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Copper Bottomed Pans

Copper Kitchen
Credit: Topgold

Who knew one could form an emotional attachment to cookware?

As a girl, I spent a fair amount of time with Revereware copper-bottomed pots and pans. I washed them in soapy water after dinner. I dried them and hung them at the top of the stairwell in the clever storage system my father had rigged to create more space. I scorched rice in them, steamed broccoli in them. And when I married, I registered for my own set of Revere pots and pans. I never cast a come hither glance at the fancy top-of-the line pots winking at me in their fancy displays. I wanted just what my parents had.

To keep as quaint as possible, my grandmother and grandfather made me a gift of these. My mother gave me a small tub of copper cleaner. She raised her eyebrows at me with a warning. She was a stickler for keeping the copper gleaming.

I may be as attached to the polishing as I was to the actual pots. After all the dishes had been rinsed and loaded into the dishwasher, after the table had been wiped and the counters cleared, and the leftovers stored, the family moved off again into the edges of the house. Dad turned off the main light and left the light over the sink shining.

In a quiet and otherwise clean kitchen, I spread the white paste onto a soft cloth and upended the pot. Using a circular motion, I burnished the copper to remove the blackened gunk and reveal the original shine. There was something so pleasing and relaxing about shining the copper. To see them glistening on the top of stairs, like a kind of functional royalty, was to take a small measure of pride in a job well done.

The love affair with the polish paste waned.

The last time my mother came to visit me, she polished my pots, tsking and sighing over the sinkg. This was one of the first jobs I stopped doing after my third child was born. I managed with some irregularity to loosen the grime and get them in showcase shape, but not every time I used them Certainly not.

She was appalled, inasmuch as she really cared. (She simply thinks that keeping the stovetop and the pots clean minimizes problems. She’s not wrong.) She didn’t cut me out of the family or leave immediately in a huff. She just shook her head and did the job. I read, though, her opprobrium written on her knitted brow. I was chastened. I had let slip the care of my copper. Naughty girl.

Like any good child who loves to make her mother crazy, I take photos of my clean pots and send them to her, so she knows I’m doing my copper duty. The pots are nearly almost always polished now, and as I write this, I’m wondering which of my three darling angels will get their first copper cleaning lesson tonight.

I know why I wanted the same thing my mother* had, though I probably could have had my pick of The Good Stuff. As I pulled away from my family of birth and formed a new family with my husband, I wanted a connection, an anchor of me to them. Revereware was known and comfortable. I knew how I expected them to look, and to wear, and to perform. If it was good enough for my mother, good enough for me.

It does make one wonder, though, what other parts of them I chose to bring with me, because it was comfortable, or known, or easy. With pots and pans, the consequences are minor.

 *it kinda bugs me to say the pots and pans were my mother’s. Though I tend to think of them that way, my dad did just as much cooking as she did. Look at me being all sexist.  

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