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Empy Kitchen Syndrome

I thought I should start a post called "Empty Kitchen Syndrome" because I still have the mindset of feeding many and that's not the case anymore.

I have the large A/C braiser - which I used a lot when the kids and their friends were around - but I can't recall the last time I used it. Must have been 3 years ago? I love the pan, but it's overkill at this point.

Same with my bakeware. The muffin top pans, for example. My son's best friend seemed to show up every time I made corn muffin tops with pecan butter. I can't remember dragging them out for quite a while. Or any other cake, muffin, or loaf pans lately.

Maybe it's our change in diet. We don't eat like we used to - except for the holidays now. So, this Thanksgiving, when I dragged out my French porcelain tart pan, my pan for monkeybread, my pan for pumpkin cheesecake, I realize that I need to kick all this shit to the curb.

Well, not the curb. But stick all of it in one of those plastic bins and use all that extra space for stuff I use now.

Life changes, and sometimes it gives you more room for the new shit that you now think you need...

I raise a glass to all of us.


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  1. Hi breadchick;

    I'm not exactly in the same stage of life that you seem to be in, but I can feel some of the melancholy you may be feeling. My wife and I are expecting our second this Christmas, and our first is a few months past his third birthday.

    Already, I am in fear of the time when they grow up and move out. Even the hint of separation from them hurts. It's like smelling a blenderfull or pureed habaneros. Just the first whiff of the stuff from three feet away lets you know how bad it's going to be to eat it.

    I'm sad those days when you could express your love to your family members through cooking are less frequent. I show my love similarly, and I enjoy having this luxury, for now.

    Whether or not to let go of the utensils, I suppose, will come down to how utilitarian you are, as opposed to how nostalgic. I am more the latter, so I have been accused of hoarding.

    Whatever you decide to do with the cookware, I wish you success in finding fulfillment in this stage of life. I know making this transition will be very difficult for me.


    4 Replies
    1. re: alarash

      Thanks, alarash. I still do cook, which I brought those baking pans out for the holiday - but, I realize these efforts are now less frequent and I'm okay with it. Lot of nashing, but it's all good.

      Congratulations to you and your wife for your second blessing. It will be a wonderful Christmas.

      My daughter just had identical twin girls three weeks ago, and I'm thrilled with our first grandchildren.

      Hey, I think I may need to drag those pans back out by next Christmas.

      1. re: breadchick

        pull those pans out NOW! send her whatever you can bake or cook via post, fedEx, or friends - she needs all the kitchen support she can get with newborn twins! Mazeltov!

      2. re: alarash

        Alarash - I completely understand your feelings. My husband and I have the same pangs about our son.

        I don't have too much under-used kitchen items, probably because I don't bake and no one in the family actually cooked so I don't have family treasures.

        I do have more cheap sheet pans than I actually need yet I can't give them up.

      3. My kids are 15 and 18, and I was thinking recently about how much my cooking will change. Its bittersweet. Good to see them grow up (and grow up knowing about food and cooking), but sad to have to share them with the rest of the world.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lazy_lurker

          So true, lazy-lurker. Actually, my son is dating a really wonderful woman, and when they came over for Thanksgiving, she said "wow, this explains a lot." She saw what my kitchen looks like and told me that my son is exactly like me. (Smile.)

          Have a great holiday.

          1. re: breadchick

            Maybe your son could use some of your "outgrown" items? My youngest is 12 so still some time together but he is shaping up to be a good cook and potential recipient of a cast iron pan + more.

        2. Hi, breadchick: " I realize that I need to kick all this shit to the curb..."

          I counsel restraint and judicious giving. In all likelihood, there are grandchildren coming to visit, and you might be surprised how the kids might suddenly "remember" the love that was served from your braiser, etc. For example, I have a nephew whose only polite request for a bequest is a large vintage stovetop popcorn popper.

          Scaling down the kitchen is fine. Discarding quality stuff without plans or storage space is a nightmare.


          6 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu

            As always, Kaleo, you pull the common sense out of such blather.

            Thanks, friend.

            1. re: breadchick

              Hi, breadchick:

              You're very welcome.

              My parents were children of the Depression (and many tough times before and after), and so never threw anything valuable away. They were fortunate enough to have virtually unlimited storage space, and so, when they passed, I had the "burden" of going through not only *their* kitchen stuff, but also the entire contents of one of my grandmother's kitchen (which *she* mostly inherited from my great-grandparents). What a blessing, really. I keep, for example, an enormous (like 10G) oval cast iron soap kettle, even though I've never--yet--made soap. It roots me.

