This is the Best Ice Cube Tray You Can Buy
Plus meditations on the life-improving power of well-made home tchotchkes
Remember Marie Kondo? Yeah, that was fun.
Or maybe you're a chronically anxious person like me and are just happy the period of judgment is over, that KonMari acolytes are no longer out in force to make you feel ashamed of your possessions.
The KonMari method, a gleefully ruthless form of minimalism that argues in favor of throwing away everything that doesn't make your heart flutter when you think of it, is in and of itself largely fine. Or at least benign; it accepts alternative approaches and is undogmatic about how much stuff you actually can hold onto, so long as it sparks joy in your heart.
Less so is the predictably Calvinist fervor with which Americans latched on to Kondo's concept: breathless enthusiasm with an eye toward personal salvation, a binge-purge approach that conflates KonMari with reductio ad absurdum asceticism, competition to own the least amount of stuff, and if you don't follow along, what the hell's wrong with you? As with so many East Asian imports, we Americans ruin everything.
Trends pass, thank god, and now that we can have a less emotionally loaded conversation about stuff and taking pleasure in material objects, let's talk about ice cube trays.
I earnestly appreciate Marie Kondo's core argument: that our everyday home objects have the power to enrich our lives with a sense of joy and wellbeing. And that we'd do well to take pleasure in well made things, humdrum though they are, that perform their function with excellence and are a pleasure to use.
Ice cube trays are one such item for me, specifically the Japanese ones I picked up in California eight or so years ago. They were made of rigid, extra-strength plastic for durability and produced perfectly rectilinear elongated ice cubes. They had lids to keep out bad freezer smells and, most crucially, to let you stack them. They cost $10 and I've never found them online since, and they were perfect.
Those trays served me with distinction until a recent move, when, despite every effort to find them, they disappeared into the pocket universe that swallows up something or other during packing. I won't go so far as to call myself heartbroken when I realized they were gone, but I certainly felt a sense of loss. Good well-made things, even 10-buck pieces of plastic, have the power to make little household moments meaningful. Even when everything in your life is going to shit, there's a deep satisfaction that comes from refilling your ice cube trays with just the right stream of water from your faucet, snapping on those perfect lids, and returning them to the freezer with the comfort that yes, this is the right way to do this thing, everything about this is the best it could possibly be. This is good and under control and safe.
Replacing those trays was no small thing. I wanted lids, because I can't imagine how people stack ice cube trays in their freezers without lids anymore. I was tempted by the squishy silicone models that produce perfect cubes, but didn't like how much finger-fidgeting I needed to pull them out. I wanted the trays to be easy to use, to engender that same feeling of rightness and safety that my last ones did.
After much searching, these guys from OXO fit the bill. They lack the linear elegance of my Japanese trays, but actually come with some improvements. The flexible silicone lid snaps down tight, which means you can even store these in the freezer at an angle without freezing your ice lopsided. And they have a handy pour spout so you can spill out excess water into your sink after you seal them. The trays produce cute rounded tetrahedra that release quickly and stay whole; they look a cut above the standard ice cube tray shape, and fit nicely in narrow-mouthed water bottles.
They're well-made things that do their job right. And the next time a tear in spacetime opens to swallow up more of my stuff, I'll be keeping an eye on them to make sure they stay put.