As bad as that present was it was the first of many gift missteps for Marc. A few years later he discovered the gift certificate and after many years of marriage I removed the element of surprise and would just say flat out “I’d love a ________ for my birthday” versus the annual birthday bitterness. This year, we were in San Francisco for my birthday. I was so focused on the trip it honestly didn’t occur to me that my birthday was coming until I made a dinner reservation the week before and said the date aloud. Prior to the trip Marc asked what I wanted for a present. I said, “nothing, a card is fine.” He pressed a little and said the kids would want me to get something. Tuesday morning, the boys came into the hotel room with grins clutching paper in their hands. I opened two beautiful cards with a lanyard each inside. Marc (incredibly more romantic years later) handed me a manila envelope, the large size with the clasp. With zero expectations I opened it. I saw William Sonoma and my pulse rate increased; I pulled it out and read All Clad Stainless Steel. Perfect present.
You buy yourself new shoes or a new bag; you don’t always buy new pots and pans. First, they’re expensive and second they last or appear to last a long time. The truth is I have very few pots and pans because I was once the owner of nonstick pots and pans. I tossed those when I read about the bird deaths. Do you know about the birds? EWG reported years ago about pet birds dying due to a chemical in Teflon pans. The chemical they pinpointed is perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA. The makers of these pots and pans defended their products as safe unless heated to high temperatures. Both EWG and Good Housekeeping performed tests and in minutes pans were hot enough to emit toxic chemicals. I’m so tired of manufacturers saying products or additives are “safe at certain levels” or “safe unless…” Saying a pan is safe unless overheated is like saying you don’t need your seatbelt unless the car is moving. Cars move and pans heat. Nonstick pans are even more likely to emit chemicals when chipped or scratched. In 2006, DuPont was pressured by the EPA to phase out PFOA in their pan coatings by 2015. However, there’s some speculation that the replacement chemical is no better.
I recently asked Alexandra Zissu, author of “Conscious Kitchen” for her cookware choices. She said “Le Creuset is fantastic (cast iron covered in a layer of glass basically) but $$$. Cast iron is cheaper and equally safe. Stainless steel, the real deal, is also great. I would avoid the things with aluminum cores. I use all three; I have a big stainless frying pan for sautéing all veggies, I use cast iron frying pans for searing meat and transferring it to the oven and a big Le Creuset for everything else.
Those are all good options. I’m not sure if Marc knew the Stainless Steel pots were “safe” or if he just looked at a couple of the All Clad I already had and went with the same thing. Either way, pots and pans, dinner at Nopa in San Francisco and salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery (many people were deeply concerned I wouldn’t have a birthday treat) made for a terrific birthday. I know I’m screwed next year.
What type of pots and pans do you use? Have you switched recently? What’s the worst present you’ve ever received?
great post: funny and informative! I'm trying to use more cast iron but they are so damn heavy! Wish I could afford le creuset…need to start saving 🙂
ha, i love that your husband has wisened up and buys you cookware for your birthday – i'd prefer that over an oversized shirt any day 😉
i recently just purchased (with winnings from a blog contest, woo) a vesta magefesa brand set of stainless steel pots and pans. i love it so far, yet struggle to keep the pan clean. i do find though that it cooks meat better, and of course the shiny look makes me feel like a real chef (or something). i've been hearing bad things about stainless steel for awhile, so i'm very happy to make the switch. though i do love my one cast iron pan (which is REALLY hard to clean) for chicken and things every once in awhile!
*bad things about non-stick! WOW it's early 😉
Justine- I used to have a cast iron but it was small. Even my All Clad are heavy (is cooking the new workout?). Sofia I don't know Vesta Magefesa have to look them up. I use a product called Barkeepers Friend for cleaning stubborn stains (probably toxic have to look into now that I type it.).
I threw out my non-stick cookware to after reading about PFOA. It drives me crazy when they say "safe at certain levels" too!! Over the years I've become more and more skeptical of what people tell me is "safe."
Save with the caveat makes me insane too Lisa, that's not safe in my book. What do you use now?
Such a great gift! I love my All-Clad Stainless (and I highly recommend Bar Keepers Friend to keep them looking new)- but supplement with Le Creuset's french oven and my cast iron that have been in the family for 3 generations.
I briefly considered the "new" non-stick that claim to be safe, but you still can't use in high heat (how do I brown things??) and decided that it could take a few years before they figure out that it really does have issues.