              All this stuff--even one piece--tells an important story, one that cannot be bought on line or learnt fully, without the objects. If there is even a remote possibility someone you know or befriend will want to hear the stories, and actually hold the history, hang onto the stuff until you know the time and the person to whom to pass it.


            2. re: kaleokahu

              "My son's best friend seemed to show up every time I made corn muffin tops with pecan butter"

              so in Kaleo's spirit - now there would be a nice present for the friend if feasible: the muffin top pans and your personal recipe with a nice note regarding those memories and the hope if he can't figure out how to make them himself, he finds someone who can (but has to share with your son when in town).

              and I can relate to the corn popper, when my Grandmother passed some family had their eyes on big things, I said (and do NOT regret it) "all I would like, when it's convenient, is her set of aluminum flour/sugar/etc canisters". and that's what I got. I'm happy. I have the memories.

              1. re: hill food

                I can relate to your canisters, hill food. When Mom was clearing the decks of her cookware and bakeware, she was shocked that I passed by her good stuff and only wanted her
                Ecko slotted turner along with Grandma's rolling pin and the set of 3 nesting Hall bowls that were a Mother's Day gift from Mom to Grandma. Mom was 9 or 10 when she bought those at the 5 & dime, on layaway, for about a nickel a week, IIRC.

                All of them have seen better days, with the newest, the Ecko, dating from the 1960's, but I love and use them all. The Ecko turner is the 2nd-most used item in my kitchen, behind my favorite knife.

                My son already has his eye on the bowls. He can have them when the Hell-Beasts, excuse me, beloved grandsons, grow up. There's too much breakage going on there now.

                1. re: DuffyH

                  "Hell-Beasts" - gotta love that!

                  I have several things from my late mother that are still in great condition and better quality than most today: small chopper, nut bowl carved out of a real log of wood with the bark still intact (not plastic like now-a-days, thank you) and some crystal serving pcs., etc.

            3. I'm a mom to a 2 year old, and I have a pair of rubbermaid containers labeled "kitchen junk that I don't really use but don't want to get rid of" So they sit on their storage racks, next to all the size sorted bins of little girl clothes, waiting to see if the hypothetical future sibling is a boy or a girl. Loved, but not ready to let go. . .

              1 Reply
              1. re: autumm

                autumn, I think we need to invest in Rubbermaid - we'd be rich!!!

              2. What great timing for this thread.

                Since I moved onto the boat over 5 years ago, I have rented a 10X22 foot storage unit that I have told everybody is for Dear Daughter. And nobody believed me.

                So I received the notice that the rental was going to $198, and I called her up and said come get it. She is in a steady relationship, loves Houston, and is discovering Tex-Mex. They set a date, flew to Florida, and rented the largest U-Haul truck in the lot.

                We stopped counting the All-Clad at 40 pieces. Plus lids. She now has my hand forged kitchen knives from Tokyo, as well as about 20 Henkell knives from Germany. My Grandmother's sterling service for 12 with 10 pieces per setting. Love the ice cream forks and asparagus tongs. Graniteware roasting and canning pans. Numerous weird cast iron. Spode service for 36 (Party ware), Limoge and Villeroy & Boch from Luxembourg..

                A large variety of copperware, crystal, and Georgian silverplate servingware from the silver vaults in London. My commercial electric stove. She even got the duck press and lever action corkscrew that is mounted in restaurants in Europe.

                For the first time in my culinary life, I do not own a piece of All-Clad or a quality knife. I do not own a single piece of copperware or sterling. She has 2 dish barrels full of crystal.

                And I am so happy that I can be part of the process of their exploration of her stuff. Such as the phone call this weekend that they had only found 40 of my antique German beer steins. And she had given away a couple to family that appreciated them.

                Worth every penny of those storage fees.

                5 Replies
                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  HI, IRF:

                  Good for you. Remember to give DD my email in case she ever wants to sell that duck press! And didn't you say once you also have a copper jamboniere? ;)


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Sorry. She was overjoyed to get it. Had to explain how to use it to her boyfriend. Then she started lecturing him on how the sterling would be used every day even if he wasn't comfortable about using something so "fancy".

                    If I ever see another one at the estate sales here, I will get it for you. My pleasure.

                  2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                    That must feel really great. So fortunate that your DD loves and appreciates the stuff!

                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                      Wow, what a great story. It's a good thing I wasn't anywhere near your storage unit because my husband would've had to drag me away.

