Gadget Or Gimmick: Decorative Measuring Cups

Oh, lord. Where do I even begin with these?
First off, let me say that I love cute shit. I have had to stop and wonder if I may be over-doing it on the number of animal-themed bookends in my life. People regularly forward me cat-themed everything — food, clothing, hair styles, you name it — and ask me if I plan to try it. Anthropologie's home section is basically my dream. Every time I go into the store, I fantasize about filling my life with their french bulldog coffee mugs, antique map tea towels, and walls and walls of candles.
But there is one thing that even I, the queen of cute, cannot abide: the decorative measuring cup. Measuring cups (or spoons) that double as fun countertop decorations. They might be shaped like owls, or giraffes, or simple nest into an old-fashioned jam jar shape. As a person who is easily identified as both "really into cute shit" and "also really into cooking," I've received them as gifts. Because, why not? Who doesn't need a cute set of measuring cups that can make even the most mundane task look like something out of Snow White?
And here, my love of all things twee ends in an abrupt line in the sand. Because you know who needs those? No one. Measuring cups and spoons should, first and foremost, allow you to measure ingredients accurately. That means they should have a good handle for gripping, a bowl that can be easily filled and leveled, and, most importantly, a fill line that lines up with the top of the bowl. Never mind that it would be impossible to dip these bowls into a bag of flour without a handle, the fill line is often located within the bowl itself. That means its up to you to try to hit the exact 1/2 a cup line, somewhere in the interior of the cup.
I would love a world in which simple, functional, easy-to-clean, and, above all, accurate cups could also be cute. But here is a short list of what I've used the various decorative measuring cups for over the years: candle votives, salad dressing bowls, condiment holders for pigs in a blanket, bowls for M&Ms, rests for tea bags. Handy, sure, but not strictly necessary. You know what I've never used them for? Measuring. For that, I turn to my plastic, not-at-all glamorous set of cups, purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond for $4 seven years ago. Will I ever put them on the counter? No. But are they doing their job, dutifully and consistently? Yes. No cat-themed design required.
Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series