Ode to a Fry Pan

Pam’s Pictorama Post: On New Year’s Eve I scrubbed my fry pan which had, after a sticky encounter with two Beyond Burgers, been soaking in the sink overnight. To my deep dismay, the handle began to wobble ominously, about to come off. I knew that this ten inch stainless steel friend was, after three and a half decades of virtually daily use, breathing its last.

There are, needless to say, many loses far worse than a fry pan and even I am a bit surprised at the depth of my sadness about its departure. It came to me as a graduation gift from college, part of a set with two sauce pots, a soup pot of a kind of stainless steel pot sets that are sold by department stores like Macy’s. There were lids that the soup pot and fry pan could share and sported a lid for the larger of the two pots. (That lid mysteriously disappeared during our kitchen renovation which I wrote about in a post you can read here. Kim and I really have no idea what could have happened to it and it took us awhile to realize it was really gone.)

My kitchen shortly after renovation in the fall of 2019.

They were a handsome group with reinforced bottoms and they distributed heat nicely. To a large degree I learned to cook with that set of pots. The pots and pans were a gift from my friend Suzanne who I credit with launching me with some early cooking lessons. During last week’s stay with Mom in New Jersey I told Suzanne of the pan’s demise. I’m not sure she remembers giving them to me although she allowed it was possible and certainly understood my sadness at its impending demise.

As someone who was trained as a professional cook I have undeniably put my pots and pans through their paces over the years. Uncomplainingly that fry pan has sauteed endlessly with a high flame under it. Countless piles of chopped onions and garlic have been softened in it, no smell like that few minutes when you start to cook something – perhaps the tang of tomato hitting right after the onion and garlic, or mushrooms piled in, the pan later to be deglazed again and with a bit of wine, scraped with an ever darkening wooden spoon. It will always be the smell of home to me. (I always remember one of the chefs I cooked with saying that you should never deglaze or use wine in a sauce you wouldn’t drink.) The pan is blackened on the bottom from high heat and flame, although the inside remains shiny.

Overgrown dumplings in a root veggie stew.

Pictorama readers know that Deitch Studio is resident in a glorified single room, perched high in a building in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. The small space devoted to the kitchen, an area that is by my own account generally fairly topsy turvy, but where I manage to spew out a series of soups, stews, pan roasted vegetables and even the occasional bit of baked goods daily. (Some posts complete with recipes can be found here, here and here.) These pandemic years have resulted in even more meals made and the pots have stood nobly by.

The tiny quarters of the kitchen has kept my toolkit of implements tight however and, other than a roster of sheet pans as I seem to just kill those off every few years, I have only added a small, lidded sauce pan and a much smaller skillet I acquired over the years – the small skillet was a wedding gift as I remember. (There also is a non-stick pan made of a mysterious material that arrived on our shores, black with white flecks. Works well, but I wouldn’t subject it to high temperatures.) The sauce pan was purchased after one of the two from this original set was left on a burner and damaged, although it has as it turns out, remained in rotation despite that. There is no pot storage in this kitchen and therefore the few pots and pans generally remain piled on the back of the stove, waiting their turn at use, as seen above.

The pan was designed with a handle at the front, to help heft a heavy pan full, perhaps lifting it from the oven. Oven friendly, it has done its time roasting food in the oven too – there was even a time, decades ago now, when I still ate chicken and would occasionally roast a small one or parts in it, adorned by carrots, small potatoes, maybe green beans, onions and garlic. (I believe it housed fried chicken once or twice too, my grandmother’s recipe which involved flouring it in a paper bag. I was just discussing that recipe with my now vegan mother the other day.) The front handle popped off while scrubbing it about a year ago. It seems it was a warning sign over the bow, alas.

I have known this pan longer than I have known my husband Kim and it has been a quiet companion of my entire adult life. Unstinting in its service first to single me and then to us; in it I can see my twenty-two year old self, setting up my first apartment and cooking my nascent solo meals. Still, practically speaking a skillet with a loose handle is an accident waiting to happen. I considered my options for speedy replacement as this pan is in service everyday. Remarkably similar sets appear to be available online, but fewer where an individual pan could be purchased and it is hard to trust the heft of a pan to an online purchase. (A recent purchase of a coffee pot resulted in one with metal so thin I cut myself badly on it the first time I cleaned it.)

