How a Scorched and Dented Milk Pan Became a Reflection of Motherhood, Marriage and Self-Love

my green little milk pan
Alexia Dellner

Have you ever thought about which items you would save in a fire? It’s a bit of a grim exercise, I realize, but it can be an interesting one. I actually knew someone who had to do this and quite inexplicably, the only two things she grabbed in the middle of the night as her fire alarm blared were her passport and a copy of Russell Brand’s ‘My Booky Wook,’ which was lying on her nightstand. Fortunately, the house and all of its belongings were fine (although everything did smell of smoke for weeks), and the book actually came in handy while she waited outside as the fire department swept through the house.

Maybe it’s because of this that I’ve actually considered the question more times than is probably healthy. And so, the items I would grab in a fire are as follows: the children first (obviously), then our passports and old family photo albums, my grandmother’s engagement ring and lastly, because in this scenario I have nothing but time, I would save my little green milk pan.

More brown than green these days, my sweet little pan is a small but mighty reminder of resilience and love (not to mention the perfect vessel for heating up frozen peas). You see, I found it on my honeymoon in Italy, when I was euphorically in love and could never have imagined where I—or my pan—would end up. We had popped into a small, charming restaurant in the center of Florence, not far from the Uffizi Gallery. We ordered “tagliere,” a chopping board filled with regional meats and cheeses and a glass of local wine. The shop sold a few kitchen supplies, including pans with its name “La Proscuitteria” stamped on the side. I liked the color, a sort of retro mint green, and the way it reminded me of a milk pan my beloved mormor (grandmother) had. My mormor actually used hers to warm up milk that she then used in bread, cinnamon buns, mashed potatoes and a slew of other comforting recipes, whereas I had never in my life made fresh bread rolls. But hey, I was a wife now! So maybe waking up early to bake a loaf was in my future. (Spoiler: It was not).

The pan was small enough to fit into my suitcase, which was a good thing, because apart from a few extra pounds and a suntan, it was the only thing I bought back to New York. It was shiny and new and filled with possibilities, a fitting accessory for my new chapter. 

Initially, the pan didn’t get much action. We were renting a friend’s apartment that came fully furnished and so it mostly sat in the back of the cupboard, only coming out when we wanted to recreate a side dish we had eaten in Italy—fagioli con olio, beans with oil. It was an easy and comforting accompaniment to meat and fish; pour a can of cannellini beans into the pot, add a few glugs of olive oil, some salt and pepper, a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, and heat gently until the beans are nice and soft. It’s simple yet comforting, and a recipe we’ve turned to frequently over the years. Particularly in the early days of the pandemic when we were limiting our grocery trips, it became a quick lunch multiple days a week. Like so many of us during that weird time, cooking turned into a soothing act of self-love. Working fulltime with an infant in tow meant that I did not have the time to make my own sourdough starter, but I did have time to heat up beans and spoon them onto buttered toast. (And there may be a scientific reason behind it, but I swear the dish just tastes better when it’s cooked in my milk pan, and not my Calphalon pot.)

my green little milk pan with eggs
Alexia Dellner

Beans aside, this cheery little pan is also a nimble heating device for soup and broth and an excellent choice for boiling eggs or heating up frozen peas. You know the way that frying onions in butter just makes you feel better? I feel the same when I hear two or three eggs softly bumping into each other as the water bubbles away in my little milk pan. I recently made a decadent caramel sauce in it to drizzle over vanilla ice cream and, not to brag, it was better than any store-bought variety.

We have other cookware, besides Calphalon brand, and they all do a fine job. But their stainless steel and cast-iron shells are somewhat harsh, intimidating even. I much prefer my cheery little pot with the words “azienda renascimentho” written on the side, right below the outline of a smiling cherub with grapes in his hair. And I like how the enamel coating means that everything, even boiling water, seems to cook softer in there.

A year after our honeymoon, we moved into our own place and the pan was used so frequently for heating up leftovers and making quick dishes that it lost its green shine and became rather discolored. When my mother-in-law came to visit, she scoured the little milk pan clean leaving it free from brown stains and burn marks. It was once again gleaming, and I remember thinking to myself how kind an act it was that it made my heart swell, not least because it was such a mom thing to do. And so, I thought of my own mother and how sad it was that she couldn’t see me in my new house with my new husband. She would’ve liked the house I think, and the pan too (although I suspect that she would have told me to take better care of both of them, sorry Mom).

More recently, the pan has been used to make food for my kids—a small portion of rice or pasta perhaps or reheating last night’s meatballs. Most frequently, I use it to warm my daughter’s bottles, and so it has become a permanent fixture on our stovetop. Its petite size means that the water can boil quickly so that I can submerge a bottle in mere minutes, soothing my baby’s cries as the sound signals her milk is coming soon.

I was standing bleary-eyed above the stove the other morning, heating up my daughter’s bottle of milk and I noticed how brown the sides of the pan had become and saw a little dent that I hadn’t seen before. Looking at the pan all over, there were quite a few scuffs and burn marks and even the handle was looking a little grimy. It has seen better days, but as I took the bottle out to feed my hungry child, I was thankful that it was just as reliable as ever. It might not look like much these days, but it’s been with me through life’s big moments—marriage, buying a house, kids. Who knows where we’ll go together next?

And sure, I have more sophisticated, high-tech pans in my cabinets. But those ones will never make it out with me in case of a fire. Wherever I go next, I’m taking my small but mighty milk pan with me.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...