A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In which Michael decides a Lampe Berger is for les oiseaux

Well, I just spent over $100 to discover that my old trusty, noisy diffuser may do the best job at scenting my teaching space after all.  The land that contributed to world culture such brilliant things as Champagne, Debussy, the Curies, and french kissing has, malheureusement, struck out bigtime with their fancy-schmancy room deodorizing system.

Lampe Berger, my derrière — it burns my buns to realize that it's just a glorified bunsen burner:

Actually, it looks pretty gorgeous all lit up like that, non?  I so much wanted this thing to be the thing.  And maybe eventually one of you will be able to instruct me on how to make it work satisfactorily.  Anyone out there have any good ideas?  Maybe I'm doing something wrong.  After all, there are so many people raving about these things on blogs — not to mention that incredibly beautiful and satisfied-looking actress on the Lampe Berger website demo video — can't any of these people smell the truth?

Here's the problem: the Lampe works by burning isopropyl alcohol.  Which, when ignited, smells a lot like. . .isopropyl alcohol.  No matter how many drops of essential oil you add to the mix — and, believe me, I've gone WAY over the maximum amount of 10-12 drops recommended by the recipes I've found online (I'm really good at going over maxima, if you haven't noticed.) — the alcohol fumes vastly overpower the delicate fragrance of those few (or many) drops of scented oil and make the room smell like a hospital ward.  Which should not be too surprising, since the Lampe was invented to deodorize hospital wards in 19th-Century France.  In any case, it's not very Zen, unless you're the type to find surgical prep soothing and ethereal.

Whichever shrewd reader warned against any scenting system that involved burning substances, I now understand what you were talking about.  How can alcohol fumes (or soot or incense particles or whatever other fallout) be healthy to breathe?  (Apparently soy-based candles are safe, thank goodness, because I LOVE the Aroma Naturals candles my sister Sara recently s(c)ent to me, and I plan on using them.  All 6 of them, in 3 different sublime smells.  Thanks, Sis.  And congratulations on your recent raise!)

After all this ranting, I figure I should leave you with a little laugh, so I've posted a video of Freddy & Willy guarding our territory against a menacing intruder: the plumber that came over this week to unclog our bathroom sink.  Freddy in particular was pretty much phoning in this performance, which might have been a little more intimidating if he'd bothered to come out from under his purple sheet.

Make sure your volume is up high enough to catch all the nuances of Freddy's monologue; his last few utterances in particular are pricelessly pathetic.  God, I love those crazy dogs!

Tomorrow: I'm back in the kitchen with a new cook-along recipe!  Better buy some fish....


  1. OMG! I love your dogs! I had no idea what a Lampe Berger was until I saw the pic. It does look like a bunsen burner. The best smells come from a clean house, an open window, and a full oven.

  2. Eeep! Are your eyebrows still intact after burning that thing?

    Sorry the thrifty diffuser isn't working out. I use mine to scent the whole first floor of our house, which is probably a better use for it. :)

    Love the dogs! Looking forward to your new recipe!

  3. Snort...love the dogs...adore the purple blanket. You just made my night with that little piece of video. God I am easily amused!

    Willy is the white one and Freddy is brown and white. Yes?

  4. @pikojiko: While I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion in theory, our reality is a bit different from the conditions you've listed. 1. When 2 guys and 2 dogs live together, their home is not always ready to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (But it may smell like a seal.) 2. NYC air coming in through the open windows often carries impurities even less pleasant than alcohol fumes. 3. Our oven is indeed full — of stored pots and pans.

    @Sarah: Oh yes, my thrifty diffuser! I guess I got side-tracked from that project, what with all the Lampe Berger excitement. The last thing I tried in my diffuser was adding a base oil to see if I could use less essential oil that way. I think the answer is no: it cut down dramatically on the fragrance. I'm going to give it another go this week using pure essential oils — thriftiness be damned! That little vase with its bamboo sticks is just too pretty to give up on so soon.....

    @SLVL: You got it right. The W's in "white" and "Willy" make a mnemonic. I like to tell people that Freddy is a Miniature Husky. With his markings/coloration, they often believe me!

  5. The Good Housekeeping Seal is overrated. As long as everyone is relatively happy, nothing sticks and the crumbs are contained in the corner(along with the bale of doghair)I'm content. So sorry to hear about NYC air, but I imagine having all those people living so close together would make things a little aromatic. You'll just have to visit me in the country and soak up the smells here. The lilac bush is getting ready to bloom!

  6. Lilacs? We're hopping on a bus tomorrow!

  7. I'm sorry to hear that the Lampe was un odeur atroce. Sorry to have led you astray!

  8. Not at all, birdmommy....it's been a really interesting journey!

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