The All-Clad replacement pan.

In the end I chose an All-Clad ten incher. The two most recent additions mentioned above were both an All-Clad pot and pan and they are well made without question. It is a magnificent pan, and if treated well these few guys will probably outlive me. The New York Times Wirecutter named the 12-inch the best fry pan a week later, further cementing my certainty that was a good choice. Still, I know cooking with it will be different, sloping sides containing less and different heating time. It will take some adapting. The fry pan arrived via William Sonoma yesterday – handle poking assertively and somewhat comically out of the side of the cardboard box, itching to get out.

Meanwhile, I just thought the fry pan of my youth deserved some recognition today. It has served admirably and owes us nothing, and it will be missed.

Sir Guy at Home

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I like the fact that Guy has been knighted – Sir Guy! He is a fine looking puss with beautiful well groomed long hair. He is posing, rather dignified, for the camera, paws folded together. He has a white mustache and a thoughtful look on his face.

I am posting this with a less than great photo – I will hope to upgrade when I get home later today!

This card was sent from Putnam, Connecticut on March at 8 PM. It was mailed to Mrs. Lewis Boss, 2150 Cranston Street, Mauchiticut, Rhode Island. There is no message however and the postmark doesn’t have a year, but the copyright on the front indicates 1906. Sadly, we don’t know anything about Sir Guy and I cannot help but wonder if there were other photos, such as Sir Guy at Work and Sir Guy at Play?

Spending the past week at my mom’s house has made me reflect a lot on cat relationships. My mom has four cats, two of the four have known me long enough that they allow me to pet them and do not run from me in terror – two others do.

Red, a great kitty of yore!

Although the older cats are not afraid of me, neither are they especially fond of me. They might allow a pet here or there but gone are the days of my mom’s cat Red who was my father’s constant companion and always acted as my cat concierge during my visits to NJ – sleeping on my bed and bringing me his toys. (I wrote about Red, an especially good cat, here at Red Buttons.)

Three of the four, munching breakfast today. Left to tight, Miltie, Peaches and Gus on the chair.

My mother acquired stray kittens, first Peaches in 2019 – she was found in a basement, howling as she had fallen into a hole and could not get out. It was her lucky day that not only was she rescued but that person somehow got her in to my mother’s hands. The other, Gus, showed up in 2020 and has assumed control over all of Red’s toys. We believe that somehow Red left the sign posts for an incoming kitten in need of a home – sort of like hobo’s who used to mark the way to a home where you could get a meal.

Peaches, the lone girl cat here with three brothers.

Peaches, the only girl cat in a house of boys, will not allow anyone near her or to pet her. However, she is fascinated by me and the fact that I reside in rooms upstairs that are otherwise unattainable. I have spent the last week carrying on a conversation with her and she seems to want to say, “If I was going to allow one of you lousy humans to pet me, it might be you.”

Gus just tears away in horror if I so much as look at him. As a result I can’t even get a decent photo of him.

While I enjoy visiting cats and getting to know them this way I do miss my very own kits. Somehow curling up with your own cat, who purrs, sits or snoozes with you in a particular way, is a is own definition of home. I am heading back to NYC on Saturday and I look forward to being welcomed by Kim and kitties.

New Jersey cont.

Pam’s Pictorama.Post: This is just a bit of a follow-up for those of you who tuned in yesterday. I ended that post with a note saying that I had taken my mom to the ER. She was admitted and, as those things go, we started early, EMT workers milling around my mom’s tiny kitchen as they prepped her to go. She was fully lucid and in fact had gone from absolutely refusing to entertain a discussion of going to the hospital last night to announcing (rather grandly I thought) that she had made the decision the night before that she should go. Why argue with a good result, right?

Two of mom’s kits.

It is strange to be in this house without my mom. Because she is housebound since she moved here, I have never been in this house without her, even briefly. Her cats are equally at loose ends. Her closest cat fried, Beau, is walking around, looking at her chair and staring at us meaningfully. Well? What’s with you people? Where is she?

View from Mom’s room.

I left mom resting comfortably and settled in at the hospital tonight. Her room overlooks the Navesink River, not the river I grew up on (the Shewsbury) on the other side of town. Unlike the houses on the blocks where I grew up, the houses here stare imperiously down to the river, sharp drops with steep staircases switchbacking down to the docks and boat slips at the bottom. Where I grew up we were more or less at the level of the water – more likely to flood, but more a part of the life of the river too. Today, looking at the window I remember somehow finding myself on that side of town once when I was about 12 and getting it into my head to walk along the river, climbing fences and skirting around fences and docks. Eventually I had to give up, unable to get any further.

