Monday, June 23, 2014

The Little Pot

This morning -- while preparing steel cut oats to share with the guy who, despite my general cantankerousness and morning hair, consistently returns here nightly demanding food and clean socks -- the handle of the little pot I was using came right off in my hand.

It snapped off cleanly.

There was no damage and minimal mess---a little noise and some oatmeal on the burner, but that was all.

Upon closer examination, I realized that the pot, most likely older than I am, was unfixable. The guy waiting for his oatmeal agreed but the little pot had led a good life. Part of a set of Farberware owned by my grandma, it had cooked things for three generations of women, myself being the last as of this morning.

It had, in fact, been such a stalwart little pot, that I washed it before discarding it so that it might get a better reception from the other little pots in the garbage dump or wherever it might end up. I suddenly felt very sad as I remembered that this little pot and none other was the “pudding pot” of my childhood.

Few things are better than a
fluted dish.
Not tiny and not large, it was the perfect size to stir a package of Royal brand chocolate pudding into two cups of cold, fresh milk, await the bubbling stage and then turn down the heat as the loose chocolate “soup” thickened into the perfect consistency for pouring into four small fluted dishes.

Once it cooled a bit, I was handed the pot to clean out with a chubby finger. After I'd licked everything clean, I’d put the pot in the sink for, in those glorious days, I was still too short to do the dishes myself.

Are you a "skin" person?

As for the pudding, some people hate the “skin” that forms on top as it sets, so to prevent it from forming, place saran across the surface before it goes in the fridge. We, however, did not.  Not a man among us did not love the skin best and, when I was little and enjoying the last throes of cuteness, occasionally someone would give me their pudding skin, the ultimate gift.

Now that the little pot lay in the garbage, it was time to mourn it and, believe it or not, tears were shed. Not for the pot, although its status as a relic from my past was duly acknowledged in my sentimental mind, but for the era in which it had enjoyed its popularity and purpose.

Some do this on purpose now....
Originally shiny and bright, it had been lifted from the large box it had shared with its matching companions, only one of which -- a stock pot with a dented lid -- remains.

Knowing my grandma, she had relished its modernity, its newness, the fact that it matched other things in a household where very little matched anything. We ate from different plates, drank from assorted mugs and, to be honest, ignored much about the 20th century in general.

We were a tiny village unto ourselves in a neighborhood full of such households, mismatched in their own right as they stood testimony to the ethnic hodgepodge of mid century Brooklyn. And, at the time, mid century Brooklyn was not all that different from medieval Europe. The seventies had not yet happened…my friends and I all came home and ate our ethnic food with our ethnic families and that was that.

Brooklyn when I was a kid.
True enough but the pudding
will be lousy.

But sometimes there was pudding.

Made from a small box with a corresponding picture, it was very easy and even though it was not “instant pudding” (“What is this instant pudding?? You can’t make anything good in an instant!), it was quick and convenient and was always cooked in the little pot that gave up the ghost this morning at breakfast.

Seth saw me staring at the pot in the garbage and simply said “No.”

He knew that in my thwarted hoarder’s soul  I was assessing whether I could find another use for it….sprouting seeds next spring, mixing paints or spices?

Nah, he was right. Sometimes you just have to throw something out despite its years of loyal service.

So, I said farewell to the pot but not to the memory of my mother, pink-cheeked and smiling, surrounded by family in a teeny-tiny kitchen stirring chocolate pudding for us all to enjoy, skin and all.

"She wants that little pot back, guys...."

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