Pots and Pans
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By Myrna Lopez
I arrived inNewark,New Jerseyin the middle of winter. It was bitterly cold that February in 1975. My first impression of that city was unflattering. I looked out from the hospital van that met us at the airport and saw buildings that were burned and boarded up. The trees were bare of leaves and looked like grim scarecrows with outstretched arms ready to pluck me. The scene filled me with misery. I wanted to crawl back on the plane. I wanted to go home. I was unaware of the riots that raged through that city in the summer of 1967. After eight yearsNewarkstill bore the scars of that painful period. Progress was slow to arrive in that battered city.
Hospitals across theUSwere in desperate need of medical personnel in the mid-seventies. I was offered a position as a staff nurse atNewarkBethIsraelHospital. My eyes widened at the offered salary of $10,000 plus change per year. I was going to be rich!
But there was a chasm of difference between money on paper and money on hand. I sent most of my suweldo (paycheck) to my parents in Cebu while paying what I owed the airline company for my one way ticket through their fly-now-pay-later plan. I had just enough cash to pay for the dorm rent and groceries.
The Filipino community rallied around the new arrivals. We lacked proper clothing for the winter weather so our patrons and their families pitched in and provided coats and winter shoes for us to wear. They had hearts of gold. But there were some who took advantage of our ignorance. One such enterprising man convinced me that I could not live without the pots and pans he was peddling. It was a 12-piece ensemble. He sweetened the deal with a plate setting for 4. The cost was about $300, an exorbitant amount for an almost destitute like me.
Fast forward to the present. Those pots and pans are still in use. I have added odd pieces as I needed, but for the most part they are the staples I depend on. They predate my wedding and the birth of my first child. I have been tempted by the likes of Le Creuset and Circulon and Cuisinart and the hard anodized non-stick aluminums. The market has exploded with the most beautiful and colorful new editions. I visit Crate and Barrel and Williams- Sonoma often. I run my hands through the sexy curves of those beautiful, spanking new kitchen wares. They tempt and beckon.
Yet I cannot bear to part with my 12-piece Wear-Evers . There are scratches and dings and missing parts from my use and misuse. Their bottoms are blackened and their shine has disappeared. But they have seen me through my misadventures, experiments, disasters, as well as triumphs.
I have progressed from boiling water to one who is brave enough to tackle Kare-Kare. I prepared what a young girl swore was my to-die-for spaghetti sauce in one of those large pots. My mungo version has reached sosyal status when it was served at the Philippine Embassy. And my children and their significant others salivate and boast about the beef torta I prepare for them. My son has standing weekly dates for dinners at home. You should hear him smack his lips and rub his palms in anticipation.
Those pots and pans have remained steadfast and uncomplaining, mute even through the abuse I continue to heap on them. No, I won’t abandon them now. More than three decades have passed. I was given that lifetime guarantee. Theirs or mine? I have a feeling they will outlast me.