Pots, Pans, Ducks, Tulips and Thirty Six Years



It was our thirty-sixth anniversary yesterday.

Yowza! Well, we’re experts on richer/poorer, sickness/health, better/worse and sharing a kitchen. This week we checked out our eclectic collection of cookware, acquired piece by piece over the years and decided that most of it had to go. Now.

We’re keeping the three cast iron skillets, the ancient Mauviel copper (we bought it on our honeymoon,) my mother-in-law’s double boiler and a couple of glass-topped saucepans I like a lot. I think I got them at Target. But jeez – all that trendy early Calphalon non-stick? That twenty pound Copco enameled cast iron Dutch oven with only one handle? That’s in fact a scary pot, even if it’s served us well for more years than I feel like counting. The pasta insert on our stock pot is likewise one-armed. I found more crappy bits of ancient cookware today, as I cleaned out cabinets, than I could imagine in any heavy metal dream. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday we decided to go to our favorite mall in the world, Oak Brook Center in the bland upscale suburb of Oak Brook, which lies about half way between us and Chicago. It’s been around as long as I’ve been in Chicagoland – so that’s at least thirty-six years – and it’s a destination for us at Christmas and for a few random Saturdays a year.  I love it because it’s a beautifully landscaped and maintained outdoor mall, so you can stroll along the gardens between nips into Neiman-Marcus, Montblanc, Nordstoms, Crate and Barrel and Anthropologie, The anchor stores are Macy’s, Sears, Nordstoms and N-M, where I’ve had scores of lunches with my buddy Kat in the Zodiac Room If you want a mall that sells baseball caps or rude t-shirts, this ain’t your place. But I love it especially at Christmas because it’s not a self-enclosed pod: even if the temp and wind could freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I love the contrast of the overheating of the stores and the gasps of white breath when you emerge from Pottery Barn and trundle over to Crate and Barrel.

This is the classic well-heeled Asian tourists taking pix of themselves while I snap them photo.

We had a few goals for our outing: we were going to replace the Copco Dutch oven, we were going to buy, for the first time in our lives, a set of cookware, and we were going to go to one of the decent and expensive restaurants for dinner. We parked close to Macy’s and checked out the Housewares Department. I was leaning towards Martha Stewart, but she didn’t have a set on sale. Her enameled cast iron was gorgeous, but we found a chip on the rim of every display pot. Hmmmm.  A nice lady guided us around All-Clad, Calphalon – the usual cabal, and I figured that I could get a new roof (urgently needed) for the price of an eight piece set. Then she showed us a Macy’s house brand lesser quality fourteen piece set for two hundred and forty nine bucks and I got interested. The pans have the usual aluminum wedge in the base, glass lids and pretty shapes. We’d think about it.

Crate and Barrel, my first employer thirty-six years ago, seems to have moved away from a serious cookware section, though you can certainly go home with an expensive pot for every occasion. Williams-Sonoma’s cookware prices for any kind of set made me hyperventilate – smelling salts please! But I like W-S, especially their baking stuff, and I snapped a pic of this adorable pan just before the Nice Lady told me W-S doesn’t tolerate photographers.
We’d arrived at the extreme end of the mall, far from the parking lot and Macy’s– the Bloomingdale’s Home Store. Our daughter and son-in-law had (kiss, Sweeties) given us Bloomies gift cards for Christmas. A Le Creuset sale was on. We scored a four and a half quart yellow oval casserole for seventeen bucks outta pocket. Lou dragged it back to the car, and I waited for him outside Macy’s communing with a duck.

Back to Macy’s, we bought the cookware set and walked back to the car. Then the bottom of the box broke, splashing all our lovely new pans onto concrete. We checked every glass lid, every pan and trucked them, in shifts, back to the car.

We’d been checking out the menus, and I just didn’t think, however seductive they were, that I wanted to spend a couple of hundred bucks on an upscale mall upscale restaurant dinner. So we drove home, bought a USDA Choice Strip Steak, some shrimp that appeared en cocktail, and a bottle of decent Napa Cab. I’d had the presence of mind to pick up a couple of pieces of Frango Mint cheesecake for dessert.

In other words, we acted exactly the same way we have for the last thirty-six years.

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7 Comments

Filed under Born in Chicago, History, Holidays, Home, Worth it anyway

7 responses to “Pots, Pans, Ducks, Tulips and Thirty Six Years

  1. Kim Shook

    Frango mint cheesecake? I just fainted.

  2. Kim, it was astounding, light and minty and chocolate. Good thing we still have one piece in the fridge!

  3. Kelly Mayfield

    Frango Mint! Every Christmas, my glorious friend Mike Menza, rest his soul, would come into my office with a beautiful green box in his hands. And I would immediately have to rip it open.
    This post and photo made me wish, for the millionth time, that I had kept more of my mom’s cookware. Yours is so shiny and gorgeous! Can you hardly wait to use or do you just want to keep all shiny and new?

  4. Kelly Mayfield

    And p.s. Happy 36th! That’s saying something!

  5. Gretchen

    That is my kind of shopping! ( and dining)

  6. Christmas!!!

    That is one gorgeous haul, all arrayed like parure on velvet (and much more valuable in my eyes).

    And that’s my kind of anniversary, as well—we’ve spent them at GOODWILL, of all places, years ago, after a dinner at Fazoli’s —well, I was craving that bland childhood taste of slightly gummy pasta with a little slick of tomato sauce, right out of the can.

    And that was the evening that I walked up to the GRAIL—on the top shelf amongst the mismatched goblets and lime-clouded glass, was a Jadeite ball jug, just huddling there in the brash light from all those fluorescents. He’s lived in the tiptop teensy open cabinet ever since, away from jolting hands and jostles.

    But for any special occasion for us, it would be a pure gift if the word “mall” did not enter the equation.

    I love your plans and your excursion, and the results shine like silver. The best part will be when you’ve got all the stove eyes covered and all those exquisite aromas filling your kitchen.

  7. absurdoldbird

    Happy Anniversary!

    Great minds and all that – I recently replaced all our pans, got so fed up with handles that were loose (due to rusty screws holding them to the pan, I mean – why do they not make them of stainless steel?), interiors that had scraped off, and the usual stuff. I had a good stainless steel pan that had been my mum’s but had lost its lid years before, and a multitude of not very nice non-stick frypans… So I bought a set of stainless steel pans that I knew were good as I already had one. They’re good and so nice to have!

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