When I was growing up in the southern U.S. in the ’40s and ’50s, my family had money only once a year–when the crops came in–not weekly or monthly salaries from a paying job. That money had to last all year, or you learned to do without. Or, as in Mama’s case, you found other more creative ways to get what you wanted or needed when the money just wasn’t there.
The cooking pots Mama had her eye on to replace those dime-store aluminums she’d used for too many years were sold by Guardian Service Cookware. From the mid-’30s until about 1956, door-to-door salesmen sold the cookware similar to the way Tupperware was sold in the ’60s. Remember the old Tupperware parties? You earned points worth money toward your own purchase by dollar amount of sale during the party. Well, Mama decided she would have herself a “pot” party.
She invited a few neighbors over for a cooking demonstration and “dinner” one evening, and by prior arrangement the pot salesman came to cook. The pots were made of heavy-duty, hammered aluminum, with high-domed glass lids so that as the moisture in the pot condensed during cooking, it dripped back down into the food, hence it cooked without water to dilute the vitamin content, and the patented bases insured uniform heating.
Dinner, or “supper” as we called it, was pancakes served with homemade cane syrup Daddy made himself every year in the fall, fresh sausages and bacon that we also produced ourselves there on the farm. And freshly made coffee made by pouring boiling water into tall coffee pot with a “dripolator” nestled in the top. The hot water seeped slowly through the coffee grounds to produce an aroma much like that encountered at any Starbucks of today.
But the “piece de resistance” was the pancake in the frying pan that he held upside down over my head. It stayed in the pan but wasn’t “stuck” because of the even heating. It came right out with a metal spatula. He asked me what I thought would have happened if he’d used any old frying pan. I thought about the cakes cooked in a layer of grease the way Mama made them, then drawled, “I reckon that pancake would be on my head.” It must have been the right answer because everyone laughed. I was happy having had an appreciative audience for a moment, and eager to help by passing plates around the living room.
With the points made during the evening, Mama ordered a whole set of those pots–about the only time I ever saw her do anything so extravagant. She was still using them, they’re collector’s items now, in 1999 when she died, just days shy of her 85th birthday. It was the best (and only)pot party I ever attended.