“Double, Double”

We have become used to technology becoming obsolete, but the other day I saw my double boiler sitting on a shelf and realized it too had stopped being useful. My double boiler was first used by my grandmother who gave it to my mother who gave it to me. Like many things from years ago, it was built to last and it has.

My mother used it to melt butter which became the base for the white sauce that she used for tuna and chipped beef. She believed knowing how to make white sauce was a prerequisite for marriage, and she taught me how to make it using this pot. The simmering water in the bottom pan heated the content of the upper pan without burning it. She also melted chocolate in the double boiler using it to make our once in a blue moon hot fudge sauce over vanilla ice cream. Chocolate, like butter, burned easily in a single pan, so the double boiler was essential.

Staring at the pot, I realized that my microwave oven had replaced the double boiler for melting butter and chocolate. I never make white sauce any more, so I don’t need to stir the flour into the melted butter at the bottom of the pan. Chipped beef is too salty and tuna in white sauce no longer appeals to me. So the double boiler has become an artifact, perhaps one day to sit on a museum shelf with children wondering about how on earth they used it “back in the old days.”

36 thoughts on ““Double, Double”

  1. Funny I don’t think I ever had a real double boiler and I often thought it would be useful! 🙂 I do make white sauce now and then but always in a regular pan. I guess it’s whatever you’re taught and what you’re used to!


  2. Just think how long it lasted, and what value and craftsmanship that represents. I think you should indeed offer it to a museum, Elizabeth. