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HomeOpinionThe Papa Files: Circle of Blue Pt. 2

The Papa Files: Circle of Blue Pt. 2

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I grew up cooking with gas. Well, mostly my mother did the cooking, but gas is what I learned on. Then in the very late 80s we (my own family) moved into a government house that had a coil stove. It took a while for us to get used to it, a lot longer for me because my wife did most of the cooking, (Hey, I was in the military, and yes that is a legitimate excuse). Coils take longer to heat up and longer to cool down, and I burned a lot of bacon, eggs and hamburger before I figured out where to point the knobs, and to not leave anything in the pan after I turned off the stove because those darned coils would keep on cooking! Perhaps the modern versions are better, but remember I’m talking about the “olden days” and very old stoves. We cooked on coils for thirty-two years.

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Immediately I didn’t like the flattop. I discovered I couldn’t use my copper bottom pots and pans. Over the years the coils themselves had distorted into depressed circles, lower in the middle, and had changed the shape of my cookware into what I call “Wok bottoms” which means the copper had bowed into bowels. The selling point of such an amalgamation back then was how quickly it transferred heat into the vessel’s contents, but the bottoms are thin and therefore subject to warping. It’s a subtle change, but now when I set them on a flat surface, they rock back and forth and all around. I timed how long it took to boil water in my favorite medium pot, and it was twenty-four minutes before the first bubble rose. A convexity is worthless on a plain. So we had to buy all new stainless steel, and with thick bottoms. But I kept my coppers, because they’ll work fine on the ring-grates of a gas stove, should we ever get one.

And speaking of cookware, I have decided to get rid of non-stick. Every year or so (and by “so” I mean less than a year) I’ve had to buy new small and medium pans because the old ones stopped non-sticking. A few weeks ago I bought new pans and finally read the instructions that came with them. It said you should only use medium to low heat, and never use any kind of oil. The first thing I cooked on the small pan was a cheese sandwich. The next day I tried to cook an egg in that pan, and what was supposed to be fried turned into a partially scrambled egg from my trying to turn it over and getting it onto my plate. That little bit of butter the day before ruined it. And medium to low heat? I had to raise the temp to even start the clear of the egg into cooking white. So yeah, I’m getting full metal pots and pans and I will cook with oil. And for your flattop’s sake, never sauté by sliding a pan across the glass surface; That includes Jiffy Pop. Every speck of dust, every missed dashing of salt and pepper, and every faint paw print of cat litter grit will sandpaper your stove.
I hope one day to get gas again. I remember the simplicity of it, the total control of temperature. And I miss the really cool thing that happened when I cooked Ramyun in Korea (which is Ramen here): the noodles would start boiling from the center up, creating a vortex that looked like a doughnut. I was always mesmerized by that. I’ve tried on coils and flattop, but only that beautiful circle of blue flames can roll your noodles.

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