Back when I was procrastinating on my midterm exams, as a Princeton student should, I came across not one but multiple TikToks that featured Le Creuset cookware. I wasn’t particularly upset with this discovery, since I’ve considered Le Creuset items, especially the Dutch ovens, to be very nicely designed — even pretty, in a very homey way. Even better, the TikToks paired the different color options Le Creuset offers with images of matching interior designs. Overall, they were very enjoyable to watch — a nice change of pace from the comedy, dance, and relationship content that seems to be the most prevalent on the app.
However, these TikToks also shocked me because, after the first Le Creuset clip appeared and I tapped the like icon, my ForYou page was quickly consumed by lecreusettiktok. This name follows the naming conventions of the different sides of TikTok or the categories of content on the app, which simply add “tiktok” as a suffix to the side’s primary subject, e.g., frogtiktok and beantiktok — yes, you read that correctly. There were moments in which the algorithm served up three, four, even five of these TikToks, and most shockingly, they would all have tens of thousands of views, with some even amassing hundreds of thousands of views.
As much as I enjoyed these videos, I was also very confused over why traditional French cookware was going viral among the zoomers (Gen Z) and zillenials (the in-between generation between millennials and Gen Z) that dominate TikTok. I was a baffled man with multiple questions and practically no answers, and I remained as such for multiple days while continuing to scroll and enjoy the bliss of lecreusettiktok.
However, I am also a curious man, and I did want answers. Mainly, I wanted to know why Le Creuset had such great appeal on an app like TikTok, inducing incredible fervor to the point the company was motivated to make an official brand account. Thus, I began my quest for answers. One of the first things I did was ask about the viral trend on The Daily Princetonian’s #random Slack channel. Unfortunately, this effort wasn’t the most fruitful. I did, however, learn that senior Prospect writer Lauren Fromkin ’24 is also on lecreusettiktok, and that Head Multimedia Editor Mark Dodici ’22, while not on lecreusettiktok, is “a massive Le Creuset fan and would be overjoyed to read” this article about viral cookware.
Still looking for answers, I then turned to the TikTok comment section, which proved to be a fair bit more effective. At first, I mostly found companionship with other people who also enjoyed this content and who were also rather confused about why they were even seeing it. Then, as I made my way to the comment sections of newer TikToks — those posted after the trend had begun maturing — I began seeing more insightful comments. While not direct, exact quotes, these notes are very similar to or at least evoke the mood of many comments I read:
“I feel like an adult,”
“I want one, but I’m broke,”
“It’s comforting,” and
“I love this aesthetic.”
These comments, while not the full answer to my questions about lecreusettiktok, at least pointed me in the right direction. Immediately, these comments gave me a glimpse of the mindset of a generation with very humble desires. These young people aren’t presently striving for greatness in the form of successful careers, personal wealth, awards of all sorts, or any other traditional form of recognition.
This isn’t to say these people don’t dream of such markers of success. Rather, it’s to say that in those moments, within the 15 seconds to a minute that they are watching these TikToks, their desires lie elsewhere. Instead of thinking about how high and how quickly they’ll climb their career ladder, they first want to just feel like an adult — to finally escape childhood and its constraints. No longer is the aim great wealth or renown; the bar has been lowered to cookware that retails for a couple hundred dollars but can also be found for much less at discount stores. The focus is no longer all the awards there are to be won but just the comfort that cookware can symbolize through its associations with warm food and domestic life. All this points to an incredibly anxious generation. And it’s a fairly rational anxiety when one takes a look at the world as it currently is.
Ultimately, all these thoughts resulted in my waking up one morning with an idea I immediately texted to my friend Cecilia Zubler ’23: “I JUST REALIZED THAT LE CREUSET IS OUR GENERATION’S WOMB CHAIR.” Of course, this text message requires a bit of explanation. First, this all-caps style is due to this message being a breakthrough in my quest for answers — a quest I had previously discussed with Cecilia. Second, the womb chair is a sort of inside joke or reference in our friendship that arose from the trials of Cecilia’s writing seminar, for which she had the option to read about this chair designed by Eero Saarinen in the middle of the 20th century.
While studying together one winter evening, Cecilia talked to me about her reading, saying that this chair, with its soft, cushiony form and engulfing scale, evoked warmth and reassurance — safety, even — much like a womb. These qualities were further elevated in an age of growing anxieties, especially due to the advent of the nuclear age. Thus, much like the womb chair helped assuage people’s anxieties in the middle of the previous century, it seems Le Creuset has assumed a similar position in the minds of zoomers and zillenials.
This comparison between these two objects came to me because of the visceral anxiety the world seems to produce so much of, as seen in the comments section of these TikToks. Besides calming some of this anxiety, lecreusettiktok also seems to offer avenues for dreaming and longing, especially with their inclusion of interiors that match the cookware. Watching these pairings reminded me of flipping through an Ikea catalog I received after signing up for one of the store’s programs in order to get a discount during college dorm shopping.
Each turn of the page would reveal a new kitchen, a new bedroom, a new lounge, a new bathroom; each offered an escape into a new, imagined life — one in which the viewer’s future self actually inhabits these staged and photographed homes, even if their current conditions for the next couple months or years will not be anything like this at all due to the pandemic. This is especially true now that so many people of this generation are currently stuck at home with parents or other family. Along with comfort, these pairings of cookware and interiors draw out the viewer’s imagination for the future beyond the current crises, especially one that is better or simply calmer than the present.
All this leads me back to some of the initial thoughts I had about this generation — my peers, really — as I prepared to write this article. We seem to yearn for a life better, safer than the current isolating, rather cold reality — one where we can once again easily gather as friends and families around a warm meal fresh from the oven. At a higher level, we seem to yearn for a world less broken than the one crumbling in front of our eyes as we prepare to build up our own lives — a world that’s left us dreaming simply of a Dutch oven and the domestic comfort it radiates.
This is such a somber conclusion to a search for answers about a social media trend and TikToks I initially reacted to with amusement. However, it does feel like an appropriate conclusion upon consideration of the anxiety that suffuses so many of the comments I read under these TikToks, anxiety that also permeates daily life in the pandemic era.