Monday, May 23, 2011

A Good Pan is Hard to Find

I have always gotten by with economical pans for cooking; mixed and matched pans, hand me down pans. During the move, I felt that I needed a fresh start. Most of the kitchenware went to Goodwill. I gave two good cast iron pans to my Uncle—I knew they would be in good hands. From him, I asked if I could have my grandmother’s cast iron flat tortilla pan. In Spanish it’s called a “Comal.” I also asked for her tortilla roller, so when the time comes for me to make home made flour tortillas. 

Surprisingly, one of my favorite non-stick pans to sauté in or cook large quantities of food in was purchased as a single pan from Safeway. It seems of good quality. The only thing is it doesn’t come with a lid. Other than that, it works really well and I can tell it will hold up.

The first set of pans we bought was a non-stick brand by Faberware. I think we may have gotten the most economical model. It looked so nice and I liked the red color. I should have known though when I saw that the non-stick coating was barely there and in the lightest gray. These pans started breaking down fast. I didn’t keep the receipt because I figured we would get at least a year out of these pans.  They didn’t even make it to the six month mark. What a disappointment. The pans were too light and somehow scratches appeared and the coating began to wear away with only using plastic cooking utensils.

We were on a mission to find new pans that were within our budget. There were many choices: Non-stick versus stainless steel. What brand? Buy individually or in a set? Pay a little more for quality that may last longer or pay less and not get as much mileage out of the pans. We started with Target, just to see what they had. We saw a set that seemed good. It was an Italian made set: Bialetti. We were excited, especially after tossing all of our cookware, all except our Safeway pan. It was another red set. When we got home, I decided that I didn’t want to take out the whole set just yet, but rather wash them as I needed them. The next night I started to get them all out. I started with the 10 quart pot and as I began examining it, I noticed that I could see the red color showing through into the inside non-stick coating. “Oh no,” I said. I handed it to my significant other, “Look at this.” My body slumped inward. We both felt defeated. That’s when we started questioning whether we should just get stainless steel pans. I understand they make good sets, so that sticking isn’t as much of an issue, but I really like a good non-stick pan where I don’t need to worry about sticking and I don’t need to use as much oil in the pan.

Tomorrow would be another day. I was thankful we did not take all the pots out of their wrapping and out of the box. It would have been a hassle that I did not want.

My significant other asked his cousin the following day if she had a brand she recommended. She gave him some names and over dinner that night we talked about what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go. We went to Macy’s that night after spotting a stainless steel set online. When we got to Macy’s we started looking around at the different sets on display. We knew that All-Clad was way out of our budget. I picked up a pan by Calphalon—the one that I saw online—it was too heavy for me. I wanted a solid, yet light pan. The salesperson came up to us and asked if we needed help. We began asking about non-stick versus stainless steel and also asked her about the Anolon set compared to the Circulon set. Those were the two that we narrowed down. Both sets looked almost identical. But from speaking to his cousin, we recognized the Circulon brand and it has been around longer. A few more questions for the salesperson, who was extremely helpful and seemed to know the products and pointed out the differences. The look of the Circulon, the circular ridges inside the pans, the larger handles on both the pans and lids, and the feel of the cookware in our hands was the selling point for us. I was hoping that whichever set we bought had clear lids and these did—and the set was black, not red. We bought the 10-piece set that came with a bonus soup pot. The price listed was $349.99, but the salesperson said that the sale price was $199. That wasn’t too bad and if we bought a pan here and a pan there, we would potentially be paying a lot more. We were able to secure an additional double discount because they were having a two-day sale and because the salesperson had a coupon, and I reactivated my Macy’s account, resulting in yet another additional discount. At the end of the sale, we only paid $186. I love a deal. She also said that if we have any problems with the pans, we only need to bring back the receipt and the pan. No need to bring the whole set in. I don’t think we’ll have problems with them, but it’s nice to know that we can go to Macy’s and bypass the manufacturer making it less of a hassle for us.

We’ve only had the set for a couple of weeks so far. It has inspired me to look in my cookbooks again and some cooking magazines I got a while back and to pay attention to recipes sprinkled in freebie magazines from Safeway or Whole Foods. I feel like a new woman with my new pans and I can feel more confident in the meals that I cook for my significant other and I. We could have settled, but instead we wanted to find quality that would last.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grey Days

Grey days  have been upon us. Grey and cold. The grey tones in the clouds bring satisfaction to my eyes, as I lose myself in the folds and wrinkles—depths of tone and texture. Driving along the highway yesterday, I saw grey-black smoke billowing. “A fire”, I say. Not realizing how close. We pass and I take in the scene: A Volkswagen Bug engulfed in flames. The wind making the fire appear as a spinning Ferris wheel out of control. I wanted to take a photo because the sight had a certain beauty to it, but who holds there camera in position at every single moment? It makes me feel that I should so that I don’t lose a moment. The father was at the backend—the source of the fire, maybe fifteen to twenty feet away. The son at the front end—where all the smoke was traveling. He had his arm held to his face to block the smoke. The two separated by this great burning obstacle—this heap of metal in flames—until the fire engines arrive. An ambulance was nearby, trying to weave in between cars, ready to assist. But they needed the fire engine. Thank goodness they were out of the car.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love Stories

We keep interacting with each other, connecting—The elements and I. As I drove down the open road, lined with colorful, rustic homes, plentiful with trees and flowers, I felt that same goose bump feeling I felt the other day. I could feel the sun on my bare arm hanging out the window, while I handled the steering wheel with my right. I could feel the little hairs on my arms, not quite at a goose bump, but right before, a tingling sensation, as the sun warmed me.

I was on my way to the library to check out a few books. I arrived a few moments before they opened and noticed a book sale was going on. I usually get excited when I see library book sales, but not this time. I walked in to a crowd of people swarming, with their bags in hand, stuffing books inside, filling to the brim for only $5. I quickly peeked and saw familiar titles, but after unloading lots of books of my own these past, months, weeks—I am trying to utilize the library and my Kindle more, rather than going hog wild whenever I see cheap books. I know now that if I do that, they will only collect dust and I’m tired of collecting dust. I love library books anyway and I especially enjoy a trip to the independent bookstore or perusing the back issues of Bookmarks magazine from the library. The current issue is usually checked out.

I miss the way the old temporary library was set up while they were building the new one. It seemed that there was a more personal touch. I miss the books that they would pull out and display. It seemed that someone put great care into selecting those books, books they felt worthy of someone bumping into and reading. I found a few books that were just right for me that way.

One book I did find in the “New” section of the library last week was Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright. Another debut novel. I was intrigued with how the story would unfold. It’s about a married woman who is on a flight back home and she meets a married man on this flight. She wasn’t supposed to be in the seat next to him, and he wasn’t even supposed to be on this flight. Neither of them is exactly happy with their marriage. You can imagine what could happen, what does happen. I appreciated the insights the author brought to the story about marriage and friendship. She adds fine details that made it feel real. But some of those details, I can see not settling well with some readers. I didn’t mind. I gobbled the novel up and finished it quick—I was so curious about whether she could save her marriage and how. I don’t usually read these types of books, but the suspense of it and the reality of it was enough. What I mean by I don’t usually read these types of books is that I usually shy away from ‘love stories,’ but perhaps it’s because I feel in a more open and balanced place that I am able to dive in; perhaps because I have opened my heart and jumped long and wide into this great chasm—this great ocean of mystery and feeling and...