For those of us who are young at heart but no longer in our first youth, Christmas lists usually consist of pretty simple things. A full night’s sleep without having to get up to pee; a pair of warm socks; booze and lots of it. You get the idea.
Leave it to me however to have come across a completely impractical little do-dad that I am coveting like mad.
I want a vinaigrette. Not to sprinkle on salad though.
Vinaigrettes were smell containers – yes you heard that right. Small decorative boxes that held highly aromatic substances – usually a mix of vinegar, herbs and oil. The precursor of what we now call, you guessed it, vinaigrette.
Centuries ago it was a commonly held belief that diseases were carried by foul air. And since regular bathing is a fairly modern conceit, everyday life was a pretty stinky affair. Carrying a vinaigrette was both a protective measure against disease and a way of avoiding stench in general.
A sponge soaked in a vinegar mixture was placed in the bottom of the container underneath a decorative grill. When a particularly stinky odour drifted by, the 1%-ers of the day popped open their vinaigrette and took a deep whiff of their preferred scent.
Even in our present era of hyper-cleanliness, it doesn’t hurt to sniff out great functional design decisions of the past.