Tattered Jeans

Stirring the pot: Kitchen cookware conjures up magical memories fresh as the smell of gumbo

Stirring the pot: Kitchen cookware conjures up magical memories

4 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 “ . . .more than iron works.”
The pots are more than iron works. They are steeped in history and in spirit. Photo by Katie Oxford
2 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 “Sittin’ pretty in dulled, worn out glory.”.
Sittin' pretty in dulled, worn-out glory. Photo by Katie Oxford
5 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 Grandmother’s teapot with the perfect mole
Grandmother's teapot with the perfect mole. Photo by Katie Oxford
1 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 Mama’s colander, Grandmother’s teapot, Great-grandparents pitcher
Mama’s colander, Grandmother’s teapot and great-grandparents' pitcher. Photo by Katie Oxford
4 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 “ . . .more than iron works.”
2 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 “Sittin’ pretty in dulled, worn out glory.”.
5 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 Grandmother’s teapot with the perfect mole
1 Katie Oxford Chi December 2014 Mama’s colander, Grandmother’s teapot, Great-grandparents pitcher

These last few years, I’ve takin’ to cookin'.  My current weight is a sign of this but never mind food. Something else draws me to my kitchen too. Chi. A heat that doesn’t come from fire.   

Our kitchen is chock full of it. It’s in the pots, bowls, a butcher block that bows in the middle, a pitcher full of wooden spoons — in the spoons themselves.
 
 
The pots are more than iron works. They are steeped in history and in spirit. If you don’t believe this, just come on over. It’s something you feel in your hand the second you pick one up.  
 My favorite pot is one I brew gumbo in. It’s a deep iron pot with a blue rubber cover over the handle the color of a sky I saw a million times growing up in Beaumont, Texas.        
 
I didn’t collect these pots. They belonged to kinfolk, now dead. Sorta magically and one by one, they settled in my kitchen on a rack underneath an old butcher’s block.  Some sit stacked, others, like a row of old shoes. They are easy to reach, on the ready and to my eyes — sittin’ pretty — in dulled, worn out glory.  
 
My favorite pot is one I brew gumbo in. It’s a deep iron pot with a blue rubber cover over the handle the color of a sky I saw a million times growing up in Beaumont, Texas. It used to belong to my pop-in-law, my favorite on my husband’s side of the family.
 
Pop and I enjoyed doing the same stuff  — rootin’ around in his garden, admiring the sweet peas on the chicken wire, planting okra every Lent and fiddlin’ around with his bird dogs.  One called Sally I can still smell today. When I’m stirring the pot, these things wash over me like a wave — as fresh as the smell of the gumbo rising. Strong. Sweet.  
 
Next to Pop’s pot sits an orange metal colander that, to anyone else — looks like a colander with rusted handles. When I’m washing lettuce in it, I think of Mama making “sink salad,” she called it.  I see her standing over the kitchen sink, digging down deep, tossing lettuce like a child playing in sand — hear her sing.
 
No telling how old the pitcher is – now holding wooden spoons, some burned from fire. I was told that it belonged to my great grandparents in Tennessee. When they packed up and moved to Texas, they brought it with them. Clearly, with a heap of care. On the bottom, there’s something handwritten. I’m not sure but best I can tell it says Orlena Vines. Wondering about Orlena conjures up a whole other world to think about. 
 
Christmas Eve I’ll be in the kitchen. I’ll stir pots and sling salad for the folks coming for dinner.  Mostly, though — for all the folks who brung me. Pots and all.