Sunday, April 23, 2017
My favorite things 17
Perhaps it's because I prefer teflon frying pans, but the half-life of much of my cookware seems to be measured in months. I am continually having to buy some new "good" pans, smooth enough for fried eggs or delicate fish, while relegating the "not so good any more" pans to low-end duty, browning sausage and such.
Which means it's special that two of my treasured pans are generations old. The one with the long handle came from my mother-in-law; she gave it to Ken before we were married, along with her recipe for chili, which I think he even made once or twice! The big one with the black handles came from my grandmother, and I'm not sure how I got possession, but I've had it for decades.
It's a 4-quart aluminum pan, and still has its original lid, although the original handle on the lid is long gone. Now we use a wine cork, screwing it in through the original screw hole. The cork wobbles a bit, but usually does the job for a couple of years before it needs to be replaced. The pan itself is beat up, with lumps in the bottom; the lid sometimes needs to be rotated a bit before it will slip into place. But I think it's indestructible in all important respects.
The big pot, also aluminum, used to be a pressure cooker. When I inherited it, there was a huge lid that locked into place, with a rubber flange to seal it, and a little pressure gauge. I might have tried to cook under pressure once, or maybe not at all, before being scared by the old wives' tales of tomatoes splattered on the ceiling. The pressure gauge was the first part to disappear, followed in a few years by the lid. The rubber flange lurked about in the back of a drawer for decades before I pitched it.
So it came down in the world and became just a nice big heavy pot. It's my go-to for big batches of soup, for spaghetti sauce, for applesauce, for mashed potatoes in quantities that my mother-in-law's pot won't handle. Although its own lid went MIA long ago, I have another lid that sort of fits, but it does leak a pale essence of spaghetti sauce onto the stove top when that's the plat du jour. It's permanently stained on the inside, probably from the acid in all those batches of tomato sauce.
Interestingly, both the pans were made by companies that used to be big names but are no longer in existence. The pressure cooker was "Ward's Best" -- as in Montgomery Ward, the huge retailer who vied with Sears to put out the best mail order catalog in the world, and this pot no doubt came from the catalog. (And yes, my grandmother's outhouse was supplied with old Ward's catalogs.) The saucepan was Mirro, the big aluminum cookware producer whose factory was in Manitowoc, just up the road from my husband's home in Milwaukee, so this was a local product.
No doubt I could go to the store and buy replacement pots that would be prettier, with no bumps, with lids that fit, but where would the fun be? I like the idea that every week I'm using things whose faithful service started before I was even born -- and with any luck may even outlive me, even as they have outlived their manufacturers and their original owners.