Out With the China

It's been some time since people gave Sypholux soda siphons as wedding presents, but now it seems the modern incarnations of this gift - the snow-cone maker, the heavy wooden cutting board, and the serving tray with legs for the breakfast in bed that no one makes - are also in danger of going extinct. In recent months, according to the cookware shops that attract amateur cooks, the number of customers buying useful, nondescript and non-glamorous wedding gifts - such as a knife, an iron pot or even a salad chopper - has been on the rise. Out with the china sets, in with the ceramic frying pans.

Anyone celebrating a special occasion can register at stores for gifts and at long last get that Japanese Global knife he has been wanting. Anything to avoid getting yet another warming plate with little candles or a fancy set for sugar and cream.

If there is good news in the wake of the great popularity of shops specializing in kitchen gear popping up all around the country in recent years, it is the legitimacy of buying one useful item instead of piles of unnecessary objects. According to both sales personnel and customers, making an impression has nearly vanished entirely, with the vast majority preferring to receive flexible silicon cutting boards rather than coffee sets.

At the Domo chain for example, they have learned from the Americans. Couples now prefer to leave gift registries here - selecting items like wooden knife blocks, vegetable choppers for salad, steamers for couscous "and any unusual item you wouldn't buy for yourself," says chief buyer Ilanit Avi-Guy. "People are also buying silicon sieves that, like silicon pans, can fold up and are suited to people who don't yet have a lot of space in their kitchen. [Also] stainless steel steamers for couscous and pasta pots, and heavy steak pans, which maybe aren't the most refined thing for a wedding but no one cares any more. People want something useful."

Among the popular items are knives of galvanized iron, aluminum or layers of folded steel, for slicing meat or fish. "Up until a year ago, no one thought to buy a single knife for a specific purpose as a wedding gift," says Avi-Guy. "Today it's a popular gift. Customers are very informed and they understand that a knife is a tool that will last many years. And more than anything else, they know that they [themselves] aren't going to sped NIS 400 or more on it in the next few years and therefore they are glad to receive it from friends."

The abundance of up-to-date shops for amateur cooks is taking off not only among yuppies but also among the country's ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations. "In Arab society, for example, it's common for the bride and her mother to come into a shop before the wedding and buy a 'dowry' worth about NIS 2,000 or more to equip a kitchen," says Danny Sigreich, CEO of the Millennium Marketing import company.

The ultra-Orthodox sector is also blending traditional pre-nuptial purchases with new local trends: "In this sector they mostly buy gifts instead of bringing money, because these are customers who are invited to many events and bringing a gift decreases the expenditure a bit," says Sigreich. "Therefore they also prefer buying a useful gift, not ornamental objects. In the past they would buy a matching set of pots, but today there is a pot for every kind of cooking."

At the Cookstore chain, they make a clear distinction between younger 30-something customers who want to equip a kitchen and other kinds of customers. "Particularly among the younger people - people whom others buy wedding gifts for, or who buy for themselves with coupons - there is a big attraction to the area of wine.

A lot of people buy equipment for opening bottles, like sophisticated and especially convenient corkscrews. One of the most popular items is a Kitchen Craft corkscrew that makes it possible to easily open a bottle with just a single hand motion."