TikTok has a way of baffling us with its oddball trends and its latest obsession is a head-scratcher. Why would anyone — let alone the busiest and buzziest generation — have time for elaborate French breakfast crockery that needs extra prepping? But it looks like 2022 is shaping up to be the year of the breakfast – with trends like pancake cereal, goddess salads and miniature bacon.
But at a time when almost everyone is stepping away from traditional dairy produce, why are so many people obsessed with a vintage crock that makes butter more spreadable? It could be a quarantine fad since mornings are lazier for the housebound and the doomscrolling doesn’t start till after coffee. And even though the two-piece contraption needs some time to set up, it is definitely functional especially if butter is a priority to you. The fridge-to-table crock is the perfect way to store unrefrigerated butter since it maximises its counter-top shelf life.
The crock makes butter more malleable and spreadable, which is no doubt better than having to spread icy, hard butter on your soft breakfast slice. The usage is quite scientific; you need to pour cool water into the outer ceramic container which helps create a seal. The butter goes into the ‘bell’ which is surrounded by the water-filled crock (make sure you fill the bell to the brim so there are no air pockets). Set it back into the lid. It softens the butter and prevents bacterial growth, so you may not need to refrigerate your butter at all!
If it sounds medieval, that’s because it is. Butter bells originated between the 15th and 16th century in France and in the mid-1990s, a family-run American company named L. Tremain updated this authentic French ‘beurrier’ with durable bone china. Though the Gen-Z breakfast lovers have just woken up to the existence of this old timey butter keeper, the butter crock has actually been a breakfast staple for many years.
Popular American lifestyle label Food52 sells thousands of these ceramic butter crocks each year and apparently, it’s a must-have for chefs and food writers all over the world. "You never know when you’re going to want a bit of room-temp butter, and yet the need arises all the time. Julia Child used a butter keeper, which is as much validation as I need to be absolutely sure that in fact, they are awesome,” popular YouTube chef Claire Saffitz had said a while ago.
Homegrown brands too have started making their own versions of this crock, beating TikTok to the craze. Although L.Tremain’s original butter bell crock is readily available on Amazon, labels like Earth Store and Meesho have their own versions of butter pots. Which begs the question: Is vintage crockery making a comeback?
“There’s definitely a demand for vintage pieces,” says Sidharth Lath, of Kolkata tableware label Ekaani. “People are now steering towards collectable crockery but there’s also an appreciation for functional numbers that can be used readily. For younger shoppers, especially, usable pieces are a big draw, be it for gifting or personal use. Something that stands out but is practical,” adds Lath.
Neha Jhunjhunwala, whose Kolkata label Studio13 offers customised crockery, also swears by functionality – even when it comes to party numbers like tapas plates or luncheon sets. “Even though we’re almost always making stuff for gifting purposes, all my pieces are functional and I think about usability a lot. Modern shoppers are also wary of the run-off-the-mill blue-and-white crockery. I would say the appeal of the store-bought non-breakable crockery has worn off. Now even when it comes to table crockery, millennial buyers want one-of-a-kind or artisanal pieces,” Jhunjhunwala confirms.
So, if you want a little vintage flair on your breakfast table, maybe try out the TikTok-approved butter bell crock. There’s no telling if it saves time, but it can definitely make your mornings a lot more interesting.