Some things just don't pan out

March 28, 2008

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My wife and kids are on a spring break trip with the in-laws in Florida. I stayed behind to get some work done and save up some vacation time for trips this summer.



(As I write this, it"s snowing yet again in Rockford, Ill. This comes after we got 7 inches of snow on the first day
of spring last Friday. Sometimes I don"t make the best decisions.)



So I"ve tried to use this time to accomplish many of the things that I would not be able to do with my wife and kids
home: small household repairs, lawn maintenance (between snowfalls), going out with the guys, and cooking. The
latter doesn"t sound like the manliest of activities, but I learned a long time ago that if I wanted my mom"s cooking while living more than 1,000 miles away from her, I needed to do it myself.


Last Saturday I fired up the stovetop and started making a roux—one part vegetable oil, one part flour—for the base of my steak with rice and gravy. It"s basically a pan-seared piece of chuck roast that is
then cooked until very tender in the oven or on the stove, and the juices are used to create a gravy that is served
with the meat over rice. It"s Cajun Cooking 101 and a dish I haven"t had in about 20 years.



I broke out my Magnalite® Professional Dutch oven and went to work. I began to think about how much I liked my cookware and how it"s neat that my mom had her own set of Magnalite that she"s cooked with for more than 40 years. (I get very reflective after three or four Turbodogs.



The Wagner Manufacturing Co., Sidney, Ohio, developed the first cast aluminum Magnalite in 1934. The cookware is
created from a gravity casting process in which molten aluminum is poured into a mold and formed into the desired
shape. The casting process is supposed to deliver some of the best heat conductivity outside of an old cast iron pan. Many generations, particularly Southerners, grew up using the cookware.



Actually, the legacy of the product is kind of symbolic of U.S. manufacturing. World Kitchen LLC owns the Magnalite name and brand. In fact, the Magnalite Classic line was introduced recently to select Wal-Mart stores. The company also owns other brands, such as CorningWare®, Revere®, Pyrex®, and Chicago Cutlery®.



World Kitchen, formerly a division of Corning that was spun off in 1998 and purchased by Borden, acquired General Housewares and the Magnalite brand in 1999. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and became privately held in 2004. Most of its manufacturing activities take place outside of the U.S.



The story still has a U.S. manufacturing connection, however. American Culinary Corp. claims to have
purchased the molds used to make the original Magnalite pans. If you need a new top to an old Magnalite pan, this is the company to contact, as the foreign-made products are different than the older, U.S.-made products.



Actually, I"m not sure what I have. My mom said it was Magnalite when I got it, but it looks an awful lot like the
MagPro series from American Culinary Corp. Whatever the case, I enjoy cooking with it.



Foreign-sourced or domestically made? As you can tell, I"m not even sure. In general, however, it"s sort of weird to
see brands with such a strong link to America"s past being made overseas.



Some will argue that it"s just progress. I"m not going to argue, but I"d like to see more metal-crafted products made in the U.S. Let China make all the George Foreman grills they want.



Oh yeah. I was going to end this blog entry with the recipe I concocted. Well, I ended up with a tan glob of gravy and a nicely done chuck roast that was better-suited for a carving board rather than a gravy concoction. I made too much roux and didn"t brown it enough. I also didn"t cook the meat in the oven long enough because I started this whole affair at about 8 p.m. Blame the Turbodog.



So here"s a recipe that doesn"t involve a roux and seems to be a favorite of those who have tried it. I"ve got to go back to the drawing board.

Although she doesn"t have a recipe written down, my mom claims that she began all of her rice and gravy dishes with
a roux. It might be easier for me to fly her up on American Airlines.



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Dan Davis

Editor in Chief
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Rockford, IL 61107
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