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“Grandma’s Yellow Pan”

by | Feb 4, 2014

John and Everett never turn down a pumpkin pie that they can help make.

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Cinnamon rolls are always a big hit. And I’ve written before about the Soup’n’O’s that are standard fare, a basic chicken vegetable soup with alphabets which is requested morning, noon, and night.

But if you ask a grandchild what I do best, it’s as if I never made a cream puff or a Salade Nicoise. You’d think I hadn’t a clue how to make a Buche de Noel or spanakopita.

Give them rice or potatoes or eggs. And not just any rice, potatoes, or eggs. The ones I cook, and in the case of eggs, specifically in the yellow pan.


“I like your rice, Natmuhmum,” says Simon, hoping to see it on the table with crunchy seaweed no matter what else is on the menu.

“Make Grandma potatoes,” says Asher, referring to simple wedges put in the oven with olive oil to roast.

And as for eggs made in the ancient yellow Copco pan, apparently nothing can equal them.

Even ten years ago, Bryce kept vigil with Robby over an omelette in this special enameled iron frying pan.


The boys in Rockville were refusing eggs made in nonstick skillets, and even eggs made in iron skillets as a last resort. They were adamant that it had to be a yellow pan like Grandma’s. Their mom was desperate enough that I went on line to search for vintage Copco.

As I searched, I remembered buying my pan in 1970. Robby and I had driven to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There was a Copco outlet featuring manufacturer’s seconds on the edge of town. As a new bride, I had little experience with purchasing any household item, but had heard my sister Linda refer to Copco in reverential tones. I knew it was Scandinavian and that it featured warm earthy colors, the kind I liked. I shopped until I found exactly what I wanted—the little yellow pan that promised omelettes to match the ones Robby and I had enjoyed for Sunday supper when we were studying French in Belgium, seasoned with starry-eyed love.

I bought the little yellow pan. Somewhat penniless at that point in our lives, we paid for our shopping by sleeping in the Peugeot that night in the Smoky Mountains near where a garbage can had been overturned by bears.

But it was worth it. This pan went to Africa and back with us—twice. Its bottom blackened from the kerosene camp stove we used in our Kongolo home, and possibly from Kitenge, who used an excess of oil for every cooking project. No soap was ever used on it, and no Brillo pads. All we did was wipe it out with a cloth or paper towel, and use a little water if necessary. It kept its oiled skin ready for action at all times.

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In the 90’s, the pan went back and forth to Hines Middle School as I demonstrated crepe-cooking to my middle-school French classes.


I really should have used it the day I made do with a skillet from the Living Skills teacher, and had the scary experience of the hot skillet and crepe breaking off the handle and flying through the air when I flipped it, narrowly missing principal Steve Chantry who had been invited to observe and admire. I wish I had a picture of that to show you, but you will have to use your imaginations.

So it was a pan with history, and each year added something to its patina.  As I searched, I was delighted to find exactly the same vintage pan on line, now probably over forty years old. So excited, I got it for the family who so desperately needed it so that their children could once again have eggs for breakfast.

But you know what? That pan did not have the magic. Pristine and white, well-kept and probably scrubbed within an inch of its life, it had no history of the endless crepes, omelettes, and tortillas mine had. The eggs stuck no matter how much oil was used.

So, we’re back to my kitchen! This morning the yellow pan turned out a spinach, roasted red pepper, and onion omelette. Tomorrow it will be something else. And when any of the grandchildren spend the night, they will have eggs as a breakfast option—in Grandma’s yellow pan.