Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Frying Pan

A few days ago, our frying pan died. I don't mean to be too dramatic, but as this was the best frying pan ever! it's easy to understand why I'm a little bummed out.

Truth be told, The Frying Pan has been dying a long, slow, painful death for six months or so. Every day, while making scrambled eggs, cooking rice, or sauteing onions for Turkey Loaf (Nathaniel's favorite), a little bit of the Teflon would erode away, and slowly, more and more metal shone through. I finally had to admit defeat after the egg whites for my English-muffin + honey ham + cheese + scrambled egg sandwich (Nathaniel calls it the "McMaritka" sandwich, a "healthy" version of something served at McDonald's or someplace like that) burned and stuck to the bottom.

And its not like we don't have other frying pans. We do.

They're just not like this one.

Shortly after Nathaniel and I were married (June 2003! Holy Cow has it been that long??), my parent's neighbors gave us a wedding present - The Frying Pan. The Tempas's are fantastic people. Very family-oriented, travel-loving, sports-enthusiasts, who support their 3 kids to the Nth degree. When my family first moved into the house on Como Lake, I can remember baby sitting for the Tempas kids. Wow. Now I feel really old. I still remember when Brian would give me car rides home from the Minneapolis Startribune when I participated in the "Youth News" feature, and Kathy was always willing to listen when I was having a hard time. They weren't parents to me, but they helped me out a lot when I was in high school. Even to this day when I go home, I enjoy seeing them and the kids. And then I feel even older. Their oldest is now in high school. And I can remember sitting for her when she was 3. Just hand me a cane and listen to me rant and rave about "walking uphill both ways in the snow, 6 miles to school every morning..."

Anyway, Kathy is a professional chef and food scientist. She's an expert cook, and enjoys creating and preparing food. I've gotten a few great recipes from her, including a particularly scrumptious raspberry and banana cake. (I made it for a party once. It was inhaled within a few minutes. Too bad - because Nathaniel and I were looking forward to scarfing it afterwards!)She also happens to have a vast knowledge of kitchen utensils, one of her favorites being The Frying Pan.

Hence: the reason why Kathy and Brian gave us a frying pan for our wedding present.

At the time of the gifting, I remember giving Nathaniel a look. Ghee, a frying pan? Do they not like us?

His look was even better. What?

I think Kathy and Brian sensed a bit of bewilderment on our part. Upon seeing our looks, Brian chimed in, "Don't worry, you'll love it! Kathy and I nearly cried when our first one finally wore down. Trust me. You'll understand."

We were still a little uncertain.

But then again, we were also young, and relatively inexperienced with really great top of the line Kitchen products. We had never experienced the pure pleasures of The Frying Pan. We were so stupid. And naive.

And now we understand.

The Frying Pan. What can I say? Yes we had others, but they never came close. After a few months of constant usage, Nate and I couldn't imagine using anything else. So there the other pans remained, confined to a life of dust-collecting under the counter tops. So sad. Occasionally one would make an appearance, if we ever needed to use two. But more often than not, The Frying Pan was our cooking weapon of choice.

We used that Frying Pan nearly every day. I would scramble eggs, make pancakes, prepare a rue, saute veggies, cook pork chops, fry tofu... nearly everything. A day wasn't the same without The Frying Pan. It remained out on our stove at all times, ready and waiting for the next meal. Just like Graeme Obree's "Old Faithful" bike (from The Flying Scotsman, and excellent read!), The Frying Pan was poised to create culinary perfection with each and every dish.

And it did.

Unless, of course, human error intervened.

My sauteed salsa, rice, and tofu dish wasn't really that much of a hit.

And Nate managed to burn pasta sauce on the bottom once.

The pasta sauce was ugly, but the "salrifu" was inedible.

The point being, though, is that we both loved The Frying Pan. The first 4 years of our culinary marriage wouldn't have been complete without The Frying Pan. It was just part of who we were, and what we did.

Hi! I'm Nathaniel and I'm in the Marine Corps. And this is my wife Marit. She does traithlons and works in health and fitness. And we have an 18.2 pound cat that some people mistake for a tiger. And this is The Frying Pan that we use faithfully every day. Welcome to our home!

A few months ago, I noticed some wear and tear on The Frying Pan, nothing too worrisome. But noticeable just the same. I knew it would have to be dealt with in some capacity, but I really didn't know what the alternatives were. In hindsight, it was the beginning of the end.

