Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Saga of the Paella Pan

I am a passionate person. Those of us who are passionate people tend to anguish over many things. My anguish du jour (and I say “du jour” because indeed I do anguish about something new almost every day) is my late husband’s paella pan. Let me tell you the story of this pan.

My husband, too, was a passionate person, and one of his passions was cooking. He introduced me to all kinds of exotic cuisines that were completely new to my experience, and I embraced them all. One thing that he particularly enjoyed making was paella. He would make big pans of it, spending all day long on a dish that wasn’t supposed to be all that difficult, and would serve it at big parties we had with our friends. He decided one year, that the pan he had wasn’t big enough to serve the masses that often descended upon our home for a meal, and that he needed a bigger one. Upon hearing this, my mother’s ears perked up. She was always looking to buy someone that special something for Christmas that they didn’t deliberately ask for, wouldn’t expect, but would be delighted with its receipt.

So, my industrious mother managed to find a company that sold Spanish products, including paella rice, paella seasonings, and paella pans, and she put together quite a package of paella goodies for Jim that Christmas. Having never made paella, she had no idea what a paella pan looked like, so when she placed her order she asked for a large one. I can still see the look of shock and surprise on Jim’s face when he opened that box. My mother had given him the biggest paella pan that he had ever seen. If you’ve ever been to an open-air food market, say Camden Market in London, you may have seen food vendors stirring up food for the masses in pans this size. This pan is roughly 2 feet in diameter. This was way too big for Jim’s needs plus, every year one or other of our friends died off, and, sadly, our parties kept getting smaller and smaller. So, Jim put the pan aside.
Fast-forward a dozen years to today. My mother has now been gone five years, Jim has been gone a little over two, but the pan is still here. I stumbled upon it today, and it was like a kick in the gut. It was still in the shrink-wrap (and that was mighty shrink wrap, I had a devil of a time extricating the pan), and a wave of sadness swept over me. Suddenly, I remembered my mother’s delight in finding Jim the perfect gift; I remember the look of shock and surprise on his face when he opened it. I remember the parties that we used to have under the striped umbrellas, on the big brick patio at our house, with pitchers of ruby red sangria, pans of steaming, seafood-studded paella, laughter, music, conviviality, the works! Such good times. I have since moved house, most of those friends are gone, and here I am left with this pan, this unused, monster of a paella pan. It’s funny how something inanimate, and relatively insignificant, can cause such pain.
You may be inclined to tell me to donate it and get it out of the house, but I can’t do that. The fact of the matter is, I like it. I don’t make paella, I would never make this much paella, but because this pan caused happiness, shock, and awe in the past, it is going to have to be a part of my future. So, I am asking for your help. What can I do with this pan? It is big enough to use as a serving tray, I’m aware of that, but at a hefty ten pounds all on its own it, would be too heavy to carry. It is almost the size of my entire cooktop, so I cannot use it on the stove, and it would be too big to use near the stove. It may work as a centerpiece on a large table, but I’m not sure I have a table quite that large. Use your imagination, go little crazy if you like, and tell me what you would do with this behemoth among paella pans.

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Gina said...

It looks beautiful - what does the underside of it look like? Can it be hung on a wall facing backwards? In a kitchen themed collage? Can it be used as a tray for storing non-kitchen items? Like soaps, loofahs, towels... Made into a coffee bar tray? I think the tray was only a trigger - not the sad thing itself. If you re-invent it, it may make you smile more than sigh. Just a thought. I'm glad that seeing it did spark some memories for you - that's how we keep the people we've lost alive. xoxox

Scribbler said...

Such a poignant post -- tugging at my heart as I write. Love paella and haven't made it in forever, because it does make ton! Never had a proper pan, but this would have been way too big for me, too. I had to laugh a little, too, because I remember a friend from way back long ago who was not much of a cook. Everything I did that was a big hit, though, she tried to "copy". She then made some kind of godawful mess she referred to as "my pie-yuh" rice and served it thereafter at her annual big Christmas parties! OK -- that didn't solve your issue, but how about this? Would it work as some sort of tray on a stand for serving other things, as in a butler's tray table or a Moroccan tray table? It looks to be about the same size as the Moroccan tray table I have on my back porch. Just a thought.

Joanne B. said...

I am not even sure how I stumbled upon your blog but really enjoy reading it! I am NOT a cook - actually have come to hate it lately since it is just my husband and I now. after 38 years we have slowly figured it out! He LOVES to cook and I LOVE to clean up! It is a match made in heaven! Even though I don't cook I will continue to check in on your blog because I like to THINK I can cook, and that is good enough for me. I love your writing style. Your blog is the prefect combination of wonderful pics and recipes of food, but it is your stories that go along with them that add just the right "something" that keep me coming back. I was compelled to comment today. LOVED this story of the paella pan. Have never had paella, and certainly won't ever tackle trying to make it. But I LOVED this story! Please don't ever think about getting rid of it! It IS a very nice looking pan as pans go, but it is the story that is BEAUTIFUL! You wrote so lovingly about your Mom and your husband and it touched me to hear your simple yet heart warming story. It is also a reminder to me not to "save" things - to use them, to savour them. I love making my home look like me and the things that are important to me. That paella pan is important to YOU! If it does nothing but sits on your countertop or hangs on your wall, it is a part of your life. Just prop it up somewhere along your kitchen counter backsplash. OR place it on your countertops with an assortment of olive oils, balsamic vinegar, spices, etc- as a prolific and adventurous cook you MUST have a bunch that are your favorites. Soften the hard cool look steel of the pan by surrounding the area with some warm and lovely wood cutting boards, some "antique" ones would look great and be an interesting contrast to the hard cold steel of the never used paella pan. Look at pics on Pinterest or look at pics on the Pottery Barn/William Sonoma/ Sur La Table websites for inspiration pics.But what ever you do, don't ever ever remove that pan from your home!

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

I love you ladies to bits for your sweet comments! The underside of the pan looks fine -- it's brand new -- but with an open floor plan I have no wall space. I do like the idea of using it as a Moroccan tray, and have a lime green pouf on which it would look fabulous. Then I was thinking about using it for charcuterie, OR imagine Christmas cookies spread out on this big boy! Whatever I do with it, I will keep you informed, it is definitely here to stay.

Joanne B. said...

And SEE! There you go! Already a great idea! Just wanted to add to my previous post where I said I like to THINK I can cook but 'hate' it- Your blueberry crumb cake inspired me to try your recipe last weekend! I got distracted while working on the cake, getting dinner ready AND doing laundry. (I KNOW that is way way WAY too much for me, but I like to THINK I am super woman!) It wasn't until the cake was IN the oven and I was cleaning up that I realized I forgot to add the DANG eggs to the cake! After much #^$&@(&@($^ language, I figured, what the heck and let it continue. When the timer wen off it LOOKED great, smelled heavenly and we figured, why not? Topped it with vanilla ice-cream and called it a cobbler! It disappeared! But THIS weekend I will do a re-do and ADD THE EGGS! Hopefully I wont forget the blueberries! Just wanted to share that you inspired me to try one of your recipes, not once, but twice- which is quite an accomplishment!