Witness The Spectacle As I Send Two of King Arthur's Knights Away in Shame

'ware what is between these innocent covers.

'Ware what is between these innocent covers. Don't take that cookie, little girl!

I’m starting to feel like the person who wears all black–including a veil and gloves–to a wedding.  The old lady who ruins the game of Capture the Flag by screaming at the kids to get the heck off of her lawn.  The downer at the party, spouting nothing but gloom and woe over the music.  The Eeyore of the Hundred Hinternet Wood.  And what has brought on this feeling of doom and gloom and woe and crankiness?  Thank you for asking.  I wasn’t sure if you would.  Sigh…………….. Oh, right.  It’s The Baker’s Catalog from King Arthur Flour.  The early spring 2009 edition, to be exact.  It showed up in our mailbox on Saturday, and I really was excited.  “Oh, good!”  I said to The Beloved. “Something to look at before we go to bed!”  Are we party people, or what?

Anyway, he’s a good sport, and I was under the weather anyway, so we opened up our little catalog on Saturday night, all pleased with ourselves and looking forward to seeing some Cool Stuff.  About 20 minutes later, after many “Oh, please”s and “Seriously?  Are they kidding me?”s, I threw the catalog across the room (well, just down on the floor, really) and stated in my Huffy Voice, “Oh, I am going to write about this in my blog!”  I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I feel a little bit silly saying things like that.  Kind of like the guy who brings out the squirt gun to fight off a grizzly bear.  Or the herald who has nothing but one of those green and orange plastic birthday horns to blow.  But, still, the pixel is mightier than the sword, and as I don’t want to turn Excalibur onto its very owner, I guess I must be satisfied with wielding my keyboard with Outrage and Defiance.

But not yet.  Seriously, friends, I used to look forward to catalogs like this one to arrive.  The Beloved and I would pour over them, and even sometimes we’d turn down a page corner on the off chance that we might actually purchase something.  And the cover of this particular catalog is so cute and springy and colorful–I mean, there’s a little pink bunny sugar cookie on the front, for goodness sake!  How bad could it be between the pages?  Brace yourselves; I’m here to tell you.

But not yet.  First, let me make it clear that I use some King Arthur products religiously.  I use their whole wheat flour, their white whole wheat flour and their bread flour.  I am, as it were, a fan of King Arthur and most of his Bread Baking Knights.  But, they’ve recently added a couple of new knights to their Round Table of whom I am not a fan:  Sir Expensive Trinket and Sir Peculiar Ingredient.  I am not sure what is up with them, but I don’t trust them.  They have shifty eyes and greasy hair (although it is tightly pulled back, but I can tell anyway).  They have fakey smiles and dollar signs in their beady eyes.  They make me sad.  They make me nervous.  They make me clutch my wee thin purse to my breast and breathe shallowly through nostrils flared with outrage.

And now, I will air my List of Grievances with these two K-niggits (scoundrels).   First, there is Sir Expensive Trinket.  This is what he wants us to purchase–to spend our hard-earned pennies on:  A ruffled apron for $40.  A stoneware oval baker for $100.  I don’t care if it’s from Poland!  A cookie shovel for $20.  A double boiler for $50.  An herb keeper for $30.  Gee, how about putting them in a small vase?  How about a set of square biscuit cutters for$11?  Oh, what–that last doesn’t sound like much to you?  How about using your bench knife to cut whatever sized square biscuits that you want.  Take that, Sir Expensive Trinket!  I bite my thumb at you, sir!  Here’s one of the worst of your offenses, sir:  a mini scone pan that makes sixteen wee triangular scones for $39.  All you have to do is portion the dough into each individual triangle shape in the pan.  Did I already ask you if you own a bench knife?  But wait.  There’s more:  For a mere $14 apiece, how about individual pie slice pans.  Hey, it’ll only cost you $84 to bake a whole pie!  Arthur, give me that blasted sword.  Take that, Sir ET!  And that!  And this!  Now, go forth from here in shame. Consider yourself banished.  Go, and never darken my mailbox again.

As Sir Expensive Trinket slinks off with his shield slashed with the Mark of Shame (you didn’t really think I would kill him, did you?!), let us turn our attention to Sir Peculiar Ingredient, who suddenly thinks he hears his mother calling.  Front and center, Sir PI.  I submit unto you the following:  Mixes of All Types–scone mix, bread mix, cake mix, pizza crust mix, sticky bun sticky mix, mix, mix, Mix!  It’s not that any of them cost very much, necessarily, it’s just that I expect more of you and your knights, Arthur.  Sorry, King Arthur.  I mean, seriously!  Don’t you want people to know how to mix some flour, sugar, salt, and leavening together along with some spices?  Don’t you want to teach them how to add some wet ingredients?  Oh, wait, don’t answer that.  I am ashamed.  Moving on, Exclusive King Arthur Fruit Curd for $9.00.  90 cents and ounce?!  And you all know what I think about jarred curd.  (And no, I haven’t tried yours.  That’s not the point.)  Instant cream puff and filling mix.  I don’t even know what to say to that.  Pate a choux and pastry cream are two such basic building blocks that I cannot believe you don’t want people to know how easy they are to make!  A pox upon you, Sir PI.  And the k.a.f. kids (TM) line?  You say that you believe that you’re “never too young to start baking.”  Well, I say, “you’re never too young to start learning all about ingredients and mixing methods.”  That’s it!  Take that, Sir Peculiar Ingredient!  Now go!  Slink off into the night after your scurvy friend.

