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Table scraps

The pot dilemma

“You got me pots?” was my reaction to a Christmas gift.

While my gift giver saw my newly discovered passion and education for cooking boiling away visibly under the glass lids on top of the beautiful stainless steel pots he bought, I saw myself barefoot and pregnant.

What’s next? A vacuum? A mop?

I’ve gone through many identities in my life, but the word domestic never fit anywhere — I made sure of it.

I now had pots. I had to be domestic. Soon I would be knitting sweaters for my five cats and having dinner set on the kitchen table at 6 p.m. every night — fortunately, I don’t have a kitchen table so I am at least safe on that account.

I moved from domestic little housewife to defending what I’ve referred to too many times as my “graveyard of burnt pots”. Still I defended the scraped surfaces with bottoms whose stainless steel and copper three-ply base labeling was barely readable due to the blackness.

After I got over myself and realized that I could still be an independent woman despite a nice set of pots, I remembered cautions my mom had conveyed when I acquired my first set for college — shamefully the same ones I still have today with maybe two or three new additions. (When bought separately and mismatched, the effect of the domestic syndrome is considerably less.)

I remembered something about copper poisoning and the connection of aluminum with Alzheimer’s disease.

My new pots (that I now readily embraced, thinking about the new culinary adventures they would take me on) were heavy, stainless steel with an encased aluminum bottom, handles were soldered on and each pot had a glass lid that actually paired up to fit with every pot, go figure.

The whole notion of having a glass lid to check on food without lifting the lid was very exciting, but I wasn’t so sure about the aluminum bottom.

I read through dozens and dozens of web pages talking about the cooking pot dilemma, trying to figure out whether I should heed my mother’s words or throw caution to the wind and start my cooking marathon — mind you I might not remember any of it by the time I am 70.

Stainless steel always sounded like a safe choice. And despite reading about the possibility of stainless steel metals (stainless steel is made up of a combination of metals including nickel, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum and/or carbon steel) releasing into food in low quantities, it seemed like the lesser of the evils when looking at other options.

Health Canada says that while aluminum has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, “there is no definite link proven”. Other sites say the link was discovered during studies in the 1970s, and that the results of that study have never been duplicated.

Anodized aluminum cookware (the non-stick stuff) is another option, with an acid solution and aluminum oxide layer sealing in the effects of aluminum, although the surface only reduces the leaching of aluminum.

Anything that comes with a warning label not to use acidic foods or store food for long periods of time has got me thinking — I think I’ll listen to my mom.

Aluminum conducts heat well, it’s light and it’s cheap. Copper pots also conduct heat well although these trophy gems are heavy and expensive with the possibility of leeching copper into your food. Some websites lauded the leeching, saying that women don’t get enough copper in their diet as it is. One even argued, “copper pots add enough copper to water to prevent bacteria from growing and may therefore be useful to avoid travelers’ diarrhea.” So you know what to bring on your next backpacking trip to Walkerton, Ontario. A U.K. study also reported that cooking with copper pots could lower the risk of food infections. E.coli can survive for more than a month on stainless steel and only four hours on copper.

However, Health Canada (along with my mom) warns that high levels of copper in someone’s diet can be hazardous to your health.

Then there is cast iron, ceramic and glass options — none interested me.

So back to my Christmas pots. Stainless steel was a good choice, but would a copper or aluminum bottom be better?

I’ve decided on a copper base and to reduce concerns about leaching, I’ll take better care of my new pots, such as using non-abrasive cleaning products/items to reduce damage to the bottoms of pots, not turning up heat past medium high, not putting salt in water before boiling, and not leaving a cooking pot on the stove while I decide to “quickly” do a load of laundry, take my dog for a walk or write a small novel.