The groundhog!

Today as I looked out the window I saw a large furry dark brown animal. He occasionally sits up on his haunches, waving at me I think. A groundhog. Given the distance I think he must be a fine size fellow. I report on this to mom who can’t see him from where she is The nurse tells us they see foxes sometimes and baby deer have been romping out there.

The hospital is fairly well known to me. It is not huge, but it seems good and very caring which isn’t really an adjective I readily apply to hospitals. However, I purchased perhaps the single worst cup of coffee of my adult life from the cafeteria. I forgot that there is a perfectly splendid and very comforting Dunkin’ Donuts in the building. Tomorrow. Coffee consumption is an integral part of the long CNN watching days of hospital sitting.

River view from the lounge.

I am reminded of being in the hospital with my dad, years ago now. He had a window where he looked out onto the water. He loved to see the boats there he told me. We talked about how we would rather be out there instead of where we were. I think about that sometimes when I see sailboats when I am running near the East River in the mornings.

I am told that the trip to the hospital was necessary so I am grateful for the stars which aligned to convince her to go and give us a chance to fight again another day.

All Wet: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Some on-going Pictorama readers may have figured out that I am an Aquarian, a February girl, my birthday tucked in next to Lincoln’s and a kissin’ cousin to Valentine’s Day; amethyst is my birthstone and I am a water sign. Although I do not go deeply into astrology I have given a lot of thought to my relationship to water which has informed much of my life although sometimes I wouldn’t say I actually have an affinity for it as this story bears out.

Recent photo of the lighthouse at the north end of Roosevelt Island. While running I was contemplating how the light from this must have reached across the island and even into Gracie Mansion, the home of the Mayor.

I grew up on a river, close to the Atlantic ocean, and these days we live with a view of the East River where I run most mornings now. (IG followers see my running journals, @deitchstudio or Pams-Pictorama, where I share some of the views of the water as well as my slow progress, impeded in part by falling and breaking a few fingers on Memorial Day. I have written about my endeavor to start running over the past year which can be found here, here and here. Reconnecting with the life of the waterfront has been wonderful over this past pandemic year and I appreciate it as much as the much needed exercise.)

Where I run in the morning along the East River, with the FDR Drive on the other side.

I was taught to swim as a tiny toddler, in a pool in Sea Bright, New Jersey (a neighboring beach town I have devoted a few posts to which can be read here and here) and I took to it reasonably well. I have never been a great swimmer, unlike my sister Loren who was all swim teams and life saving, however I was at the beach and in the ocean and pools constantly between the ages of about six and twenty, so I guess I did it well enough to stay afloat and get where I was going.

Living on the river as we did floods were a constant part of our lives. At first we had an adorable little house on a narrow spit of land in Sea Bright where the river ran hard and fast into the bay on one side and the ocean was on the other. Without the sea wall the walk from one to the other would have taken ten minutes. It is a cottage that lives on in my imagination, a nifty little mail order home from Sears, it was sea sunlit and smelled of salt and sand.

We only spent summer weekends there so I was not subjected to the ongoing floods of suffered by year round residents, threatened as it was by both sides when tides rose. When I considered moving back there as an adult my parents were loathe to have me deal with the flooding, which while endurable as a summer beach cottage would have been more problematic 365 days a year, so instead I settled in Manhattan.

From a recent trip to Sea Bright, New Jersey.

While still a tot my family moved full time to the shore and our first house in Rumson was on the (aptly named) Waterman Avenue. Just around the bend from the Sea Bright-Rumson draw bridge, we lived on a fast moving part of the water as it merged into the bay, teeming with boat traffic in the summer. Our view was of downtown Sea Bright across the river and the ocean just beyond and we were within walking distance of the beach. (My adult dream life takes me back there occasionally, enduring hurricanes and even tidal waves.)

Sun rising over the bay near Sandy Hook on a ferry trip back to Manhattan last year.

