Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Time will blow away all that you possess


     My mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, owned six roasters.
     You know, those large oval roasting pans, heavy black steel with removable lids. Speckled with white dots, for some obscure aesthetic reason.
     A fact her family discovered after she died, 10 years ago, and we began to go through her house. Roasters stashed in closets, on shelves in the basement.
     I wish I could have asked her: “Why so many?” Though the answer would almost certainly have been a chuckle and a wave of the hand. Our guess was it had to do with the Great Depression.
     She did cook a lot.
     We kept one roaster that reminded me of a World War I dreadnought and unloaded the rest for a couple of dollars apiece at the estate sale. We never use it, and I wonder if the others are also just being stored until they’re on the move again, passed along to new owners, down through the generations. I hope at some point somebody roasts something.
     We are, many of us, surrounded by such enormous shoals of stuff that its utter superfluousness seldom occurs to us unless the stuff’s owner dies, and we’re in charge of deciding what to keep (not much) and what to give away (most everything).
     Or some natural disaster suddenly sweeps it into the street. When I heard Monday that a tornado had hit Naperville and Woodridge, my first impulse was to race there and talk to residents picking through their devastated homes.
     Because I still remember, vividly, Plainfield after the tornado hit in 1990. An older couple going through their flattened home, finding a teacup, intact, and just laughing. They were glad to have the teacup, plucked out of the chewing jaws of nature.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. I've got a couple of those roaster pans myself, which haven't been used in a very long time. I probably don't have "enormous shoals" of stuff, but enough to inconvenience my move to somewhat smaller quarters.


  2. Neil,
    Like you, I have a roaster such as you described in your 6/23 column. Only one. I don't recall how I came to be in possession of this object. Perhaps from my grandmother. Perhaps from my mother. My parents hosted rosh Hashanah and Passover dinners. When my dad died, mom wanted to continue that dinner tradition but couldn't do it alone. So, I would take the day off and shop with mom. Then, under her tutelage we would prepare dinner. When mom passed, at some point I wanted to try to keep up the tradition. I had taken notes of how to while preparing the dinners. Out came the roaster. Into the roaster after prepping the brisket went the brisket and, at the appropriate time, the Kishkie. I don't do the holidays dinners every year. But, when I do, out comes the roaster. I do this to keep mom present and to remind my kids and their kids of mom and dad and of the significance of the days,
    Michael Davidson

  3. I have one and use it once a year.

  4. I have always thought that the black finish of the roasting pan was the functional, protective surface, with the white spray added to the finish to make it easier to determine when you had scrubbed it clean.

    Incidentally, if your late mother-in-law had roasting pans similar to ours, she may have actually owned 12, in a way, and not just 6. The lid of ours can be inverted and used as a shallow roasting pan by itself, for smaller items.

  5. I'm pretty sure we have a blue-and-white speckled roasting pan somewhere in our house, or in the garage. Might use it once or twice a year, at the most. Probably came from my mother or my mother-in-law. I'm a terrible hoarder and pack rat, so somebody is going to have a real mess on their hands in a few more years.

    Like a complete fool, I keep thinking there are some real treasures awaiting discovery, but it's probably all worthless crap, and they'll just back up the truck and it'll wnd up in a landfill for future archeologists to ponder and to puzzle over.

    When our neighbor died, it took me and my wife three weeks, in the dead of winter, to clean forty years of junk out of her heatless and waterless wreck of a house. But we found a cache of collectibles, from the UK, that dated back to the Edwardian era and WWI. They were at the bottom of a box of worthless Christmas ornaments. You never can tell what you'll find while picking through the detritus of a lifetime. She collected artifacts that honored England's royals. Who knew?

  6. When I'm out and about and done with the paper newspaper, I like to leave it where someone might grab it and get a look. Not to deprive the paper of revenue, but to maybe get someone hooked on the habit.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.