If I told you how many hours I log online and in shops looking at cookware, you’d be appalled. Is there anything I need? Well, occasionally some parchment paper rounds for baking or a rubber spatula because my favorite one looks grotty. I may replace a nonstick skillet (talk about grotty) or buy a gift for someone. In other words, not much.
At tag sales I make a beeline for the kitchen equipment, same at secondhand shops. And when I see the array at my favorite discount store, I look at every single pot. I’m just window shopping.
At one off-price store recently, I saw a sleek, two-handled, 3-quart saucepan, very boxy and tall, with a lid, made by Combekk, a Dutch company I didn’t know. I looked at the price (a real bargain) and walked away. I didn’t need it. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had space in the cabinets for it. I was almost to the door of the store when I shot back and grabbed the pot. It would be a gift for my son in his new apartment. I raced home.
I opened the bag in my kitchen and looked around. There are six Le Creuset pots in various sizes and colors. All came from the markdown rack at outlets over the years, where discontinued colors go to die. You can’t be proud when it comes to Le Creuset colors. My favorite is a large turquoise pot that can hold soup or stew for many. Obviously no one wanted it so the shop kept slashing the price. It took years for me to fall in love with the color.
I lived in Paris when I was younger and met an Air France steward from the United States who told me that he had unlimited baggage on flights and would take home whatever I bought and get it to me. I went to E. Dehillerin, the famous shop near Les Halles, which is one of the most thrilling places in the world to shop for kitchenware. When Vice President Kamala Harris visited Paris recently, she and the first gentleman popped in. “I just want to buy a pot,” she said, looking around at the hundreds to choose from, some hanging so far up the wall they’re almost on the ceiling; she had to point to them.
At the time I was buying, prices weren’t high; it was the shipping that was a killer. The Air France steward carried two extremely large stainless steel sauteuses with lids (like Dutch ovens) and two more deep skillets with lids. They were pretty much all I used for the many years I was a caterer. It amuses me today that I lived in a shabby hotel room with a shared bath but I gave this guy cookware that cost all the money I had to my name. The world was a different place back then.
I had always wanted a copper gratin dish with two brass handles to roast a chicken. I wasn’t married to my beau when we vacationed in Paris one spring but we planned to go to Dehillerin to buy the pan. I insisted we go on the first day right when the shop opened. I instructed Gaston, who always waited on me, to make a sturdy package (I speak impeccably verb-free French but everyone gets the message). The gratin dish wasn’t very expensive, but this was before the price of copper, and everything else, went way up. I told the beau that if he carried the pot that day, as we ventured into museums and walked for miles, I would roast a chicken in it for him every week. I sort of kept my promise.
I’m not an especially greedy person but the new pot is now a gift to myself. It sits proudly on my stove, where I can admire it. You can’t call the corners square because the pot is round, of course, but the bottom is unfriendly to a whisk that might be making a white sauce, for instance, or something that needs constant stirring. For that you need a bottom that’s more rounded. This pot won’t make sauces. It will hold simmering beans, soup, and steam Brussels sprouts (in which case I’ll drop my silicone steamer insert into the pan).
That’s the last piece of equipment I’m buying. I’m either snipping my credit card in half or never venturing out again. I’ll just sit in my kitchen and admire my new pot.