                      1. re: breadchick

                        In the 4 hours it took to load, 3 people stopped and asked to buy stuff. It was also stuffed with 10 years of European antiques. China schranks, desks, chairs, 2 150 year old grandfather clocks. She passed on my Science Fiction first editions from the 50s and 60s, so I sold them to a local store. Stranger in a Strange Land by RAH with DJ was the best return on a $5 find 40 years ago.

                    2. Yes, I know what you mean. Last year, I bought the Le Creuset goose pan, and feel like such a fool. I make goose perhaps once a year, and I end up sending meat home with people, and coaxing the stray cats in the neighborhood to our porch. My husband and I do not eat as much as we used to, and I hate to see good food go to waste.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: RosePearl

                        Oh, RosePearl - Hello - "Coaxing stray cats." I have to love it.

                        My kids always have told me "Mom, you take in the waifs and strays for the holidays." Yup. The more the merrier.

                      2. Hi... your post really resonated. My younger daughter recently set up house (apartment) with her boyfriend and it's just the two of us now. Ironically, although I have loved to cook for years (not really a baker) I didn't have the financial wherewithal for many of the nice kitchen pieces I lusted after. In the last few years I have been able to buy some... a few pieces of LeCreuset, a couple of good Wusthof and Japanese knives, a Breville toaster-oven and, just recently, a Sous Chef by Breville. The irony is that now that I can have these things, I need them less. Also, we eat a log more vegetarian food, a lot more soups and salads. Generally less involved dishes. Grandchildren are not, alas, on the near horizon. I feel sort of silly fulfilling these wishes now when they are no where near as practical as they once would have been.
                        I admire you for deciding to pare down... somewhere within, I feel that dis-encumbering... especially if it gives pleasure to others as the muffin top pan might well... is a great idea.
                        Whatever you decide to do... best wishes.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: debbypo

                          Hi debbypo, thank you.

                          I can relate to your situation, as well. For the past 15 years or so, I have been finally getting most of my good cookware and counter appliances. I still lust after some things, and it's stuff I really don't need! (I AM a kitchen junky.)

                          Enjoy your purchases - you deserve getting what makes you happy right now! :-)

                        2. All hail the muffin-top pan! Mine is in a plastic bag, along with the giant-sized cookie-cooling rack, that slides easily in the space between the fridge and the wall.

                          I don't think I've ever made muffin tops. Each of the 6 wells is perfect for a tartlet or individual crostata. I bake for one, so a whole pie doesn't make sense. By the time I'm done with it, it's soggy. Using the muffin-top pan, I can make a smaller batch (freeze rest of the dough) and can even vary the fillings. Although the nostalgia quotient makes everything else seem inferior to an all-American style fruit pie, I realized that I actually prefer the flavor of a rustic tart, because the reduced juices yield more intense flavor than the filling in a two-crust pie. And the dough edges folded over the top produce enough browned crust to be as satisfying as a traditional pie. True, you can bake a rustic tart on a flat baking sheet but they are neater in the muffin top pan. And I also like the kind of tartlet or quiche made with a pat-in-pan crust. Try the MT pan for individual brunch quiches, baked eggs, and thick, cakey cookies.

                          1. I really downsized after my divorce and this week I downsized again. It took a lot of soul searching to part with some of my things even though I never use the items I donated. I don't have kids, but I do have a very busy social life. Instead of making elaborate meals that require all the cookware and implements I used to own, I now plan with what I have or what I can borrow. The snazzy, new fangled kitchen items will be bought as gifts for others. I have a few friends that are around my age (50's) that are actually upsizing, moving to larger homes, remodeling and enlarging their kitchens etc. I can live vicariously through them.

                            1. My kids have flown the nest now for a number of years. My oldest is 40! (And I can't believe it.) I kept quite a bit of stuff, and have given many things to my kids. I finally had to admit that I had too many enamel poultry roasters, and I got of rid of a couple when we moved. And my bakeware was so beat up, I've replaced a lot of it.

                              I like the idea of putting things you are not using away, but not throwing them out. One of your kids will want at least some if it.

                              I kept a food mill for 40 years, when one of my kids mentioned needing one. I gave it away happily. And my kids got my pots and pans when I had to switch to induction ready pots.

                              At some point you will be cooking large extended family meals, and some of your big pots will come in handy. But now that there are only the two of you most of the time, you can concentrate on smaller quality things. Like you said, buy some new stuff. Its kind of fun, you know?