Plus, I am pretty sure my cooking has improved with the new cookware 🙂
ooh 3 generations cast iron, I love it. I'm with you on the new nonstick. It sort of seems (right now) to be the Splenda of cookware. New but not proven to be improved (or with the yellow crap just as bad).
I have found the best way to clean stainless steel is add water and a little baking soda and let it come to a boil then let it sit for a little while. You can also use kosher salt as an abrasive. As for cast iron, you can make a baking soda, water paste and that will help remove stains and rust, but don't let water sit in cast iron. Borax claims to be non toxic, and that can be used on pans too, but I'm skeptical.
Colin knows that cookware is one of the few gifts he can buy without my input. He just looks for All Clad or La Creuset and he's in good shape. (BTW, Overstock.com is a great place to find both brands at good prices.) He knows that a generous gift card from W-S or Sur La Table wins me over as well. He's had a few missteps, but those are easily returned. Overall, he's a thoughtful gift giver and I'm lucky. My favorite pan is the big cast iron skillet that my grandmother used. Makes the most amazing fried chicken and cornbread.
Worst gift — not inflicted on me but a friend. Her husband wanted to get her "sexy underwear". They are outdoorsy people, so he went to REI and got her a Patagonia sports bra and a Patagonia thong in the nastiest vanilla color. He got both in size XL, and she's a medium at best. The thong was the size of a car cover. She laughed and then she cried. And then she divorced him.
Great post, Lauren! I have to admit, I haven't paid much attention to this information but now that we clearly need a new pan, I will…
Sounds like your birthday was great, so glad!
Meg D in NYC
Marie- I have come (no pun at all) to realize that men and women have very different visions of sleepwear and what constitutes sexy sleepwear. Either way, a "thong the size of a car cover" is wrong. Meg- love your admission that's why I write the post and feel some people feel things are old news and some people haven't heard before. Bday was great but coming home- not so much. XO
Great post. I've been meaning to switch up my pots and pans because I still use really old, scratched non-stick cookware with the exception of a big Le Creuset skillet (also a very sweet gift). I don't cook a ton–maybe once or twice a week, so are there certain pots/pans that you'd recommend for someone starting from scratch?
Thanks! Happy belated birthday!
First Betty, toss the old nonstick asap. If you have a large skillet I would suggest a large pot (stainless or le cruset) for soups/chili/stews with fall coming. A medium put that can hold a steamer basket is great for veggies/grains. If you're an egg girl a small cast iron is a great option too.
Think about what you cook most and get the pot that makes sense.
E and I are desperately in need of pots and pans. We have cheapy ones that we just grabbed one day at Macy's. I should probably check into them to make sure they aren't killing me. Yikes!
They may not be killing you…yet. I hope you don't have birds. Toss the old and as I said to Betty, buy 1 new. Some good suggestions in the comments above as well.
SCARY! I knew non-stick was a problem but didn't realize how bad it was! We have a few all clad pieces 2 pots (1 big and 1 small) and then a 3qt saute pan that I LOVE but I use a small non stick frying pan for eggs!! Yikes…
Also important to check which all clad, 100% stainless steel is what you want.
Waiting for the day to move and the first thing I do is get new pots and pans! I love my cast iron skillet but I'm still using the junky stuff I had with me in college! Even post-wedding, we bundled everything up and keep it in my parents attic until we move to a house! It's been almonst 2 yuears…I'm ready to open my stuff! haha
Ha, Erin- even the makers of teflon say it has a 3 to 5 year lifespan. I think tossing the college pots and pans is something we all need to do.
This post made me laugh. It's so much better for everyone when we stop having expectations for romantic gifts. But your husband got you exactly the right thing! I still have teflon pans. I need to buy new ones…it's just that the good stuff is so expensive.
I'm glad it made you laugh, you make me laugh all the time. The non-romantic gifts make me laugh so much they're almost better.
My mom is the same way..she just tells my dad exactly what she wants. Ha.
Glad you got a great gift and had a wonderful birthday.
I do have a couple nonstick pans which I need to switch over. I had heard they weren't good to use. Shame on me for not knowing the reason.
Kristin, I think many people don't know the reasoning behind the pots/pans (that's why I posed on it). When's your bday, you need to tell your family what you want. I think you posted about some bday celebrations so I fear your bday isn't for a while, the holidays maybe!
Hmm. I use non-stick…maybe it's time to switch over to stainless steel?
I can't believe the hubby got you a medium. You are tiny! Funny.
Sam, I was tiny pre babies now I'm still definitely a small, sheesh.