Now, King Arthur, I still believe in you and the rest of your Knights.  Over there, the steadfast and true Sir Milled Grain.  Thank you for your organic 12-grain flour.  Thank you, too, for your rice and spelt flours, for your cake flour and milled flax.  And there stands Sir Measuresalot (cousin, I believe, to Sir Lancelot).  Thank you for your wonderful half gallon, quart and pint size liquid measures.  Thank you for your dough bins.  Thank you for being humble and dependable.  And to you, Sir Special Flavorings, thank you for your rose water, thank you for powdered espresso, for your wide array of Nielsen-Massey extracts, for your peppermint oil and your lime oil.  Thank you, King Arthur, and to all of your knights upon whom we’ve depended for our baking needs, under one name or another, since 1790.  But, shame on you for trying to divest us of our hard-earned money by parading those Charlatan K-niggits with their shiny, sparkly products in front of us.

Leave me now, good sirs, that my breathing and coloring should return to normal.  After all, I have recently been ill.  And no, none of those are affiliate links.  The very idea!

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Comments

  1. says

    “Once upon a time there was a kingdom of bakers. Busy mom bakers, Grandma bakers, bakers who don’t have room or time for every scratch ingredient in the kingdom. King Arthur heard their pleas, and decided
    to take some of the time and work out baking, so they could have warm, homemade, fresh treats for their families, with no preservatives and only quality ingredients. And so our mixes were born, and the bakers rejoiced. We wanted lots of little people to bake, too, and made easy-to-assemble kids’ mixes. The people, tall and small were happy, and bought lots and lots of mixes.

    In the kingdom, there were bakers who wanted to express their love and care for others with tokens and trinkets, and toys for other bakers. Some of those bakers are most comfortable teaching kids to bake
    So the good King looked far and wide for pans to bake in, things to wear while baking, and individual sized pie wedges for smaller households in
    the shire. The King also made sure he made many, many proclamations about how to bake. More than 1,200 of them, at last count on his website, all for free.

    In King Arthur’s kingdom, it’s well known that bakers of all skill levels are welcome. And as for the occasional trinket, even the kingdom needs to stay in business!”

    With great respect and wishes for happy baking, The Thanes at King Arthur Flour

    • says

      @King Arthur Flour: Best. Response. Ever! Thanks for stopping by. I still think it’s no harder to mix a bunch of stuff together than it is to add water and an egg to a mix, but that’s just me. I salute you, and your need to stay in business, sir knights :D :lol:

  2. says

    I’m so glad someone’s finally come out said it! Much as I love King Arthur products (and am, in fact, a Roundtable member), this subtle yet insistent retailing transformation has been troubling. And since we’re coming clean, I absolutely hated that zippered pie dough bag. I tried to like it but it made me angry, and I soon tossed it. But I’ll probably buy those very expensive little packets of sourdough starter. And, I work for the company that supplies those square biscuit cutters. I can tell you the cost of metals has been crazy the last couple years, driving up the cost significantly. So for this case, I don’t believe KA is trying to make buckets of “dough”, hahaha. Sorry.

  3. says

    @Niko I was *this close* to including that silly dough pouch! I am laughing as I write this. Yeah, I thought the cutters weren’t really too expensive–just unnecessary if you have a bench knife. Don’t apologize for the pun; I quite enjoy a good pun :lol:

  4. PJ Hamel says

    Hey, to each his own – let’s face it, you can bake with a bowl, a spoon, s few pieces of sluminum to make a solar oven, and flour/water/yeast/salt. Just as you can fish with a piece of string and a safety pin (but don’t tell my over-geared fly fishing husband that!) Or do woodworking with a piece of wood and a pocketknife. Yet huge industries are centered around these leisure-time pursuits. Which leads me back to – chacun a son gout. LOVED your original post, and Susan’s response. Clever writing LIVES. Thanks, all – PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour baker/blogger, on behalf of my 167 fellow employee-owners

  5. says

    With a champion (champion-ess?) such as you, the blogdom rests easy! And yet, in the interest of maintaining amicable relations, perhaps I shall hie myself over to King Arthur’s domain (!) and introduce myself to his more respectable liegemen.

  6. says

    We are indeed told in the tale of the Grail that it fed each member of the Round Table with “sweetmeats such as never afore knights tasted”.

    Is that where that chocolate extract came from? I couldn’t find it.
    I LOVE chocolate extract!!!

    But, yes, individual (hee hee) pie piece pans? What is this? Trivial Pursuit Pastry?

    As as for me, Mexican flour will do for the nonce; it comes in snazzy muslin sacks which I can recycle into curtains, quilts, and suchlike.

  7. says

    My Mom bought me a Polish stoneware dish for Christmas (admittedly, not from King Arthur).

    lol.

