I had just received Scipione in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and I was smitten from the moment I opened the box. I remembered it as it was yesterday, the minute, the instant we met. “Scipione” I murmured to myself, as I unveiled the pan from its box and placed it on the kitchen stove with its lid on top. Just like his brothers and sisters before, Scipione glimmered in the light. He had a stance, naturally, just by sitting there, its copper armor was finely hammered and lined with stainless steel, this, was a piece of culinary artistry.
My eyes at first could not believe the richness of the details, in the curvature of the main handle its smooth and comfortable finish as it rested, naturally, against the palm of the hand. The assist second handle, riveted in place on the opposite side, did shine like a jewel, this for me, was not a pan, it was a magical talisman, full of promises. It gave me dreams of dinners to be made for a lucky few, long hours in the kitchen creating new stories and chapters of our life together. I was so happy. My wife saw me hugging the pan close to my chest and she heard the words of my whisper, understood it all, in spite of the fact that I spoke in Sicilian dialect: “ Scipiu’ ti vogghiu bene assai! ( Scipione I love you!)”.
Once I leaped pass the stairs and got in the kitchen, at first, I stood there silently, saw the smoke approaching the ceiling and then I snapped into action at once. I immediately started pushing the blackened smoke away from the fire alarm in the ceiling, using Scipione’ws own lid, whilst clicking the hood vent above the stove to its maximum speed. I kept stealing glances of Scipione, there all alone, scarred and burnt, sitting atop the cooking grates of my stove.
Then it hit me. Scipione was looking at me as if saying: “Dude! what are you doing ? get in me in sink and pour some soapy warm water and let me be for a while, I will be ok…. We got a sauce we need to do over, Caspisce?”.
I do not know what this says about me, talking to copper pan, like this. For some people around me, this might have appeared as an act of madness, a hallucination maybe, but, to me it was the natural thing to do. Scipione was not an inanimate object, he had a soul, we had a connection, he was my buddy!
I followed Scipione’s instructions, I let it cool down first, then I poured some hot water and added a bit of liquid soap, stirred that around an let it be for 15-20 minutes. By the time I came back with a non-abrasive sponge, I started wiping gently the bottom of the pan and to my amazement, the blackened quagmire from the burn came off, with minimal effort. A couple of washes with warm and soapy water finished the rest, Scipione was as good as new and when he looked at me after I dried the last bit of water off him, he said: “ Nico’ Scitate ca noatri avimmo a Cucinari! ( Nick wake up, we got cooking to do!)”. And so it went, on this one eve at the feet of my greatest defeat, pushed by Scipione, I rallied up and came up with a huge victory instead.
Scipione and I moved through all the steps in the recipe with care attention and above all passion and love. The masterpiece that ensued was the product of a remarkable turnaround, inspired in no small part by his ever-so-perfect heat distribution, every stir was calculated. By the time the sauce came to its perfect fruition, we added the shellfish, shrimps and lobster, an unusual cut of pasta known as Mezzi Rigatoni, typical of us Sicilians, and while I was stirring the sauce and the pasta together, I came to realize the power of Scipione, this magical talisman was inspiring my vision and holding my hand when I was uncertain. I do not care how great anyone else is in the kitchen, but, I will tell you this, from time to time you will come close to a culinary disaster at the most inopportune moment. The lucky ones amongst us will find the inspiration they need to turn things around, the commoners like me can always use the help of a true warrior like Scipione.
A pan like this is not made to show off, rather it is made to face up to cooking most ignominious challenges. In the end, it all depends on us, if you do not have it inside of you already, a pan will not give you passion, or love or purpose or intent for that matter, but, I will tell you this, Scipione did that for me, he awoke me from my panic and urged me on. Cooking is like everything else in life, is hard, it is fraught with challenges and defeats along the way. It is what we do with these experiences that makes us the chefs we are like my father used to say; “ In the end we are what we become!” . I will always remember his favorite saying: “ Tutto e’ Possibile” ( all is possible) .