All Its Use


When I went vegetarian in 1993, I understood that I would be responsible for cooking pretty much all my food after that point, since my parents rarely cooked a fully-vegetarian meal. I’d done some cooking before then, and I enjoyed it — I grew up watching PBS cooking shows on Saturday afternoons — but the routine of doing so much cooking was definitely more of a challenge than the infrequent meals I’d been cooking for myself up to that point. All these years later, I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to get used to doing so much cooking when I was younger, just because it helped me get used to cooking so frequently later in my life, which has probably saved me more money than I care to think about right now.

Even though Mom always did a good job of making sure our cookware was clean, it wasn’t long after I turned vegetarian that she bought me my own set of nonstick cookware. I didn’t ask for it, and I’d never had a problem using her cookware, but it was probably more convenient for us to have the two sets. As the nonstick coating wore off of my cookware, she’d invariably buy replacements for me, usually as holiday or birthday presents, although she liked to keep my older cookware around to use herself in an emergency if she ran out of clean stuff, . If nothing else, having my own cookware probably helped me feel more like I knew what I was doing, and Mom gifting me so many sets of cookware over the decades kind of felt like a semi-regular endorsement. (Even though Mom never went vegetarian, she enjoyed the stuff I made, and especially after her bouts of diverticulitis, I wound up doing a lot of cooking for her in her final years.)

I don’t remember the last time Mom bought me cookware, but that set is what has followed me from Toledo to Colorado to where I am now in Wisconsin. The fry pan that came with the set was too small for me to cook two veggie burgers on at once, so I wound up giving Mom that pan and buying a bigger one at Meijer, but otherwise I’ve taken that set with me everywhere I’ve gone. Of all the gifts that Mom gave me over the years, this set of cookware certainly doesn’t rank among the most important, but like everything she’s ever given me, I treasure it deeply. I don’t know if the last food I cooked for Mom was cooked in those pans — there’s a good chance that I made her pizza on one of her baking sheets — but I know that I cooked a lot for her with those pots and pans, so I feel a stronger connection with Mom every time I touch them and remember why I have them in the first place.

This past week, I was cooking in the big saucepan from that set when I noticed that some of what I was cooking was sticking to the bottom of the pan in a thin ring, just barely smaller than the circumference of the pan itself. The food came off when I washed the pan later, but it was clear that a good deal of the nonstick coating of that pan had come off. Even though the other pots and pans haven’t had that issue, I have to believe that they will soon. As much as I don’t want to think about it, I have to admit that I’m probably due to buy a new set of cookware here, the first that I’ve ever bought for myself, and that this is going to mark yet another departure from the life I led when Mom was still alive.

The sixth anniversary of her passing is this Saturday — the first time I’ll mark the passing on the day of the week she passed away on back in 2016 — and she’s been on my mind a lot lately. Especially after the turmoil of the past couple of months (particularly losing Hedder last month), I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling like I’m barely keeping my head above water. As much as I know that I need to order a new set of cookware soon, I’ve been doing my best to keep using the pots and pans from the last set Mom bought me that aren’t having any problems here, and while this hasn’t been any real inconvenience to my usual cooking, I know that I’m just delaying the inevitable every time I do it. I’ll order new cookware soon, but this just isn’t the week for me to attempt that here. I can cook without that saucepan for at least a couple of more weeks here, even if I already kind of miss using it.

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