    And regarding the “Choux Express,” I like this line:
    “You just add water, eggs & butter to make the dough.”

    … Last time I checked, choux pastry was made of water, butter, flour, salt, and eggs. Meaning that the only thing they supply is the flour…? And I also always thought that the saturated flour particles, achieved expressly through incorporation of the flour into the rapidly boiling water and butter, were what set apart pate a choux from other doughs. So how do they achieve this saturation with a dry mix and no heat?! Puzzling, but most likely not miraculous.

    That bunny is pretty adorable, though. :)

  8. says

    @PJ Hamel Thanks very much. You KA dudes are good sports :D

    @Tangled Noodle There are a lot of respectable liegemen over at KA. Tell them I say “hi!” :)

    @Jim I bet they weren’t sweetmeats From A Mix! :lol:
    Trivial Pursuit pastry indeed!

    @Chris My thoughts exactly: “What? They’re handing me some FLOUR?! What up with that?!” Don’t let the rabbit sway you. Stay strong, ’cause that’s how they suck you in! :lol:

  9. norecipes says

    LOL I was laughing through most of your post, but “Instant cream puff and filling mix” is where I about fell out of my chair. I’ve never heard of anything so absurd. I had images running through my head of a capsule of cream puff you just add water to and watch it magically grow (you know, like those tee-shirts and towels that come in pill form). I’m glad you didn’t include the Beater Blade in your list because it really is good:-)

  10. says

    You slay me with your words ;-)

    Funny reading this as I was just testing out a new twin loaf pan I got for $5.88.

    There are certain things you can cheap out on, and certain things where you can’t. One tool I laugh at a lot is the “oven rack puller” What a joke – I use a pair of medium weight needlenose pliers that I can also use for craft projects, home repairs, etc.

    The choux is pretty darned funny I have to admit.

    The KA bunch is alright though. Lot’s of investment in their website and it’s good for learning. They do pimp products on every blog post though ;-)

  11. says

    Your sense of humor is incredible. I agree with you but one has to be savvy, sometimes you get what you pay for. Although, I have not heard of King Arthur products before.

  12. Judi says

    OMG – I laughed so hard I fell out of my chair!! You’re sense of humor often has me laughing, but the response from King Arthur just made it that much more enjoyable. I’m guilty of using mixes – often and sometimes I’m a gadget girl – trust me when I say that marketers LOVE me, LOL.

  13. says

    I loved this post (as well as your blog)! I am just joining the baking bandwagon, so I am not even sure what a bench knife is…but I do appreciate your calling out money-wasting gadgets (as Alton Brown would call “unitaskers”) and mixes. I too find it easier to just do it from scratch. Also, I did love the King Arthur Flour person comment. It was a very funny and informative response. Brilliant!

  14. says

    Fair Maiden, as an ordinary citizen I am humbled to be in your presence. Your courage has been awarded and you may now join the Round Table!

    PS Hope over to my yest site. Hope Your Feeling Better!

  15. says

    King Arthur has always been home of expensive specialty bakeware you really don’t need, but they come up with a recipe to make you think you do and the recipe is full of one-off ingredients you have to buy from them.

    I have a friend who lives a stone’s throw from KA and when I visit her I stop at the store. I am always amazed by the stuff tourists buy by the pallet almost. And their prices for their flours are outrageous. (Note to anyone visitng New England: Every supermarket and coop in VT and NH sells many KA varieties for less, sometimes waaaay less and in bulk.)

    Yes, the mixes have overtaken the store and the catalog. This is not the King Arthur I fell in love with 15 years or so ago. With apologies to Dorothy Parker, there’s no there there anymore.

  16. says

    I found Sir Peculiar Ingredient so attractive, last year I actually ordered a bottle of that reduced apple cider stuff. He made me forget completely that I have access to apple cider and a stove. I used about a tablespoon of it. Way to call them on it!

  17. linda says

    I love getting the KA catalog. And while I agree that the stuff is overpriced and/or unnecessary, I think the catalog is inspirational. The copy writing makes you think that YOU TOO can bake your own crusty bread, flaky pies and moist cakes. I gave a class in pate choux once to 100 women. Not one of them had ever made it before or knew how many uses there are for it. They were thrilled! Now – you and I know that there’s nothing to it if you know when to stop adding the damned eggs and realize that it’s impossible to overbake. These ladies came back and handed me their stories of success as if they were good grades. I work with seasoned chefs who find baking intimidating. King Arthur inspires one to get in the kitchen and change your life with flour! So I am defending them for that reason. And also because I’m hoping they’ll read this and send me that ADORABLE looking crepe maker that I’ve been jonesing for as thanks for my kind words.

  18. says

    I’m just reading this and you are SO right! I never really thought about all the gadgets and tempting “you need this right now” items which, shamefully, I have fallen prey to on occasion. Love this post – wield that bench knife like it’s Excalibur Jenni!

    • says

      LOL I will continue to wield my bench knife, Aly! I really do like the KA folks, but there are some Highly Specialized items there that most people just don’t need. So glad you stopped by and commented. :)

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