Grinding your own spices is great, but most chefs recognize that manually pulverizing them is superior for flavor–better for releasing oils and aromas, while giving you more precise control over spice coarseness. That’s what makes the ancient mortar and pestle the perfect cooking tool, still used in kitchens today. But I’ll be honest: A pepper grinder fits a lot better on a dining room table than a 5-pound hunk of volcanic rock.
Now the Japanese design firm Nendo–in a partnership with the boutique label Valerie Objects–has designed a charming product that brings pulverization to the form of traditional salt and pepper shakers. Dubbed Bottle of Spices, it’s a pair of glass bottles that contain whole salts and peppers. Removing their corks, you pour a bit of the spice onto each shaker’s base. And then you use the bottles to smash the spices small.
While most mortar and pestles are carved out of stone, these spice bottles are constructed out of more fragile glass. (They’re still built for the job, though, with indentations for your hand to grip the bottle, and a thick, ridged bottom to crush spices without shattering.)
In this sense, Bottle of Spices is designed as a collection of contradictions. These are seemingly fragile objects, but you’re supposed to smash with them. Along the same lines, these bottles appear to be simple objects, when in reality, they turn the simple act of shaking salt onto your plate into an overwrought foodie ritual. “Using the pepper or the salt becomes an almost absurd act of play,” according to Valerie Objects. And it’s true. Imagine a table of eight passing the pepper. It would take 15 minutes for the shaker to make its way around as each person tap-tap-tapped the pepper to their liking, with dark, spicy spheres firing off in all directions, hitting plates and silverware along the way.
Seen through a critical eye, Bottle of Spices could be interpreted as a commentary on design itself, seeming to prove that the most perfect solution can also be the most ridiculous. But if that’s not enough to deter you, you really can buy these mortar and pestle bottles for $36 apiece.