Pots & Pans & Things That Go

by jkatejohnston

Pots: I’ve written before about my Grandma’s persimmon colored Le Creuset 7 quart Dutch oven, also known as her bean pot. (See my food book, which really isn’t bad. My mom foisted it on all her book club friends, and they just love it.) Anyway, the bean pot. I love using it, owning it, gazing upon it. And it’s a reminder that some of your kitchen stuff is likely to be around for a while, so it’s not a bad idea to have a few nice things.

I can’t believe no one cited this as a rationale for gay marriage in the cases the Supremes are working on now. I can think of some pretty terrible cooks who registered for some awfully fancy cooking stuff for their idiot weddings. I wonder who will get the Kitchen Aid mixer in the divorce? Meanwhile I, who think about cooking all the time, cannot get married and have acquired my nice things in piecemeal fashion.

I’m sorry to sound bitter. It’s just that at my age, in my position, you get tired of sending fancy pots and pans to infants and their pregnant, bi-polar girlfriends as though this marriage were the Fabric of Society. And what, pray, do they know how to cook other than a nice batch of crystal meth?

I hope it goes without saying that all my friends are good cooks, especially the ones who happen to read this. And while I’m back-pedaling like mad, let me add that I actually have never been to an idiot wedding. I just like the way it sounds. I love big fun weddings, as long as I don’t have to have one. It’s not the Supreme Court that’s holding me back from that—it’s horror at the very idea. And you kind of have to throw the big fun wedding if you want the Kitchen Aid mixer. It’s part of the Social Contract. 

Pans: Annie gave me a big bitchin’ sauté pan about twenty years ago, and I’ve used it at least twice a week ever since. (Can this be true? Exclude times when I’ve just had a baby, times when I’ve been in trial; times when I’ve been cooking nothing but Cheerios. Still, I use it a lot.) It’s probably about eighteen inches across, with straight sides about three inches high. It came with a lid which I dropped and broke in the first thirty seconds of owning it. The tempered glass shattered into perfect beads all over the sidewalk outside Annie’s house.

I used it last Sunday to toast sesame seeds and then to caramelize almost an entire bag of onions plus two big red peppers. It takes about three hours on low. The pan has this thick, fabulous aluminum core, so it’s almost impossible to burn anything. You might have to stir it every half hour or so. If that. And you end up with a smallish Tupperware full of marvelous sludgy stuff that you can put on anything. Star anise and ginger are optional, but for god’s sake salt it. And since it reduces so much, you probably want to salt it toward the end.

The pan is very, very heavy. When Teresa’s mom visited she insisted on doing the dishes, and she’s small and frail. (I remember lying on the bed with Teresa, both of us on our backs, absolutely flattened, and whispering, “I feel so guilty. About everything. How does she do it?”) Anyway, she was washing the dishes and struggling with this giant pan, and it just about drove me mad. I practically wrestled it out of the poor woman’s hands. “And everyone thinks you’re so nice,” was Teresa’s remark—not entirely disapproving.

Things That Go: Remember when the mayor of San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples? Talk about a big fun wedding. Hundreds of people in line for hours and hours and overnight and all in such a good mood. We took the train and then the BART, under the bay and deep underground and then up, up the long stairs and into the beautiful city. We had to ask for directions to City Hall and everyone was so nice—they knew what we were there for and practically took us by the hand and walked us to the end of the line.

Afterward Annie and my mom got us a Cuisinart, which I love. The gay weddings were nullified. But not really. And the Cuisinart goes and goes.