It really wasn’t until I returned from Wisconsin that I truly realized the scope of my problem.
I’m powerless to turn away.
It’s a good thing that I brought as much food to Wisconsin as I did, all food to share: 14 fancy large chocolate bars, jars of pesto, tapenade, spicy pepper jelly, 1 pound of large roasted cashew, 6 cans of sour cream Pringles, 2 pounds of quinoa, 1 pound of Himalayan pink sea salt, my sister’s favorite Pretzelthins, a large bag of Marcona almonds, 200 Chinet plates, 2 pounds of smoked cheddar, fresh mozzarella, homemade cilantro pesto and romesco sauce, and proscuitto and Olympia Provisions salami.
(There is no exaggeration in this list– and I may have even forgot a couple more things smuggled in.)
My family almost blew a gasket when they saw my stash, but all this food was sitting in my pantry and fridge, just waiting to share, so why not bring it, especially if there was already room in the luggage?
Why was that a good thing?
Because those 27 pounds of stuff I left there (and was nearly all consumed in my ten days there) meant that I didn’t have to pass up on visits to antique stores, and I could shop the annual town garage sale confident in knowing that I could bring purchases home in my suitcase. That meant that there was room for almost thirty pounds of stuff to come back to Portland.
Large white enamel pot with hard to find lid? Check. Enamel covered refrigerator bin with even harder to find top? No worries, there’s room. Another little tray or yet another vintage Thermos? I’m not sweating.
I bought with abandon.
When I got home, however, I guess I forgot how much enamelware I already have –and maybe just maybe I have a tiny bit of a problem with curtailing acquisition.
Question: When is enough enough?
In my defense, however, I use my enamelware constantly.
My enamelware bowls? Every day I seem to pull one out.
They’re great because they are rather wide affairs with lots of wiggle room to toss.
They provide ample elbow room for rising pizza dough.
And when it comes to meatball making, nothing beats a big shallow bowl.
Covered enamel pots?
This is the bowl I use to bring popcorn outside the house (it has a lid), but it also has uses beyond cooking.
It’s a great gathering vessel.
Enamel pans and casseroles?
They too are in constant usage around here.
I love how lightweight they are.
I have one in blue, two in white, and one in black.
Almost everything has gone into an enamel pan or pot around here.
Honestly, I use these babies several times a week.
And something about a crisp or a cobbler in one of these enamelware dishes just looks so homey and inviting.
It’s like something I’d imagine you might find on an old wood table in a Iowa farm house kitchen.
They also work great for serving — if they’re a little chipped, you can always add a little bit of wax paper.
For transporting fried chicken for a picnic, there’s nothing better than an old enamelware pan.
And then there are all those enamel trays I own, about eight in all.
I use these all the time, and I have them in different sizes and all but one are white.
They are the ideal size for serving a large cake.
And bringing cookies to a party.
Or mashed potatoes to my seniors.
Or just a couple smoothies to my two favorite kids.
Then perhaps my favorite part of my enamelware collection, my robin’s egg blue canisters.
I’ve been collecting them for twenty years, and I have fifteen of them, many of which are featured prominently in my kitchen.
You can see a good number of them on the top two shelves of my hutch.
Isn’t the tiny enamel picnic basket on the middle shelf darling?
It’s one of my favorite things.
These canisters are in constant rotation, and every time I pull one down it makes me smile.
They were not inexpensive (many are about fifty years or older and I think all but a few are European) but they were collected one at a time (mostly Ebay, a few from a shop in San Francisco) and I’ll have these forever.
And then there’s my hardest working player in the kitchen.
A robin’s egg blue enamel-covered cast iron Dutch oven.
I use it daily — and I have the chips to prove it.
I bought it almost ten years ago from the Martha Stewart collection at Macy’s. The color is perfect and it sits permanently on my stove, always at the ready. Soups, stews, braises — you name it.
(Don’t look for it now — the idiots that be discontinued this color. Alas.)
And lest you think that my enamelware obsession stops inside the house, think again.
I have four vintage enamel coolers I have collected over the years, and not until I went to a gardening show and saw a miniature of one of these planters was I able to picture how to put them to good use.
Our gardener drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and quarterly she refills and refreshes them. It’s fun — I can spy them through the French doors from my kitchen outside and every once in a while I will look out there and see something new sprouting up. Yeah –a verdant surprise awaits me!
I love how their cheery pop of aqua pops amidst the mossy-lined stone pavers in our backyard. In the winter when the garden looks rather dreary, this splash of color is all the more important.
Coolers — not just for chilling beer.
Not familiar with enamelware?
Occasionally you will find a retailer that sells it new (I bought some great enamel mugs from West Elm a couple years back) but mostly you will find it at garage sales, thrift shops and antique spots.
Don’t let the odd chip or two on your enamelware prevent you from enjoying it.
Just think of the occasional chips and nicks on enamelware like laugh lines on your face — happy proof of a life well-lived.