Lillian Alford Patterson
Those many items living in your kitchen drawers are so much more than a bowl or a pot.
In my kitchen, scanning the shelf across from where I sit at my table, I see stories; such as the silver service that belonged to my great grandmother. In her possession, it was used daily for the guests that crossed her threshold, for her husband and three daughters as they sat down every evening to the dinner she prepared. I encountered it in my grandmothers home, always perfectly polished displayed in the sitting room she only used for company.
The Sunbeam mixer, a hand-me-down given to my sister’s fiancé from his own grandmother. Silver and sleek, I can only imagine how impressed she was by its fast, whipping beaters and rapidly spinning bowl. Every time I use it, it makes the cabinets in my kitchen shake and rattle, but it still works beautifully. I have come to love the sounds it makes.
One of my favorite stories is the green-stemmed sherry glasses that my parents received in 1981 as a wedding gift. I never saw my parents use them except to serve my sister and I small portions of wine on special occasions like birthdays and the New Year. Most have broken over the years, some by me, some by my sister, but mostly in moving them from one kitchen to the next. I still have three, and I treasure them.
There are of course more items hidden away in this kitchen: the cast iron that belonged to my grandmother and then my father, the blue and white wedding china that my mother never liked and happily gifted to her offspring, the many tattered aprons and napkins that I almost never use but admire regularly.
All of these things, they have moved with me to many kitchens. I don’t love them because they are the newest, most practical or extravagant items I own. I often curse them for not being more modern, for being too small, too slow, too not-new, but that doesn’t matter.
If you learn to move along with their idiosyncrasies, there are rewards for keeping hand-me downs. That stand mixer, made in 1964, still works like a dream. And when I pull out that amazing crisp, but also moist, batch of molasses cookies, I know I will reach for that mixer again.
Each piece of cookware has its own eccentricities; a preferred handling that can be mastered with experience. Its likely the hands that touched it before yours also grew to understand the personality of that very item. We accept a hand-me-down tool with a commitment to cultivate the old, to give it a chance to show us what it can do, and once it does, to pass it along with the same wisdom.
I love my cast iron because it is a touchstone to my grandmother. When I reach for my skillet, I can see her frying bacon on her avocado green, 1960s Frigidaire stove. I remember the jar she kept on her range to hold her drippings from the bottom of the pan. My father made cornbread in that same cast iron. Every time I use it, I like to think there is a little bit of that bacon, or a little bit of that cornbread, still sunk deep into the black of the pan, that blends into whatever I am cooking.
It is a unique gift to get to use the things left by the cooks before us and to know that we will become one of those past cooks. I love these things because hands before my own used them. Hands that loved them, broke them, fixed them, cursed them and eventually, shepherded them to the next generation of cooks. I love them because one day, I will usher them into the kitchen of a friend, family member, or even a stranger, where they will be appreciated in a whole new way.
There is a great joy in finding that old box grater, rolling pin or cookie cutter. The same ones you used when you were a little girl. That metal mold of a star that works so much better than the plastic or silicone ones you have. Seasoned is filled with previously loved cookware and just like the ones in my own home, they carry their own narratives.
A gasp and a beaming, “my mother had one just like that, I haven’t see one in years!” is a constant assertion in the shop. And if I am lucky, I will get to hear the whole story.
The longer story of silverware, plates, appliances or whatever wonderful item had a chapter in your kitchen does not end when it leaves your drawers. It is given new life in a new kitchen, perhaps it is used for something entirely inventive, perhaps it is bought as a gift, or maybe, it is used again, exactly as you used it.
Just as our books and photographs are weighted with stories, so are the things we use to make our thanksgiving dinner, a batch of cookies, or our daily coffee. Seasoned wants to keep those narratives unfolding, allow them to take a new turn, in a new home, with new meaning and love.
We want to see all of the things that have been used in your kitchen and to hear your stories.