Gradually, day-by-day, the Teflon began to chip away more and more, and pretty soon, we began to see the shiny metal of the Pan itself. Our Frying Pan was now naked in select spots. And the food that The Frying Pan helped to prepare, just wasn't the same anymore. It was still prepared with a lot of tender, love, and care - but food was beginning to stick, to blacken, to taste "off".

Our Frying Pan was approaching its death.

After 4 years, The Frying Pan had put up a good battle, lead a great life, prepared too many meals to count. I had refined my technique, created a few masterpieces, but mostly enjoyed cooking every day food with its help. I simply wasn't ready to accept the end: the fate that I knew would soon draw near.

Nathaniel was gentile with his suggestion. "Sweetheart," he began. He gave me a deep look, his beautiful blue eyes peering down at me.

"Sweetheart, I think it's time that we consider, possibly, maybe getting a new frying pan..."

The question was left hanging in the air.

Along with the smell of burnt scrambled eggs.

Not a pretty picture. Or scent.

But I knew it was time. I knew this was coming. And I was ready. But I wanted to prepare one last meal. One final send-off with The Frying Pan.

Burnt eggs got placed aside, and Nathaniel helped me pull out the ingredients for the McMaritka Sandwich. I added a little extra oil, to ensure the eggs wouldn't stick, and then got ready to cook with The Frying Pan. One last time.

I wish I could say that it was fabulous, that the McMaritka Sandwich was the best I had ever made. But it wasn't. The eggs almost stuck, the honeyed ham was darkened a bit more than usual, but I played it safe with the cheese (it didn't go on until after the ham and eggs were on the toast). I still savored the sandwich, and enjoyed my last meal with The Frying Pan.

It was a sad feeling tossing our Frying Pan away, but it had lead a good life, cooked lots of good foods, and helped Nathaniel and I thoroughly enjoy our time in the kitchen together. In "celebration" we went out and bought two really great, new frying pans. One is an 8-inch omelet pan, and the other is a 12-inch skillet. Not the same as The Frying Pan, but hopefully they'll prepare as many good meals as our original.

I'm still experimenting with them, and food doesn't quite taste the same, but I'm getting the hang of it down. A few more tweaks, and I'll get my old touch back, and my McMaritka Sandwich will be just about back to normal.

But it made me wonder about stuff that we use, things we go through without realizing on a daily basis. Two years ago, I never would have imagined myself without The Frying Pan, but here I am today, instead the proud co-owner of a new 8-inch and 12-inch omelet and skillet, respectively.

And I guess that's kind of like how it is with anything that we use in our life. Bikes, swimsuits, running shoes - can all be replaced, but they'll never be the same. Something is missing with these inanimate objects. Sure, we create great memories, enjoy the moments we have, and remember what we've been through. But that's life: frying pans, swimsuits, bikes, even running shoes - aren't the most important thing. It's the people we share these objects, and create these memories with.

When I look back on the memories with The Frying Pan, they almost all involve Nathaniel. Like the time we made spaghetti with white wine sauce, and ended up drinking most of the wine. So we had spaghetti instead. Or when I made my first sandwich and he named it "The McMaritka." Or every time I made pork chops, and he would always tease me by commenting that these are the most tender ever! - even if they were tough as shoe hide (okay okay, I tend to overcook my meat a little. Well, just pork. I'm terrified of trichinatia.). Even the last meals I made for him before he left on long overseas deployments. Or the breakfast we enjoyed the first morning after he returned home. Even the burnt spaghetti sauce and tofu-rice-salsa disaster we fun because I shared these moments with Nathaniel. The Frying Pan, while it was a staple in our life for 4 years, isn't what I'll remember.

When I look back, I'll remember all the fun times I had with Nathaniel. The Frying Pan helped create food, but what it really did was create loving memories in the kitchen with Nathaniel. Burnt tofu and all. What a great life that pan had.


karyna said...

alvin and the chipmunks are not annoying

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Love you too karyna! They ARE annoying, and their little, high pitched voices, screetching at the top of their little lungs. They should be outlawed. But guess what? I promised that over Christmas I would go see the new movie with you. And I will. But I'll have to listen for 100 minutes to their annoying little voices. And then - I'll get to listen AGAIN as you play their soundtrack on your computer. Can't wait. :) love, MZ

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