This Old Pan

When I was in my 20s, I moved into a rent control apartment in Santa Monica with my skinny yoga teacher sister. $630 for a two-bedroom close to the beach, you couldn’t beat it. The apartment was in a semi-advanced state of runned-downess, with a crummy old stove. The guy vacating was an older cat, and he’d left behind just a few odds and ends not worth packing up. One of them was a baking dish of an unknown metal, misshapen and blackened. It never even made it out of the oven.

The pan

Some of the best kitchen tools are those with the most mojo. An old cast iron pot passed down from your grandmother, for example, or a ricer you pick up at a thrift shop. I didn’t know it at the time, but this old pan not worthy of being packed for a move would fit the bill.

Several times over the near decade I’ve been married, my wife has tried to throw it away. She wanted it gone when we were still in that apartment, and with the two subsequent moves suggested perhaps it was time to retire the pan. Many a birthday or Christmas she has asked if perhaps I would like a new baking pan. It’s sort of like the classic cliché of the wife trying to get rid of the husband’s comfy old flannel shirt or holey t-shirt.

What do I love about the pan? Nothing in particular. But it works. It’s got a patina from ages of blazing hot oil that renders it virtually non-stick. It’s shape is useful — it’s long enough to fit a porchetta or a duck, and its sides are tall enough that stuff doesn’t spill. It’s not fussy — I can tell it feels equally at home being part of an elegant short rib braise, or catching drippings from the kids’ chicken nuggets. And maybe best of all, I never worry about ruining it the way I do some of my other, fancier, newer cooking vessels.

These are things to consider next time you think about upgrading your old pan. Sometimes what you’ve got is better than what’s out there — a good lesson for a lot of areas of our life. And the landfill doesn’t really need one more old pan retired before its time.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paul
    Aug 22, 2010 @ 11:37:46

    I have a similar “favorite” pan that was passed on to me from my wife’s Mom after she passed. It is “some kind” of metal and it has two folding handles on each end that are invaluable. Although its shape looks like it had some sandbox time with kids banging it, that is precisely what gives it charm and provenance. It’s the perfect size for nearly everything you would cook in the oven and it works on the gas top when you make the sauce or gravy from the drippings of what was just removed. I couldn’t get a $ for it but wouldn’t sell it at any price . . .

    Reply

  2. Trackback: And to Think It All Began with a Pan | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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