Each year fall and early winter would bring hurricanes and quickly we learned about the days we would be picked up from school early, the car would be parked on higher ground where it would be safe and we would prepare for the high tides around us at home with streets that turned into ponds or sometimes raging rivers. (Sadly, I believe a hurricane did pre-empt Halloween one year.) Occasionally we kids would be left with my mom’s parents in Long Branch, an inland part of the neighboring town where my mother grew up, but she would generally return to Rumson to weather the storm and keep an eye on things. She recently described one of those evenings spent in bed on the second floor of that little house with the walls quaking with water and wind.

Generally those storms were a lark, the flood days, at least for us kids. My mom would put on her waist-high waders if she had to go out when the squall calmed, but the water had not yet receded. (Dad was usually at work in the city or traveling for his job at ABC News – it was the family joke that he missed just about every major flood we had.) Sometimes the flooding was just annoying, occasionally it was significant and memorable, but mostly it was just part of the fabric of my childhood, accepted as part of the way things were – the same as having cats and dogs and a green Plymouth station wagon.

Eventually we moved to a larger house several blocks away, but perched on an inlet of the river which was further protected by a small island between the mouth of our “pond” (which went by both names Oyster Bay and Polly’s Pond – I never could find out who Polly was and the oysters were sadly long gone when we got there). The natural barriers and somewhat higher land meant not just calmer waters, but less flooding on a regular basis. Hurricanes still meant flooded streets, but even water in the yard was less common.

Mom’s current house back on Memorial Day weekend.

Although flooding impeded daily life less, we weathered a few significant and memorable storms in that house. My parents were ultimately dislodged from that home by Hurricane Sandy and the shifts in water tables which brought the first water into the house we ever had – even then it only filled the garage, but destroyed the water heater and even warped the wooden floors with so much dampness under them. With the advent of every hurricane we have, I offer ongoing gratitude that my mom, now alone, is tucked away, relatively far inland in a tiny home in neighboring Fair Haven.

Recent sunrise photo from our apartment in Yorkville.

All this to say, that history behind me, these days I live on the 16th floor of a high rise building on the upper Eastside of Manhattan and while our river views mean we can get with some high force winds in a storm, in general flooding is not something we often consider. Living on the top floor of a building which is more than a half century old means that our water intrusion generally comes from above, or occasionally from aging pipes. (Our building was re-piped several years back – a true horror. I thought I had written about it, but alas I cannot find it as a link for your consideration.)

Kim and I have experienced leaks in almost every single possible area of our compact 600 square foot abode – water has come from under the kitchen sink, it has worn through pipes and leaked in the bathroom walls. On occasion it has poured from incorrectly installed pipes in the ceiling near the windows and onto our books. As I write today, the ceiling near the windows sags from another mistake in design after the re-piping fiesta and the wall under it is soggy as well, all pending repair in the foreseeable future.

Blackie and Cookie on my home desk area.

Most notably, a new front has opened over my current work at home desk set-up as a result of the recent Hurricane Ida. As it turns out, after a lifetime of preparing conscientiously for storms and fretting about them, when one finally came along to bite me, there was no real warning or preparation. Normally a storm that has hit land and traveled over it for several days means no more than some stormy days by the time it arrives. A storm that has gone back out to sea can pick up speed again and be a threat, but Ida, while she packed a wallop when she hit New Orleans and Texas, didn’t seem to be a threat as she winded her way through the Midwest and up to the greater New York area.

As the somewhat desultory rain of the day turned harder into the evening, I became aware that the wind was blowing hard enough to make me glad that the building had installed new windows – although they could certainly still shatter in high winds. However, it was a call that I got from my doorman at 10:00 at night that worried me. Our building basement had several feet of water in it already and the elevators were not functioning. We were not to go to the basement and be aware that the stairs on the first floor would be slippery.

Sears House advertisement for a cottage approximately like ours.

Morning dawned and the news was appalling. The death toll climbed steadily throughout the day – people trapped in basement apartments and in raging flash floods. Horrible stories. Meanwhile, several feet of water remained in the building basement although the elevators came back online in the morning. (We were told that the water simply poured in from the windows and the street.) It was several days before we were allowed to begin investigation of the storage locker we keep down there, shifting seasonal clothes kept in bins, household items that have gone out of vogue or use for a time and not much but some artwork.

As it happens, we found some interesting stuff and I will devote tomorrow’s post to what we found (art by both Kim and me) and rescued from that rapidly molding enclave.