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Descoware Stories: The Saucepan and the Cork
By Vicki McClure Davidson
I recently received this email query from Audrey Larsen in Knoxville, Tennessee:
Can you tell me about this piece and the significance of the cork in the handle?
Audrey Larson, Tennessee
And she sent two photos of a gorgeous flame-red Descoware saucepan — one of the photos showed an odd, large cork shoved into the saucepan's handle hole, which is where a detachable wooden handle normally would be:
Flame-red Descoware saucepan with cork in handle | Photo credit: Audrey Larson
Flame-red Descoware saucepan with cork in handle, view of pan's bottom showing SP-214, 7/8 QT, Belgium stamp | Photo credit: Audrey Larson
Truly mystifying. While I'm no Descoware expert, I've learned quite a bit about the vintage cookware over the past couple of years in my quests for Descoware pieces, and this was a first. What was with that crazy cork?
I'd never seen anything like this, so I wrote back to Audrey with a few kinda-sorta educated guesses. However, I needed more information from her because I was so stymied:
Audrey, wow, this is a new one on me with that cork.
I'm taking a deductive guess here. This cork appears to perhaps be from the original packaging, providing a stopper for the opening in the pot handle. Into this stubby opening would go a wooden handle (I think it screws in, but I'm not positive). This particular design was very popular with the long, removable wooden handle because you could cook on the stove with it (the handle wouldn't get hot), and then could quickly remove the wooden handle for putting the pot into the oven. A wooden handle in the oven would burn up or scorch. Likewise, it made cleaning the pot better, since wood shouldn't be submerged into liquid for lengths of time.
However, I'm guessing on that cork — perhaps it was put there at the time of original shipping from the factory to protect the finish from being nicked or just to plug up the hole. Corks are usually used for making something airtight or watertight, so this is indeed curious. And I'm not positive about it being with the original packaging. It could also have been put there by a previous owner to keep moisture and bugs out of the hole for when the wooden handle wasn't in place. I'm just not sure. In all my scattered research, I've never seen a cork used in photos of this particular Descoware pot.
Are you the original owner or did you buy it second-hand like this? From what I can see, this is in truly beautiful condition. Do you have the pot's wooden handle?
Audrey wrote back:
I am not the original owner.....so I have no history. On the end of the cork is stamped 'COOK'S'...IT IS VERY secure in the handle...thanks for your help.
Well, that dashed any deductions about the cork being part of the original Descoware packaging. Back to the drawing board.
The Cook's stamp on the cork suggests the previous owner put it there and that it was not part of the original packaging as I had guessed at earlier. The cork sounds like it would be a good idea for storage purposes. It will keep dirt and insects out of the opening when the pot is not in use. But that's just my opinion. Other than that, I can think of no other logical reason for it.
Audrey wrote back, explaining that she had bought the saucepan at a garage sale and would ask about the saucepan with her neighbor from whom she'd bought it.
She wrote back a few days later, with this unexpected information:
OK, I talked with the elderly owner and found out that this was their favorite 'gravy making' pot for a very long time but its weight had become an issue.......the cork in the handle is something he did using one of his Cook's Champagne corks so that's why it had the Cook's stamp on it......giggle.
Mystery solved about the cork in the Descoware saucepan's handle hole. And Audrey is now the proud owner of a beautiful vintage Descoware piece.
How much did she pay for the saucepan? Hold on to your seat — Audrey wrote:
I was helping this couple in their 80's & not well, have their garage sale, so I was there early...picked up a few items (they had done the pricing definitely to sell fast) including this pot which simply captured my attention by its color & that it had the lid, Descoware I was not acquainted with....... anyway to answer your question, I paid $1.00... and hope to enjoy it as many years as they did!
In excellent shape, no less.
During our volleying of emails, Audrey also asked this question about cleaning the saucepan that other Descoware owners may have:
Any suggestions for removing the utensil marks from inside?
Cleaning Descoware isn't hard, but many cleansers are too harsh for it. Plus, don't ever put it into the dishwasher. Bon Ami is very effective and gentle enough to not scratch or eat through the enamel coating. I have an article posted on the Frugal Café website about cleaning Descoware that may be of help to you (was written by Candy Eve, Descoware: Cast Iron That Warms Up Your Kitchen... Descoware Collecting and Cleaning Tips). Because of the age of the pot, some slight marring and discoloration of the inside is perfectly normal. Sometimes just soaking it overnight in hot water will do the trick. Let me know how it goes.
Have you checked out Descoware.com? ...There are some fabulous articles there about Descoware that you might find of interest. He has a terrific one on its history.
Submit Your Own Descoware Photos and/or Stories
We'll be adding more Descoware photos to the gallery and to this "Descoware Stories" section as quickly as we can. If you have Descoware photos of your own that you would like to share, please click 'Contact Us' (the email link is provided in the left sidebar), attach a reasonable-quality jpeg (sized no larger than 100kb for the file and the graphic measuring no greater than 500px width) to the email. Please include your name (for photo credit), city/state or region, and provide a brief summary that describes the Descoware item and anything else of interest about it (e.g., how you found it or inherited it, how you use it).
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