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No One Has Pans Like Mine

“No one has pans like mine!” bragged a man to his partner at the next table.

“Mama!” flashed through my brain. Although passed on awhile ago, my mother is always with me in my cooking. I always feel her love.

Virginia (my mother) did not have a lot of possessions; however, she gave me love, strength, and an unerring sense of curiosity. Telling me always, “I know you can do it,” was the mantra my mother gave me, even though I didn’t always think I could.

Her most prized possessions that she passed to me were her cast iron skillets. Their black, shiny patina reflects the beautiful patina of her soul that only a special person develops over a lifetime. So well seasoned, she scrambled eggs in those skillets, made pancakes, tortillas on a comal. Stable and durable – mama and her skillets.

When I shipped them home from Texas, I did not use them for a long time. They were sacred. I did not dare use them. Then, one 10 Chairs dinner, I was making cornbread and tried to find the proper pan. But, I could not find the right one. Then I saw those venerable skillets, all shiny, black, with those fine patinas. Dare I?

I carefully pulled all of them out, 10 to be exact. Salted, oiled, and cleaned them. That day, Virginia and I cooked together once again.

Sometimes I reach for a shiny stainless steel pan. But, the pull of those old cast iron pans, those beauties beckon me home. Standing with her at the stove as she makes tortillas with eggs and onions for me, she is ever close to me as I look around my own kitchen with her sturdy, durable pans ever at the ready.

Limits

The other day, I walked to ballet class at Ballet Arts, an historic building that has housed artists and teachers since 1837. Located behind Carnegie Hall, it began as Studio 61, home to Lucia Chase, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine: so many creative talents who seemed to see a world without limits.

Many years ago I was a ballet dancer and still take class when my schedule permits. Going through the rigors of the combinations that begin with plies and end with grand allegro, has been a regimen since I was around 7.

That day, in class, I ran into a very talented singer, actress, comedian, and dancer that I had not seen in a while. She looked fabulous and started to describe her diet to me. No sugar, alcohol, coffee etcetera. My first reaction was to run home, go though my pantry and toss out all those items.

On second thought I could not imagine no wine, bread, coffee, or sugar and how limiting that would be.

But, it sparked something in my thinking: why not reverse the idea of “limits” and use that reversal as a stimulus to strive towards a creative and limitless world? I hesitate to say the next menu will not eliminate all of those items. But, the idea of seeing a new perspective on the culinary arts, inspired me to think and reach out for new ideas.

So as I sit writing the menu for the next 10 Chairs NYC, I am thinking without boundaries. Life can be about having options without kowtowing to the ideas of narrow thoughts and minds.

Join me in experiencing creativity without limits.
Chef Patricia Williams

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