So a couple of years ago I bought two adorable little All-Clad individual baking pans, thinking I would cook, I don’t know, individual eggplant parmigiana or crab casseroles. Instead, except for a couple of goes with roasted veggies, they’ve pretty much remained secluded in their adorableness in a cupboard under the island cook-top bar.
That is, until the Breville Smart Oven arrived.
Now the little pans stay on top of the counter. I think a sliced apple dotted with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon would be good in one pan, maybe a grits casserole in the other. Breakfast, lunch or supper.
Here’s the driver that made this luxury purchase practical: we have one regular-sized, eye level oven that looks pretty but quit working about two years ago (when it locked our Thanksgiving turkey inside and went into the cleaning cycle), and another oven that has gotten long in the tooth and works, but sits almost on the floor and hits you in the face with heat like a blast furnace when you use it.
The clincher is osteoarthritis of the hands. My fat-knuckled fingers can no longer come close to making a fist and the fine motor skill needed to pick up coins or other small objects is shot.
I’ve explored lots of different current options, from supplements to paraffin baths to NSAIDs to physical therapy. None of the above helped. What did was a discussion I had about six months ago with a fine 79-year-old rheumalogist who has the mind of a scientist and the soul of an artist. His name is Dr. Ashton Graybiel, and he also suffers from osteoarthritis in his hands. We talked about how it affects handwriting, piano playing, strength and range of motion. He enjoys cooking, too, and gave me some tips on excellent lightweight, inexpensive little knives that are sharp as the dickens. The brand is Victorinox. I got the red one pictured in the link. Love it.
We talked about the power of habit and how, if we can change certain aspects of the way we move, the way we pick up things, the way we stress our fingers, we may be able to lessen the repercussions (pain) from certain activities without giving up what we love to do. It was a philosophical discussion on the nature of pain and a person’s ability to respond to and manage how we think about it. Fascinating.
My conversation with Dr. Graybiel has percolated in my obsessive little mind for a few months now. Each time I would think about my reluctance to replace the eye level oven or struggle to lift a large roasting pan of veggies or chicken from the remaining oven, something just out of conscious thought would click. Click. Click. Click.
The “aha” moment arrived in the form of the Breville Smart Oven. It sits on the counter, ready to go and I use it every day. I’ve come to love the convection feature, something I never bothered to figure out when the large oven was working. The lightweight, smaller pans are a delight.
In short, I have cleaned the big old oven and don’t plan to use it again. And when we sell the house, as we are likely to in the next year or so, we’ll put a brand new, never been used, one in for the buyers.
Best of all, instead of lamenting what I can’t do, I’m celebrating what I can, and hoping in the next decade researchers will be able to replace the lost cartilage in my hands with natural cartilage created by my own stem cells, or something brilliant like that. Wouldn’t that be something?