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I can’t live without my 16-quart pot

During the COVID shutdown, I have spent time editing my possessions. After all, I’m 73, and the thought of a terminal move moves me to lighten up. Although perhaps I’ve already made my terminal move, who knows?

In any case, less is more. The thought of packing and lifting all this stuff, especially books, daunts.

I’ve made progress: lots to Goodwill, books to Book Exchange, some Craigslist freebies, garbage and recycling cans unusually full. Others seem to be doing the same.

Which brings me to my gorgeous, 16-quart Paul Revere pot, which I’ve been lugging around lo these many years. Why do I have a 16-quart pot? I can’t remember. I don’t make stock. For a single woman with no children, this seems excessive. But I love my Paul Revere kitchenware; they don’t make it like that anymore.

OK, I sez to myself, if you’re going to keep this thing, you’ve got to use it.

I find a nice, big, smoked ham hock at Shop‘n Kart. I buy a large bag of split peas at the Ashland Food Co-op. I buy almost $20 worth of giant carrots, parsnips and leeks at the Farmers Market. I’m thinking pea soup for the ages.

I don’t think I need a recipe. Aren’t split peas the kind that don’t need soaking and simmering? I throw everything in the pot, with lots of arbitrary spices, onions, water.

Everything except the peas gets pretty mushy pretty soon. The peas don’t seem to budge in their hardness. The hock turns out to be 95% fat; I remember meaty hocks.

Oh, well. I parcel the 16 quarts into various containers, resigned to perhaps a year of mushy veg and pebbly peas swimming in a veneer of fat. It’s certainly not good enough to give away, and I NEVER throw food away. I have some for dinner; a glass of wine helps.

Too late, I remember Zen priest Ed Brown’s inscription to me in his cookbook “Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings_ — “Please don’t make a recipe of not following recipes.”

To keep the pot or not? I’ve already offered it to someone with an extended family, but she doesn’t need it. It’s back in the pantry awaiting its fate, next to an enormous covered baking pan, equally confused as to why it’s there.

Perhaps I should try my first turkey?

Julia Sommer lives in Ashland.

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