Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Cookware: A Saga, Part 1 — The Problem

When we began house-hunting several years ago I promised myself that, when we moved, I'd replace our wedding cookware from 1997. It's mostly Calphalon hard-anodized aluminum with a Teflon coating on everything from the saucepans to the stockpot. For years I've known what everybody who cooks knows — that Teflon contains toxic chemicals that can be released by using high heat or when the surface is scratched or worn. Our set is worn and scratched and was often used at high heat back when I was younger, and even lazier and more ignorant about cooking than I am now. (My husband is still one or two of those things; I won't say which.)

Our cookware is also in poor shape because my husband likes to take hot pans off the stove and run cold water on them in the sink. For 20 years, I've been the primary cook and he's been the primary dishwasher, and I've been exclaiming in horror and lecturing him every time I see him do it. I have explained the science of it, used phrases like "shocking the pan," and tried forbidding him to do it. I've pretty much gotten nowhere on changing this behavior, which I gather he learned from his mother at an impressionable age. He says it is easier to clean them this way. I say, "But they are nonstick! When are they HARD to clean?"

I replaced our frying pans a few years ago because they were in such scary shape. (One is just newer Teflon and already needs replacing.) But I kept waiting to replace everything else because I didn't want to deal with the problem of where to put it. Our kitchen is tiny but surprisingly efficient: I am willing to bet that our designer/builder friend, Jay, measured most of our stuff to make sure it would fit. I know he took stock of my antique silver collection (which has grown since he saw it in 1998) when he designed the flatware drawer. I know we made him aware of our Diet Coke habit back then, because we have a cabinet that fits seven  2-liter soda bottles perfectly, on their sides. (He was quite health-conscious for 1998 and never drank soda. He hoped we'd give it up and provided extra shelves just in case. We began using them and drinking water 15 years later.)

I think Jay also made sure that my cookware would fit perfectly in one deep drawer, carefully stacked and arranged, with foam rounds to prevent scratches.  There's only one way to put everything back; otherwise the drawer won't close. Finding the right spots for all the lids is always challenging.

I kept assuming we'd be moving to a bigger kitchen with, maybe, two drawers to hold cookware. I didn't want the nightmare of buying new stuff that I'd have to arrange in that drawer like a puzzle. Pots with even slightly different lids and handles probably wouldn't fit.

So for six years we didn't move, and the cookware kept getting worse and kept worrying me. I finally realized a couple of months ago that I've been cooking less and less in recent years because I am afraid of most of my cookware.

I doubt there's a medical name for fear of cookware. (Farberphobia?) I resolved to confront the problem and solve it. One shouldn't go through life avoiding one's Teflon (although there is certainly something to be said for weekly burritos and other non-cooking habits). But there should be more for dinner than salad and whatever can be heated in the oven and two old stainless pots.

I bowed to the inevitable. It was time to do what I do rather well: Go Shopping.  (To be continued)

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