Slow, like it used to be

double-boilerThat right there to the left  is a double boiler, in case you’ve never seen such a thing. It’s made of Pyrex, which the lady at the Annunciation Church Rummage Sale told me was a very good thing.

I saw it sitting on the kitchenware table along with stacks of muffin tins and sets of china and many assorted plastic containers, and I picked it up.

“Is this a double boiler?” I said.

“Why yes,” she said, and then she went on to tell me of its Pyrex-ness, and of the many things it could be used for, such as custards and puddings.

It was $6, pricey for a rummage sale and against my rummage sale instincts, which are to drop in on a rummage sale the afternoon of its second day, which – as anyone in the rummage sale know knows – is when prices are slashed by 50%.

But I’ve wanted a double boiler for years now, so I ponied up the $6 and left with it clutched to my chest, and the next morning I made oatmeal in it.

I did it by feel. Filled the bottom pot with water and the smaller top pot with oatmeal and more water, and set it on the front burner turned to a medium flame, and then I went away and did a bunch of other things, such as weed the flower bed and fold laundry and stare nervously at the legs of the piano, which have come entirely unscrewed from the piano itself, so that at any moment the entire soundboard could come toppling onto the legs of someone sitting there innocently, practicing a pleasant tune.

Came back a long time later and the oatmeal was thick and creamy, as unlike instant microwaved oatmeal as it could be.

A long time ago, I used to take my little kids to the Lincoln Del for breakfast. We went on weekdays to take advantage of the Early Bird Breakfast Special, available from 6-8 a.m.

I can still see the laminated tabletop Early Bird Breakfast Special menu. Everything was absurdly cheap, so cheap that I felt guilty going there so often with my three little kids. But I went anyway.

Blueberry pancakes: $2.25. So thick with blueberries that they were a dark purple.

Cheese omelet: $3.25. This was unlike any cheese omelet I’ve ever had – baked in a small oval tin high-sided pan, more like a cheese-and-egg souffle than an omelet. It was indescribably delicious, so buttery and salty.

Oatmeal: $1.25. Brown sugar and raisins upon request, and we always requested.

We used to order three or four breakfasts and share them amongst us – the kids were very small and I would finish whatever was left from anyone’s plate – but we always ordered two bowls of oatmeal. Like everything they served at breakfast, the oatmeal was better than anyone else’s.

“Why is this oatmeal so good?” I asked the elderly waitress one day. (All the waitresses were elderly.) “What does he do?”

“Oh honey,” she said, “everyone loves the oatmeal here. All he does is cook it long and slow in a double-boiler. That’s the only secret.”

The Lincoln Del closed and was torn down a long time ago, but we – the kids and I – still mourn it. We still remember the oatmeal, and the blueberry pancakes, and the cheese omelets. The red vinyl booths. The chrome sugar shakers and napkin holders.

If there are degrees of separation between restaurants and food and cookware, then there is one degree of separation between the Lincoln Del and my new/old double boiler.

One degree of separation between those mornings long ago, before any of the kids were in school and we could sit together in a booth for a long time, spilling syrup and buttering toast, and mornings now, when a double boiler sits on the stove, slow-cooked oatmeal there for the taking.

One degree of separation between fast, like now, and slow, like it used to be.


  1. jenn · July 2, 2009

    Ah… the Lincoln Del. Dad always ordered the Matzo Ball Soup. Adventurous for a Presbyterian.


  2. oreo · July 2, 2009

    i have saved my dear departed grandma’s double boiler lo these many years, thinking for some reason that a person should have a double boiler. a grown-up person, which i somehow accidentally became, a person who must provide meals for her family that seats themselves at the oak dining room table, mouths upturned like those awaiting the poor bedraggled robin who lives in our yard and flits so industriously back to her nest, bearing sustenance.

    however, despite good intentions, never did i make custards, puddings, or any delicate slow thing. no time for slow! go go go!

    but this rumor of oatmeal changes everything. of the few things worth taking time for in this world, good oatmeal would be one of them. it just so happens that i have a canister of whole oats in my cupboard (behind the instant), the kind that takes half an hour to cook, and which i treat myself to when it’s one of those days, the kind of day that needs a steaming hot, sweet, milky bowl of thick creamy oatmeal.

    and so i shall proceed to finally avail myself of grandma’s double boiler, it’s non-pyrexness notwithstanding. my baby may not have the lincoln del, but mommy will make him oatmeal memories at home, thanks to alison.


  3. alison · July 2, 2009

    i love this, oreo. now it’s on to the crockpot. o, the crockpot. i can sing its praises for hours on end, say, eight or nine, which is about as long as it takes for a perfect crockpot meal to cook itself into being.


  4. alison · July 2, 2009

    jenn – matzo ball soup? YUM! fishman’s deli, close to the site of the dearly departed del, makes great matzo ball soup. truly great. ready by 11 a.m., usually, but don’t wait too long because it sells out fast.


  5. oreo · July 3, 2009

    ah, we shall make a lovely duo, singing our duet in praise to the crockpot. i have two (a duo in their own right), which i sometimes use at the same time when i cannot decide which wondrous crockpot meal to cook.


  6. Pepper · July 3, 2009

    Don’t forget to use the double boiler for Beggarman’s Rice Pudding. Granny K. would be happy.


  7. Diana Raabe · July 9, 2009

    …and remember when we used to sift our own flour?!


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