Remodeling the Kitchen

The Things We Keep

I love rustic Americana. I think fine china and crystal are nice, but they’re not me. They’re fragile and pretty, and I’m not. I’m physically challenged, but I am far from fragile. I am strong in mind and heart from years of living with a life-and-body changing disease, and my beauty is the beauty of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, not a silver chafing dish.

That said, it’s probably no surprise that some of my favorite pieces that I’ve collected over the years are my red-and-white enamelware coffeepot, cup, small pan and soup pot. I would have more of these pieces if I had more room. The coffeepot was actually our camp coffeepot for many years when we tent-camped. When we finally retired it, I put it up with my other treasures on the top of the cabinets.

While I’m giving away and donating a lot of things I’ve collected over the years, I’m keeping the white-and-red enamelware. It’ll go on some open display shelves made perhaps from barn wood.

When I packed up these things, I noticed something about the big white-and-red soup or stew pot that I’d forgotten. Before it hit the secondhand shop or yard sale where I bought it (I’ve had it so long, I really can’t remember when I bought it or where), someone had tried to make it hold water again by placing a bolt or screw through a hole in the bottom, securing it with a washer and nut on the other side.

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Eventually, the bottom of the pot rusted out in a ring, and then it was no longer functional and couldn’t be repaired. But I wanted it.

Why would anyone want a pot that won’t hold water? Well, I love the look of the white body with the red trim. I love that somebody, maybe many people, most probably women, used this pot. Cooked beans and bacon in this pot. Stew. Cornmeal mush and grits. Turnip and collard greens. I look at that pot, and I imagine the meals that a woman like me produced in it. And I honor her effort and cherish the only remnant of it.

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But the other reason I love this pot is the very fact that it’s been mended. That says to me that somebody was poor enough to need to mend this pot. The owner of the pot couldn’t just buy a new pot. Either she didn’t have the money for a pot, or she lived in such a frontier sort of place that replacement pots weren’t available. So with some ingenuity, the owner of the pot mended it, and the pot continued to be used for some time afterwards. I applaud that kind of mental toughness, grit, determination, the ability to go on in the face of misfortune. What do you do when your one pot is broken? You mend it.

We live in a culture of the disposable. Disposable products come on the market with monotonous regularity. From toilet wands to coffee filters to razors, there’s a disposable option for nearly everything in our world. We create so much waste for the sake of convenience. Many folks, like my oldest friend, Coral Young Hawley, work really hard to rescue, repurpose, reuse, and recycle what others have discarded. (Check out the clothing, jewelry, and other items in Coral’s Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/DaughterOfBetty). People like Coral are the spiritual heirs of the owner/mender of my pot. When I display this leaky old pot on my wall, I salute the mindset that mends rather than discards.

 

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