Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Many, maybe 12, years ago, my great aunt Jo gave me an omelet pan. Not any omelet pan, either. It came from her kitchen, it was a sunny side up yolk enameled yellow, it was French, it was heavy, it was perfectly proportioned--from Le Creuset. "I don't use it," barked Jo, and shoved it at me.

I've used it hundreds of times, and been so careless with the enamel that you really have to struggle to see the yellow beneath the layers of cooking gook. It takes a professional to get it back to its sunny sheen. Still: it makes glorious omelets and scrambled eggs. It's almost impossible to ruin eggs in this pan, even if you are listening to NPR, answering the phone, and unloading the dishwasher. And even then, some of the eggs will be salvageable. It is one of those little miracles that makes you thank God for the French, even when they are mean to you when you have a head cold in Paris and cannot pronounce a single word of French right.

Jo is gone now, and the pan is still here. And now the mystery grows for me, each time I cook an egg: where the hell did she get it? She didn't cook. Her roommate/best friend Dot did all the cooking, which was more of the meatloaf and Cool Whip pie (o glorious) variety. Jo DID travel to Europe, but I never remember her mentioning France at all--it was always Scotland, to visit friends. Jo lived in West Hartford, not exactly the bastion of gourmet cooking, and as far as I know, this was the only piece of Le Creuset she had. Everything else was sensible American non-stick--this pan stuck out like a glorious sunflower. I think she gave it to me because, as she and Dot aged, they would plunge into frenzies of decluttering. I don't remember what else she said to me, probably something about it never being big enough to cook for two, which is sort of true if you're working with more than four eggs: it's a six inch pan with a two genius pouring lips, one on either side of the pan. But I never remember her telling me where it came from.

So my best guess is someone gave it to her, but who? Was it a gentleman caller? Lord knows they gave her enough jewelry--I helped Dot sort it after Jo died. Was it my late father, who adored France and its cuisine, and would think it was funny to buy his beloved aunt a bright yellow omelet pan in Paris and transport it back to Connecticut? It is, as I think about it, his favorite color, and I can just see him doing it, lugging it through customs and laughing. But he's gone now, too.

This is one of the reasons people contact mediums and psychics. Not for the big questions. For the omelet pans that stay stuck in your brain, and the people you love who could provide the answers. Well, I'll always have the eggs.


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