Site: Vermicular | Aichi, Japan
Minimalist form, maximalist function.
The precision craft of imono iron casting influenced Japanese culture going back as far as tea ceremony more than 300 years ago. The unity of pure beauty and durability in Japanese cast iron craftwork is recognizable today and has left its imprint on our collective understanding of what it means to create impeccably made, distinctively designed goods. Vermicular is the latest manufacturer of superb cast iron to have built a kitchen appliance that is as elegant as it is durable. Having developed Japan’s first triple-coated, airtight cast iron pot, Vermicular has set a new standard for quality in the kitchen.
Today, the appeal of convenience is ubiquitous, with mass-produced wares boasting do-it-all capabilities on offer at race-to-the-bottom prices. This circumstance rests upon a present-day foundation of habituated consumption and planned obsolescence. The spirit of imono, which transcends the modern trend toward immediate gratification and instant replaceability, has been cast aside in many places. But its legacy lives on through Vermicular.
Vermicular was born out of necessity. The Hijikata brothers, Kunihiro and Tomoharu, are third-generation heirs to a family company, Aichi Dobby, which originally produced industrial-scale cast iron machines. To stave off stagnation wrought by economic turbulence in the 90s, they got creative, applying generations-old expertise to the fabrication of a new cast iron appliance for the kitchen.
The resulting product was Vermicular, named after the warp-resistant graphite iron alloy of their signature musui pot. Musui means “without water,” and the Vermicular musui pot was precision-engineered to achieve such a small gap, less than 0.01mm, between lid and base that—unlike other cast iron pots—it creates a virtually airtight seal. The precision seal enables water-free use upon the stove, inside the oven, and most effectively within Vermicular’s plug-in kamado heating unit. Water-free cooking leverages moisture inherent in the food in the cooking process, locking in all the flavor for utterly delectable results.
Vermicular developed the kamado, an induction heating element that can comfortably sit atop a kitchen counter. When paired, the kamado cradles the musui pot, ensuring proper heat from the base through the circumference of the sidewall. Vermicular’s Musui–Kamado package amounts to an unobtrusive appliance with immense potential in the home kitchen. Together, the combination of the musui pot’s precision seal and the kamado’s precise temperature control is the first of its kind, allowing for cooking a la sous-vide without having to vacuum-seal food or use an immersion circulator when submerging the food in a water bath.
The goal of a kitchen tool should be reliable, consistent performance over the long-term. One does not typically pass down, for example, an electric rice cooker, slow-cooker, or food processor through the generations. One can do so with Vermicular. We find the American urge to compare Vermicular with other types of pots more a matter of cultural context than pure utilitarian decision-making. Some appliances aim for convenience, though many of them lack durability; by contrast, Vermicular engineered the Musui–Kamado for performance and quality. Too many appliances are instantly replaceable by design; Vermicular is an heirloom.
At the time of writing, unprecedented circumstances have forced us to rethink the sorts of things we take for granted. The pandemic affecting all of us has foreclosed dining out, gathering in social spaces, and the like. Spending time at home, socializing at home, and cooking at home invites us to consider ways in which we can make the best out of a fundamentally new way of life. Food—its preparation and (especially) consumption—involve in some form all of the values we cherish. We believe Vermicular is fit for that purpose, and that is worth the investment.
Vermicular village studio area, Canal side, 2 Funato-cho, Nakagawa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
For an interactive experience on your next trip, see Vermicular Village
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