We have a 10-Piece Emeril Stainless Steel Cookware that we invested in 7-8 years ago, after ditching all our non-stick. It still looks like new and I use it everyday. Worth every penny.
Let's see, worst b-day present? hummmm, when he does not know, he just does not buy anything, which I like. Over the years, I got a printer, a MP3 player, a stainless steel electric kettle… not very romantic but useful.
I am currently reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck. Did you read it? There are a few pages about DuPont.
Haven't read Slow Death sounds scary, will check it out. I love a practical present.
We registered for and received Calphalon pots when we got married. I read about how bad the nonstick was for you so I have been gradually buying all-clad pans. I got rid of the Calphalon–what a waste of money there! I now have 3 all-clad pans and, so far, that's all I've really needed. I just bought the pans that I used the most.
Great blog Lauren!
Great story and happy birthday! I have to say my husband is generally a great present maker. He has bought me some very cut clothes that I might not normally have bought for myself 🙂 My pan collection is a bunch of stainless steel pans fo WS which were a wedding present, 1 Scanpan- "green" non-stick, not teflon; 1 cast iron skilletvwhich was a b-day present from my best friend ,AND a le Creuset pot which my husband surprised me with several months go after I wrote on my blog that I was "coveting" one. He's a good man, and sounds like you got a good one too 🙂
Bryna, love "Mrs Thompson". I had Calphalon nonstick from my registry too, so sad. And I agree, you don't need 100 pots/pans if strategic can do 2 pots and 2-3 pans and really have your based covered. EA the only think I worry about is the "green" nonstick. I tossed a small scanpan recently because of this. People are split as to safety. Seems you have a good present man- who reads your blog too.
First of all, happy birthday! Secondly, if my husband handed me pots and pans I'd probably divorce him. 🙂 And thirdly, I use Calphalon because my mom says they are good and I know zero about cooking, as evidenced by my rather crappy food! They do the trick but I probably should check to see how safe they are.
See and I think pots/something I love are romantic. Check to see if Calphalon nonstick or calphalon stainless, it's important for you and your family.
Could you please let us know if you find a way to make omelets or pancakes? I miss those.
I love this. Thank you for sharing, Lauren. Happy birthday!!!!!!! This year I asked to go to Chicago for my birthday. The great surprise was when my 25 year old son showed up at the art museum. He flew up for the day. He got off from his E. R rotation. I was so happy that I cried. They pulled off a great surprise. It was the best gift to be with my favorite boys when I turn fifty. 🙂
oh my goodness Ayala that is a great present. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I love Chicago too.
How did I miss this fantastic post? Your 21st bday story is priceless! Well told, too. I had the opposite experience with my first Bday present from my, um, common-law person. He got me the ugliest table lamp in the history of table lamps. I was like, what? Why? He's gotten much better – same as you, I just tell him what I want.
I don't think guys should ever buy clothes for their significant others without them being present to choose and try on!
I would LOOOVE new pots and pans. Yay for you and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
This is so helpful! The cookware we use at home is embarrassing! I will def add this to the registry if we do one!
Because there's so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I'm not surprised that you are concerned. I'm a representative of DuPont though, and hope you'll let me share some information with you and your readers, so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.
Because birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them. Cooking fumes, smoke and odors that have little or no effect on people can seriously sicken and even kill birds, often quite quickly. Cooking fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, not just non-stick, can damage a bird's lungs with alarming speed. This is why bird owners should take steps to protect their pets, such as keeping their birds out of the kitchen, never leaving cookware unattended, never allowing pots and pans to overheat, and making sure that their kitchen is properly ventilated at all times.
It should be noted that butter, fats, and cooking oils will begin to smoke at approximately 400°F (204°C), producing fumes that can irritate eyes, nose, and throat and possibly cause respiratory distress. DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to deteriorate in appearance or performance until the temperature of the cookware reaches about 500°F
Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at the Teflon® brand. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon® non-stick without worry.
Thank you for the information. As a Dupont representative, I would imagine you to reassure consumers to use a product. Unfortunately, birds aside, I have Teflon concerns I presented to my readers. Most home cooks have no idea what temperature their food is cooking at on the stovetop nor do that always notice cracks and nicks in old teflon. The settlement between the EPA and Dupont (largest ever) speaks volumes. I personally cannot use nonstick without worry and worry about prior usage. Anyone curious about the settlement can read more here http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/tsca/dupont121405.html.
Just want you to know cookware is on my list to buy after reading this post a few weeks ago. You would be horrified if you saw my skillets. And after reading this, I am too. Thank you for this information.