My friend and neighbor Ed died two days into the New Year, exactly one month short of his 85th birthday. A widower living alone, Ed knew how to cook but preferred his four-times-a-day ritual of climbing into his Dodge van and driving off to breakfast, lunch, an afternoon beer break (one bottle only) and dinner. He’d leave on each of these expeditions at the same time each day, to the minute. Compared to Ed, atomic clocks are capricious.

If you invited Ed to a meal, his response was, “What are you having?” To take that as anything but impolite you had to know Ed and, let’s face it, you’re coming a little late to that party.

Shortly before Ed died, I became the custodian of one of his most cherished possessions, a red Martha Stewart enameled cast iron casserole, 2.75-quart size.

A year earlier, around the holidays, Ed had spotted the “pot,” as he called it, in a Macy’s ad and bought it immediately. He had long wanted such a cooking pot, he explained. Why he had waited to indulge this fancy was unclear. Almost as baffling as why he never once used the pot. One day I suggested we make soup in it and he looked at me as if I were deranged.

Ed kept the red pot out "just to look at," first in his kitchen, then in his bedroom.

When Ed moved to a hospice care center late last fall, Ed’s Red Pot moved to my house. I was touched and pleased to have it, as I told him one December afternoon as we sat visiting in his room. “Use it in the next couple days,” he said suddenly. “Cook something in it.” Cook in the pot? I was stunned. He couldn’t eat, so there was no question of bringing him a dish cooked in the casserole.

But the next day I made risotto and reported back that his pot was, indeed, a fine piece of cookware. How did it clean up? he wanted to know. Nice, very easy. Stain? Discolor? Nope. As he sat hunched in his chair, a big smile of satisfaction spread across his face. It was one of the last real conversations we had. He grew weaker and sicker, more impatient to be done with life. A couple weeks later Ed died peacefully in his sleep.

This story would end there, a sweet little reminiscence, except that shortly after his death I learned that Ed’s Red Pot was part of a Macy’s recall. Although no one had been injured, there were reports the enamel coat could “crack and fly off as a projectile, posing a risk of laceration or burn hazard to the user or bystanders.” Attached as I am to my skin, eyes, and most bystanders, I knew I would never again cook with Ed’s Red Pot.

I spent two weeks mulling the pot’s fate. Perhaps it could be repurposed, say, into an herb container? No, Ed would have scoffed at that. And what if someday someone re-repurposed the pot back into cookware and was maimed by my misguided sentimentality?

For a week I stewed in the Ed’s Red Pot issue. Friends and family found any disposition of the pot more palatable than listening to me drone on about it. Even I was getting annoyed by my indecision.

Finally, I settled on a plan that satisfied both my conscience and my anxiety-prone nature.

I turned in the pot at Macy’s, where it was eagerly received, in keeping with the store’s Let’s-Not-Have-Our-Customers-Cooking-With-Enamel-That-Breaks-Off-and-Turns-Into-Projectiles policy. Then I purchased a Bella red enameled cast iron casserole, also 2.75 quarts, slightly different in styling and less orange-y red, but definitely in the spirit of Ed’s Red Pot.

Red Pot Redux sits on an open shelf in my kitchen, emanating good cheer and functionality, a daily reminder of Ed. I think that as a practical man given to neither flights of sentimentality nor reckless endangerment, he would approve.

Yes, Red Pot Redux is more apple-y red than Ed's Red Pot. We do what we can.

Share