Here Are Some of My Pans

Detail of a Facebook photo from Jacques Pépin.



Last week on Facebook I reposted something from celebrity chef Jacques Pépin, who is pictured in front of a wall covered in pots and pans. The headline of his post reads, “Here are some of my pans.”

On the anniversary of 9-11, with a record number of named storms in the Atlantic, the West Coast aflame, and the foundations of democracy crumbling, the post seemed so banal as to be comic.

Pépin’s explanation of the photo is just as direct and laconic.

“Hello,” he writes. “Claudine [his daughter] said some asked what kind of pans I use. I have been given pans, I have purchased pans, and most of my pans are at least 10 years old. There is not one company that I use exclusively. Here are some of my pans. Have a good day. Be well. -JP”

But my reposting was not, as some of my Facebook friends may have thought, meant to be flippant. I like Pépin as a TV and now Internet personality, use his recipes often, and respect his 65-year career cooking for presidents, royalty, and everyday citizens.

More importantly, there is something almost magical about a display of humble, well-used tools, as a physical manifestation of a life and calling. It is evidence of the culling of what does not work, and the re-use of and care for what does. It reminds that the tool is not the knowledge, but that which permits knowledge to act; it shows a piety to craft, and a mastery like saintliness of an art.

One can see the joy in it of having provided sustenance and epicurean pleasure to many, and the almost rueful sense of loneliness of a man who has lived immersed in the discipline of technique, which is in some ways a solitary pursuit.

The quiet, stripped focus recalls August Sander’s photos of a mason with his trowel, a potter with his wheel, a pastry cook with his bowl.

This form—call it the devotion—is a suggestion for all of us as we try to find meaning in our careers–even bloggers, who would be lucky to be able to say one day, Here are some of my words.

“Good afternoon,” Pépin writes in another post. “Sometimes making something beautiful is really fun. I hope you enjoy this way of using beach roses, and have a good day. Be well. -JP”



Read more by John Griswold here.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.