ByJoanna Lacey

Oct 30, 2019
metal cook pot with lid on stove

Mom always had a huge Dutch oven on her stove. I used to refer to it as “the cauldron” because it was really heavy and it wasn’t pretty or shiny. In fact, Mom’s old pot was blackened with grease that was baked on from many years of use.

Even though Mom made amazing meals in that pot — from Sunday pot roasts to gravies — when she passed away, I didn’t want to leave it for the seniors in her building because it looked so old and burnt. I left them Mom’s nice stuff, and her former neighbors quickly claimed the pots and pans that looked brand new.

I forgot about what happened to that pot because we had to clean out Mom’s apartment quickly. That is, I forgot about it until I recently started going through my brother’s things. My brother Dom kept that old pot because he loved it. He appreciated that Mom’s thick-walled pot was great for searing meat or slow simmering a sauce for six or more hours.

Maybe the old pot was one of Mom’s secrets, and one reason why we could not exactly reproduce her recipes in our new, shiny cookware!

And now that I have inherited “the cauldron” from my brother, it has become one of my favorites —along with his oversized grill.

One strange thing about cleaning out a loved one’s home is seeing the world through their eyes and appreciating an item that you would never have purchased. I would have overlooked these items in the store because they were too heavy and big for a single person. But they cook food to perfection, and I can freeze delicious leftovers for lunch at work or dinner. Now, I’m finding new homes for my scrubbed, shining pots!

I think it is so worthwhile to take time with a loved-one’s things. I keep Mom’s address book (after all, we know the same people) as a backup to my phone’s address book. And it’s very handy for addressing Christmas cards. Mom’s beat-up old change purse is perfect for keeping quarters in the car for the parking meter, and Aunt Connie’s knitting basket is just right for storing a set of files.

I’m once again reminded that I’d rather have a few quality items than brand-new things that may not be as well made. I’ll donate some of my newer things to make room for these well-loved and well-used items. Mom’s old pot may be blackened with use, but it works perfectly, was made to last, and reminds me of my loved ones.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.