Uncle Roger's Notebooks of Daily Life


My life is, to me, ripe with frequent challenges, occasional successes, spontaneous laughter, adequate tears, and enough *life* to last me a lifetime. To you, however, it surely seems most pedestrian. And therefore, I recycle the name I used previously and call this my Notebooks of Daily Life. Daily, because it's everyday in nature, ordinary. These conglomeration of events that are my life are of interest to me because I live it, perhaps mildly so to those who are touched by it, and could only be of perverse, morbid curiosity to anyone else. Yet, I offer them here nonetheless. Make of them what you will, and perhaps you can learn from my mistakes.


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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Magnalite Memories

If you're ever at a flea market, garage sale, thrift store, or pretty much anywhere, and you come across a dull silver-colored (or, if you're really lucky, bright, shiny, silver-colored) pot that says Magnalite on the bottom, buy it.

These roasting pans are the best you can get, and this is coming from a guy who has many hundreds of dollars worth of Calphalon pots and pans. I was lucky enough to have inherited two of them (a large oval roaster and a dutch oven) and to have found another (a medium oval roaster) at a thrift shop. That one I paid $35 for and was happy to do so. These are, quite simply, incredible pans.

The two that I inherited came from my dad. The large oval was brand new in the box, but the dutch oven was used almost on a daily basis when I was growing up. My dad used it to cook his famous Herman's German Swedish Meatballs, beef tongue, roasts, stews, chicken, pasta, artichokes, and just about everything in between. It was something we didn't mess with. My mom had her antiques that we didn't dare break; my dad had his magnalite.

I really don't like other people using it because I know they won't use the same level of care and love that it deserves. When I wash it, I lovingly clean every groove and edge. I think about what that pot means to me, and the history and memories that go with it.

I remember the peppercorns that my dad put in with roasts and tongues that we had to watch out for when eating (just in case one managed to sneak past him onto a plate). I remember the countless school events for which he happily (and usually thanklessly) made his meatballs. I remember the red wine that got added to almost everything. I remember peeling what seemed like endless potatoes, cutting them up, and dumping them in the dutch oven, to then be covered, boild, and mashed.

I remember a trip I took with some friends while I was in high school to Death Valley. We were taking our van, Sweet Pea, but since I couldn't drive one of the other guys was driving. We were loading up out front, and my dad came out with the dutch oven. He put it on the floor of the van next to where I was sitting and left it, saying that was just a little something special for us. We got to Death Valley and opened up the pot and there, inside, was a whole mess of skirt steaks, all prepped, rolled, and ready to go. We cooked 'em up over an open fire (blackening the pot, I'm afraid, but it cleaned up okay) and they were incredible.

For those unfamiliar with them, skirt steaks are very similar to flank steaks -- long strips of meat about 3-4 inches wide. The way my dad prepared them was to roll them up, stick two skewers through them to keep them rolled up, and the cutting them in half, making two pinwheels. It takes a bit of work to do this, and those steaks have never been cheap. That, however, was my dad, and his dutch oven kinda summed it up. Whether it was steaks for a group of campers, meatballs for a school event, or just a family meal, it was his canvas for creating something wonderful to share with others. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to add memories to the pot for my kids to cherish.

So, if you happen upon one, don't pass up the opportunity to get a functional heirloom in which you can cook up some memories of your own.

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