Ode to this set of Cuisinart

To note the passage of time it’s easiest to point to a thing, like a grandfather clock or a door frame marked with heights and ages. Time moves. Things stay the same. Even though people are things, we move with time too. 

I look at a picture of myself from ten years ago and think, yep, that was ten years ago. Not yesterday, not last year. Ten years. I moved with time and I can see the impact. 

I see it in this three-piece set of stainless steel Cuisinart too. The age, the passage of time imprinted all over it. The patina like wrinkles forming on an aging face.

I love this Cuisinart. I try not to love material things, but I can’t help it. I love this chair, I love the piano I inherited from my grandparents (generously via my dad), I love my house and backyard too, I suppose. But this Cuisinart, which cost about $100 when I bought it 10 years ago and is essentially worthless now, has a particularly valuable place in my heart.

I bought this cookware in New York City when I was visiting an old college friend. I remember we went to a Marshall’s somewhere in Manhattan, probably close to where he lived nearby Columbia University. I wasn’t planning to buy a heavy stainless steel Cuisinart set on that trip, but I got the urge when we were walking around and Marshall’s was the perfect place for a broke grad student to buy some expensive pots and pans.

I remember the box was broken, torn at the corners so I couldn’t really carry it. The $100 price tag was exactly what I wanted to pay: enough to feel it, but not enough to break the bank. I wanted something high quality, that would last a long time. A really long time, at least a decade.

I remember joking to this friend that one day I will cook dinner for my children with this Cuisinart. Those one days have become just about every day. Tonight I cooked Trader Joe’s wild rice in the saucepan. Last weekend I cooked pancakes in the oversized skillet, which is the only pan we have that can cook three pancakes at once. My wife and kids ate that rice and those pancakes. Countless other meals have been prepared with these pans for them too, and countless more in the half-decade before my kids were born.

One of my favorite people in grad school was a woman named Sonu. We cooked southeast asian food together in my little apartment near Harvard Square. She taught me that the base of most of this cuisine required sauteed onion with various combinations of tumeric and cumin and store-bought curry powders. We broke these pans in together and I remember seeing the colors change almost right away, from the shiny, flawless stainless steel to the weathered yellows and oranges and browns that I couldn’t remove despite my best scrubbing.

I gave up on keeping the outsides of these pans clean, as you can see. The stains grew, but so did my cooking partners. When I met my wife-to-be, these were the pans we cooked in together one winter in Boston as I finished my last semester of grad school. They traveled back with us to California, remained in storage in Los Angeles for a few weeks and then headed back up to the San Francisco Bay Area where they’ve been ever since.

Before I knew it, I had a daughter in the same San Francisco apartment with me and these pans. That funny hypothetical, that one day I’d cook food for my offspring with these pans I bought at Marshall’s in New York City and carried back to Boston in a trash bag on the Chinatown bus, ultimately came true.

I’m so happy it did. I’ll never get rid of them.

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