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Slices of Life

Into the Frying Pan

October 27, 2010
Dysart Reporter


Jill Pertler

We need a new electric frying pan. My husband has noted this fact on more than one occasion. He is right. Our frying pan decades old has seen better days. Its paint is chipped and the Teflon burned in places. A new one would be neither excessive nor unwarranted. My husband sees the logic of a new pan. He proposes we get one as soon as possible. He understands this is right. And he is right. Problem is, I'm sort of attached to the old one. I realize most people don't get attached to household appliances, but on the majority of subjects, I do not fit into the definition of "most people." My experience with frying pan attachment syndrome started early during childhood. My mom had an old frying pan dating pre-Teflon. I don't remember where it originated originally, but the appliance was old. The pan itself was silver in color probably stainless steel. The working elements had no defects. The heating coil remained in tip-top condition. The pan itself wasn't cracked, warped, broken or even burned. The frying pan had only one obvious handicap: it was missing a leg. By today's standards, an electric frying pan with three legs is a worn out appliance. My parents didn't operate by today's standards. They were both children of families that experienced the Great Depression firsthand, so they knew a thing or two about using things until there wasn't any use left. My ever-resourceful mom used an inverted coffee cup to prop up the three-legged pan. It stood at about the right height. The frying pan wobbled, but not enough to render it unstable. Besides, my mom didn't use the electric gizmo often. She removed it from the cupboard for just one job: frying the walleye caught by my fish-loving dad who was (and is) known affectionately as Walleye Joe. As a young man, my dad experienced his fair share of adversity. He grew up in a farming family number 11 of 13 siblings in a home with one indoor bathroom. He joined the Marines at age 18 and shortly thereafter found himself on a plane to Korea. He fought on the front lines, was injured in the line of duty and found himself on a plane back home. He ended up losing a leg and gaining a Purple Heart medal. A wobbly frying pan didn't faze a guy like my dad. He caught the fish, brought them home and said, "Fry 'em up!" My dad did all the fishing and my mom did all the frying. They were a good pair. My dad also did the eating. My mom, who didn't like fish, never tasted the tender morsels she cooked in our three-legged pan. I did. Taste the fish, that is. I was blessed with the fish-loving gene. My sister was not. The frying pan and the fish therein became something my dad and I shared. Thinking back, I can't even remember what my mom and sister ate on the nights we had fried fish. Didn't matter. I was eating walleye. It was an unassuming evening sometime in the early 1980s when my mom made the astounding observation. We'd just feasted on fish for supper and the frying pan sat on the counter, oily and well-used. "I think we need a new frying pan," she said. I nearly spit out my fish. "No!" I answered a little too quickly. I heard an echo in the room. My voice wasn't the only one rejecting my mom's idea. My sister repeated the same sentiment. It seems we both experienced frying pan attachment syndrome. My mom let us off easy. Maybe she never seriously considered replacing the frying pan. Maybe she heard the panic in our voices and understood the appliance had come to represent something more than just a cooking vessel to my sister and me. Either way, the pan was washed, put back into the cupboard and did its job with the fish for years after that. My mom passed away earlier this year. And, while the three-legged frying pan from my childhood represented my dad, somehow the pragmatic use of old frying pans in general is now associated with her. I'm not ready to replace my old frying pan just yet. You know what I mean? Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication." Email her at; Follow Slices on Facebook, or check out her website at



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