Photo: My wonderful red pot, which I use to cook everything. Or… I should say… used.
After I was done with all of my kinklings last Sunday, I took out my favorite red Le Creuset dutch oven and put some olive oil on the bottom of it with the intent to brown some short ribs for the Superbowl nachos. How many times in 15 years have I taken such an action? Have many times, in 15 years, have I taken that pot out and placed it on my stove, ready to start another culinary adventure?
I was on the phone with my mother talking about the game and the kinklings. I was seasoning the meat and had placed the pot on medium-low to get it hot when I heard a pop. Not an abnormal sound for a pot with oil in it, but I took a look anyway just to be sure. There it was, the chip. A chip at the bottom of my Le Creuset.
I let my mother finish her sentence about whatever and then I said it. “I think I broke my Le Creuset, Mom.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“There is a chip in the enamel. Right at the bottom… I can’t use it.”
“Oh! That’s terrible! Well, it’s lifetime cookware, so you can send it back and they’ll take care of it, you know…” We then started talking about the pot. One of three dutch ovens in the family. My mother had purchased three Le Creuset when I was in high school and college–they aren’t cheap things. This was when things were finally feeling better for us after the divorce (and the remarriage). She’d bought a big white one, a medium red one and a little blue one (over time. Not all at once. They are expensive things!). The pots spent a little time in Maryland with us, then Mom took them down with her when she went to North Carolina for a stint.
The white one got the most use because it can hold the most. We learned how to use it and experimented with different recipes that could go from the stove to the oven in the heavy cast-iron. How we relished the beauty of the cookware, carefully cleaning it under mom’s watch. The medium and the blue remained pristine, for the most part, though we cooked with them for certain things. So when I graduated from undergrad and started to pack for the big move to Boston, Mom put the red one on the cutting board with grand presentation: “I’m not really using it anyway. It’s the perfect size for cooking for two. Take it and enjoy.” She gave me a few other things– non-stick skillets she rarely used, a few glasses from the old house in Maryland that she didn’t put in her cabinet… but that red Le Crueset was the most important thing in my kitchen box.
And oh how I have used it. Just about every day. Rice. Gumbo. Stew. Lobster. Chicken soup. Mussels in wine. Hot dogs. Breakfast tacos. Black beans. Ribs. Anything that can go into that pot went into that pot! Yeah, my kitchen has got more stuff in it now, lovely pieces of cookware that I use with just as much frequency… but for all the newfangled stuff, that red dutch oven has always had a designated spot on my stove.
So when I took it to the UPS store, ready to send it down to South Carolina with my little ticket number and customer number, I wasn’t prepared for the question my guy asked me: “So what are they gonna do? Repair it and send it back or send you a new one?”
“Oh, I doubt that they can fix it. I suspect that they are going to send me a new one of similar size.”
Sometimes you speak things without thinking about them. The words don’t have impact until a few seconds or even minutes after you say them. I went through the motions of giving the guy the address, making sure to write a note with the service number on it. Then it hit me.
“I’m probably never going to see this pot again. We had this pot for 15 years. It’s been mine for 10. I’ve used this pot every day for 10 years.”
It made my chest heavy, Dear Reader. I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye.
You’re probably thinking, “it’s just a pot. You need a new one. Do you want a pot that’s broken, but sentimental, or do you want a pot that works?”
I need a new pot, it’s true. I need one that works, and this one no longer does. That’s true. But it’s not “just” a pot. It’s an artifact. A piece of home in my kitchen. A pot touched by me and my mother and my sister, used and loved, a witness to my daily life from high school to motherhood. It was a silent touchstone, an article that I loved as much as I needed, that I didn’t fully appreciate until the moment it was in a box and I had to say goodbye to it. Even the most benign, utilitarian things in our lives can be precious beyond words.
It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, Dear Reader. Many of us are thinking about some sweetie and whatever something we’re going to give them as a symbol of our love for them. Others of us are ducking for cover, waiting for it all to blow over so we don’t have to be reminded of our singleness anymore. My Quiet Thoughts, though, are about the benign, the utilitarian… the people in our lives who we need and even love, but who have fleeting places in our daily life. The people we should say thank you to or who we should call more often. The people who we should visit from time to time, the people we should compliment more. There are so many people in our day-to-day lives who we see and interact with daily, who are important touchstones in our day, who make the systems of our lives work. We need them. Do we express our gratitude enough? You don’t have to send your coffee guy a bunch of long-stem roses but… maybe you can say thank you this weekend? Give a little extra tip, perhaps? Linger a little longer with the receptionist at the front desk? Whoever, however, just think about it.
I said thank you to a dutch oven today. You might think I’m sentimental and crazy, but it was important for me to do. It worked so hard for me. It was the least I could do.
It is going to be a bitterly cold weekend, Dear Reader… unless you’re on the west coast, in which case I’m extraordinarily jealous of you. In either case, I wish you warmth this weekend because it’s winter and warmth is always called for. I wish you some sort of pleasant surprise, big or small, and I hope that you have something planned for a beloved person in your life. I wish you an intimate moment: a whisper in the ear, a held hand, a kiss on the cheek, a lingering hug… something that only you and one special person can share. And then I wish you some time to yourself. Maybe with a good book and a better cup of coffee, or a bowl of soup, or a great bowl of pasta. Do one thing for yourself, Dear Reader, and enjoy it to the fullest.
And I wish you a moment with a touchstone. Something that you have that has always been with you. A witness to your day-to-day life and your story. May it give you some comfort, Dear Reader, and let it remind you that your journey is interesting and beautiful.
Until Monday, Dear Reader, stay warm, stay safe, and take care.