There is a swiss art exhibit that intentionally pokes fun at the “handcrafted” movement by creating incredibly complex and inefficient artisanal machines. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671193/faux-artisanal-popcorn-popped-one-kernel-at-a-time#1

  18. I built a mill race from the upstairs bathroom to the utility sink in the laundry area. Now, whenever I want flour, I just run the tap at full blast, and in 2 – 3 days, I have enough to make a biscuit.

  19. “a reclaimed rustic chicken coop for $759.95…  I cannot wait for the Portlandia sketch.”
    Put a bird in it!

    1. I am a fern.  I have been making my own food for over 300 million years.  For free.

      Kiss my ass.

  20. So, I’ve examined my gut reaction against these types of things and come up with the following: It’s not that I think it’s ridiculous to grind your own flour and other such things, it’s the implication/vibe from people who advocate for such things that to do otherwise is some how immoral. 

    1. Perhaps you hang around with too many vegans that grind their own flour?  The people I know that are dedicated to doing this sort of thing do so because of their own personal convictions on food.  There is certainly a moral component there, but these are the same people that raise and slaughter their own pigs and chickens.  This is done, in large part, to ensure that they are eating ethically raised food, because it produces a superior product for much less then you would have to spend at a market or grocery store for something that approached the same level of quality, and because removing middlemen and processing from the path your food takes to being a finished product on your table and the effort it takes to get it there is immensely rewarding.

      Advocating that all people should grind their own wheat for flour and judging them to be immoral for not doing so goes a bit far.  Advocating that all people should make an effort to only eat ethically raised and slaughtered meat and judging them if they don’t doesn’t go too far in my mind.  When I see my friends nonchalantly select the cheapest ground beef walmart carries, it make me cringe.  Different people have different priorities, but i feel as if all people have the duty to educate themselves on what they eat, the source of what they eat, and the effects of what they eat.  Choosing not to do so in the face of so much publicly available information is actively choosing ignorance in making some of the more important decisions you can make.  For that, I will judge the ever living shit out of you.

  21. Aesthetically, the stuff looks nice.  But practically, whatever.

    In other news, anyone worried about how Brooklyn’s artisanal mayonnaise business fared after the storm, it’s still in business.  https://twitter.com/empiremayo

  22. I got a grain grinder (~$50, I think) so I could grind my own unhulled barley into a faster-cooking cereal. Because I like barley.

  23. I was just in Williams Sonoma last week, people watching with my husband, and they were selling little bags of dried corn kernels — I’d say smaller bags than the ones from Bob’s Red Mill — for $20. So you could grind your own cornmeal. 

    I may have actually said, loudly, “Oh jeezus christ, people.” 

  24. The coop is silly, but the fermentation crock is actually a reasonable price– cheaper than some other comparable crocks.  Those make really good kraut and fermented vegetables.

  25. I do almost all these things at a fraction of the price….

    The one that kills me though is the kombucha kit for $109.00 CAD, i started mine for $3 and ate the pickles out of the jar first before washing it and starting my kombucha, and the 6 tea bag refill kit for $26.00???  Who are they selling too morons?

    This is really sad.

  26. The term bobo is a fun one. It’s French obviously, and actively used over here. In the end though, not everyone is equipped with the skills needed to build this sort of thing, or the desire to do so. If the net result is that some bobo have chickens I don’t think it’s so bad. There is always someone doing more with less money.

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