Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A "Story of Federalcheese" moment


I threw away a saucepan today. Actually, I recycled it. In looking it is easy to see why, but this wasn’t just any saucepan. It was the first saucepan I purchased upon moving away to college. I bought it at the K-Mart off San Anselmo Road in Atascadero along with a lamp, a toaster and underwear. It was 1996. August. I don’t remember how much I spent.

The lamp was destroyed during my first move to Seattle. The toaster didn’t last long. My father always told me, “You get what you pay for,” but I didn’t listen. I have owned many toasters in my short life. For all I know those pairs of underwear are still in my rotation as I have few memories of ever throwing underwear away. But losing the saucepan gave me pause.

The saucepan represents the base elements of cooking. Sure, one could heat frozen dinners in a microwave. I say “heat” because with the push of a button all effort on the cook’s part is complete. But a saucepan involves “cooking” simply because one has to periodically check in on the meal and maybe even stir it. My job during college often resulted in my getting home after midnight. With school in a few hours the saucepan was my savior. I could have a can of soup, heat water for Top Ramen, or even steam vegetables though that didn’t happen very often.

I carried that saucepan with me through all my moves. It was with me when I rented a room at a woman’s house that had a homeless guy residing in the living room. He liked to watch professional wrestling. Loud. He also ate any food I had in the refrigerator. But opening a can and using a saucepan was beyond him and so I always could count on a can of chili waiting for me in the cupboard.

I brought that saucepan to the apartment across from the train station where the first victim of Rex Allen Krebs was killed. My friend found a puddle of blood one morning and called 911 to report it. A crew was sent out to clean up the mess before the police were called to investigate it. I had just opened a can of clam chowder when the FBI came to my door asking if I had heard anything. I hadn’t.

Eventually, I met the woman who would become my wife and she convinced me to buy new pans. That first saucepan was relegated to use only when doing the dishes was just not an option. In the past few years, I rarely saw it in use on the stove. We made the trip to Costco the other day and couldn’t resist the deal on a new set of three saucepans. That same night my wife presented me with the saucepan so that I could lay it to rest. She new it was important that I do it.

Maybe that saucepan has become part of a new aircraft over at Boeing. I like to think it might have been recycled into the frame of a new school or hospital. And maybe it was just used to make other saucepans. Saucepans that will be purchased by boys going into college just like I was over a decade ago.