Cookware, Joybird Sofas and Other Obsessions Are Keeping Me Sane During the Pandemic

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This beautiful little All-Clad UFO is worth every penny. - JAIME LEES
  • JAIME LEES
  • This beautiful little All-Clad UFO is worth every penny.

It all started with cookware. I figured out early on this year that I was going to have to cook for myself for what felt like forever, and I just did not have the right equipment. An avid reader of both international news and medical journals, I had a grip on the severity and complexity of the COVID-19 outbreak early in the game.

When I look back over my purchasing and internet history, I started preparing for supply shortages in January and tweeting about coronavirus in February. I’d stopped going to indoor events and restaurants long before March, so when the shit hit the fan in the middle of that month, I was really only surprised by the swiftness in which nearly everything was shut down.



I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be stuck in my house through the summer. I’d better learn how to cook a bit.” Looking back, that timeline was a bit optimistic. Nevertheless, I persisted. I started asking friends for recipes and buying seasonings and other supplies for my new adventure at home.

The trusty (but so, so heavy) ceramic-coated Cuisinart dutch oven I’d scored from the back of a TJ Maxx and had been using for more than a decade had recently gone rusty, and the ceramic was disintegrating, so I knew I had to find something similar — but better — if I was going to cook good food regularly.



R.I.P. Big Blue - JAIME LEES
  • JAIME LEES
  • R.I.P. Big Blue

I’m freaked out by Teflon-style nonstick coatings and am super picky about style, so I decided to buy a stainless steel All-Clad cassoulet because it was about the same size as my Cuisinart. That’s when the serious obsessing started.

There is no shortage of All-Clad “porn” to be found on the internet. Rich people buy full sets and pose in their kitchens with them. They fill the stoves of every Kardashian home. They’re beautiful art by themselves that can be used to cook beautiful art, too, so there are tons of All-Clad-tagged photos on Instagram. But the cassoulet size is not nearly as popular as some of the larger models, so it took much searching to find pictures of it online.

After weeks of researching and drooling over pictures, I finally just went for it. And I’m so glad I did. I’ve used it dozens of times since I got it and the quality just can’t be beat. It's made learning to cook a pleasure.

But after the cassoulet, I started obsessing over other consumer items, too. In this tight economy, almost all of my purchases have been made with a shitload of research done first. And by “researching,” I mean “fully obsessing for weeks and agonizing about purchasing.” It’s like anti-impulse shopping as a hobby.

I realized that I was doing this type of obsessing some time ago, but figured it was one of those pandemic phases that would pass, like everyone making sourdough bread or watching Tiger King. (Also, if you thought Tiger King was wild, go watch Abducted in Plain Sight. It’s the most messed up documentary that I’ve ever seen.)

I’ve cycled through many film and television obsessions, too. I watched the entire Great British Baking Show from beginning to end and can tell you all about how to fold in the cheese. And there was a few weeks there where I only wanted to watch action movies like the Mission Impossible franchise. I figure that all of this has some psychological basis, but I’ve brushed it all off as mostly harmless ways to soothe my pandemic- and election-frazzled brain.

But then came the Joybird sofa. I just can not stop obsessing over it.

I like keeping a minimalist (but joyful) house, and I don't like most furniture in general, so a couch is the biggest, most exhausting decision my stupid brain could ever make for my home, even in non-pandemic times.

I had a giant beanbag for a couch for a while, and I loved it, but my guests hated it, calling it a “fuck sack” and often refusing to hop on and get comfy. After having it for a few years, I started sneezing every time I settled in and then I suddenly realized that it was just an actual bag of scrap foam trash just sitting in my house and soaking up dust and got rid of the stupid thing.

I currently have a daybed for a couch, but my guests have hated that, too. Even stuffed with two million pillows behind your back, it is not comfortable to lean against. So with each house-furnishing failure, the requirements that I have for the perfect couch have increased and become more strict.

My list of couch requirements now is long. Too long, really. First of all, I need to be able to nap on it or set up an overnight guest on it fairly comfortably. And it must be leather because I’m clumsy and dirt loves me and I need something that can be wiped down. In addition, it can’t have plywood or down inside because those things mess me up, and it also must at least attempt to be low in VOCs because I’m so stupidly sensitive to chemicals.

But Joybird’s Briar Leather Sofa meets all of my requirements and more because it even has legs that screw on/off for easy moving, which is something that I hadn’t even considered.


Now I spend many late-night hours laying on my dumb daybed looking for pictures of the Briar everywhere. I try to find photos of it in someone’s home so I can get a good idea of how it would look in mine. I love searching Instagram hashtags like #JoybirdBriar for the new angles provided by happy shoppers, and I especially love pictures with people or pets sitting on the Briar to give me a feel for the depth and lounge-ablitiy.

There aren’t many pictures of it for resale anywhere on websites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, which makes me think that once people get it that they keep it for a long time and that makes me hopeful.

Sadly, I can’t afford the beautiful thing. And I do already know that "stuff" can't make you happy. But that still hasn't stopped me from having all of these weird fantasies about what life will be like post-pandemic and how I’ll have my friends over and we’ll all be happy together and everybody will be comfortable if I can just get this Joybird sofa.

Capitalism has rotted my brain, surely, but the only way to find out what would happen if I got the couch is to actually get the dang couch. I think I’m going to have to figure out a way. Because what if my next fixation is something, you know, actually useful for the world instead of just me agonizing over what I’m going to lounge on while hate-watching Emily in Paris?

It’s time to move on. Maybe. I’ve been thinking about getting lots of all-purple houseplants for winter...

Email the author at jaime.lees@riverfronttimes.com
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