pots and pans

Yesterday we opened a box of pots and pans, shiny and new stainless steel. The lids are glass, so even when the cover is on light still pours in, reflects about and begs us not to cook in them. We’ve hung them from the wall, and they brighten up the kitchen.

This all came about because our old pots and pans, the ones we got when we were married, are working through their sixteenth year. They’re tired. Bottoms are scuffed so that coating gives way to exposed aluminum; and the non-stick surfaces within each are no longer as advertised. Somewhere in my intestinal maze I imagine there’s a deposit of Teflon, either killing me or aiding in the digestive process.

For a long time we’ve insisted that those “old” pots and pans are just fine. They’re practically brand new, we’ve claimed. But, especially now that they had to compare themselves to the bright-and-shiny new cookware, their worn, scuffed, burned exteriors betray their age. Karyn washed them, packed them into the box from which the new pots emerged, and I carried them out to the garage for a trip to some donation center that would purport “goodwill,” “industry,” or even “salvation” for our contribution.

It’s all fine. Besides looking nice, the replacements make great scrambled eggs and clam chowder, and that’s surely just the beginning. But it’s funny that the old hardware that were so functional just days before are now in purgatory, waiting to be moved from the cement slab floor to the trunk of the car for transport to a new home. It’s funny that they’ve been “just fine,” that we didn’t notice them wearing out, even as we cursed the amount of annealed food residue stuck to the bottom as we wondered why our “just fine” non-stick pans weren’t functioning like they used to.

I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday. It’s clear why people can easily pick out the population of gray hair as though it’s some interesting new demographic emerging in the latest census data. There’s a droop under my eyes, wrinkles in my brow, and a certain leather hide to my hands. I’m no longer non-stick, and, quite certainly, I’m no longer shiny. It’s no stretch to say that I’m the old pot Not bright and shiny, but eroded, grimy, and thin on the edges. What was once justifiably a $100 item is now an appropriate contribution to the secondhand store, not even worthy of consignment.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. I suppose it’s about more than just the physical aging of our physical selves. Heading into the last half of our sixteenth year of marriage, I suppose there’s a lot that should have aged. We each sag, wrinkle, flake; we can’t eat what we once could nor even eat like we once did; and, I don’t at all understand how an extra ten pounds wraps around my middle, hoisted above my hips like some annex that wasn’t in the original blueprints. But that’s all just a body, one that’s much older than the sixteen years just passed. I’m wondering about the “us” that’s reflected in an old pot. There’s no bright, shiny, new “us” to replace the old “us”. At least I hope not. So, I wonder, as we face each other, sags and wrinkles and all, where has our non-stick rubbed out? Or, when our enamel is worn through, does it reveal polished, new shine?

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One thought on “pots and pans

  1. We have a cast iron pan, that I bought used, for $1, from a used goods store in Iowa called ‘Houseworks’. That was 18 years ago, and it was probably several years old at that time. Funny thing about this pan. The more we use it, the better it gets. Things stick to it less with time, not more. It goes from stovetop to oven without special care. The bottom never wears out. The forge stamp is still as clear as the day it was…well…forged. I notice this because I recently set it down on a wooden cutting board and we now have a branded cutting board. It goes from grill to campfire to oven to glass-top stove without missing a beat.

    But it’s not very shiny.

    All of which is to say that you get to choose the pan you want to compare yourself to. Sturdy, functional and plain sometimes develops the value that glossy and shiny only loses over time.

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