Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Just an old pan

IMG_0348What do you see in this photo?

The thing filled with popcorn. It’s a pan, right? Just an old, maybe even ugly, pan. But, of course, there’s more to it than that.

It has history, a background story.

I started college right out of high school as a math major at East Texas Baptist College but was then offered a newspaper job early that first semester. After finishing school that fall, I worked for another year and decided to go to Texas A&M University to study journalism.

My brother’s former roommate’s neighbor was looking for someone to share the apartment he rented, so I was looking at surviving without a mom or a cafeteria. My new roommate had everything we needed, but for some reason I decided to buy this pan.

Perhaps it was because I knew I would be cooking a lot of macaroni and cheese or maybe I fell in love with its clever design.

You see that, don’t you, the holes in the pan and the slots in the lip of the lid? Boil something in it (like, I don’t know, maybe generic mac and cheese that you could find on sale 10 for a dollar), align the lid holes with the pan holes and, voila, it quickly and easily drains.

Don’t you love it?

I remember buying it at a Gibson’s store in the Greggton area of Longview, Texas. I believe it’s a warehouse for an office goods business now. That would have been 40 years ago this winter.

So, the pan moved with me into marriage some 38 years ago and was welcomed by my wife, partly because it meant we at least had a pot to … uh … boil cheap pasta in, and partly because she truly appreciated its functionality.

As time passed, we eventually had an electric stove and my pan’s warped bottom wasn’t all that great at evenly conducting heat, but it still had its uses.

A little more than 10 years ago, Leah asked my permission to draft the pan into Halloween service. She was dressing as a witch – her traditional favorite, by the way – and wanted to use my pan as a prop. She is of the Shakespearean line of witchcraft and really likes her “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,” so she needed something to stir.

Hence the poorly represented skull and crossbones drawn on the side in permanent ink.

Just last Halloween, during our church’s Trunk or Treat event, we dispensed candy from this pan.

But don’t cry for it, cookware purists. It still has opportunities to serve epicurean needs. Indeed, particularly now that we’re back to cooking with gas, it is the designated device for popcorn and still serves admirably when preparing pasta.

The other day, Leah served up a request of me, should she die first. (Nothing morbid but something we do all of the time.)

“Should I die,” she said, “I don’t care what you do with much of anything. But, keep this pan and keep that paint can.”

Yes, ma’am.

Oh, the paint can? That’s a story for Thanksgiving Day.

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