Archive for June, 2009

Your Grandma’s Pot

June 28, 2009

Everybody has their favorite kitchen object. I got an old round cast-iron griddle at a flea market many years ago that is perhaps my favorite piece of cooking equipment. It fits perfectly on one burner, and it allows me to cook more than one thing at a time—eggs, potatoes, and shrimp for breakfast; grilled cheese and sliced zucchini for lunch. I use it a lot.

A friend of mine, Ted Mann in Arlington Virginia, is always looking for antique kitchen stuff at flea markets and church bazaars and giving them to me. He’s obsessed with old kitchen equipment, and I sometimes get the benefit of his obsession.

He found a few things for me last year that are some of my favorite items: French steel sauté pans and a 14” oval copper-bottomed sauté pan, presumably for fish, for $10. The latter has that wonderful, hammered finish that you don’t see in modern versions.  In fact, I found out that the company that makes it is the same line of copper cookware that Julia Child used.

Ted also has some nice old appliances. One is an old toaster that looks vaguely Art Deco or perhaps Mission inspired, but it is small, and recently we had a good laugh trying to toast some large Tuscan bread slices in it. We just had to do a turn-and-toast a couple of times.

Ted’s found me a couple of beautiful antique tools, like this whisk, which I have hanging up.

Recently, he got a whole box of cookware, including a set of 1960s Magnalite cookware for a few bucks. This was the earliest aluminum cookware for the home, and it’s still some of the best.

Like all old things, old pots, pans, and whisks have stories, and you wish they could talk about them: the kid who set off the fire alarm because he buttered the bread before he put it in the toaster, or the grandmother who used the whisk to make a cake for her husband not long before he died, or the carving knife that sliced a turkey on that lonely Christmas during WWII.

I don’t know my griddle’s or my pans’ stories but I connect to them anyway. I know that my old tools have a culinary history and that someone somewhere was comforted by what they cooked with them.

And I continue the tradition, and the stories. Except the part about buttering the bread before it goes into the toaster.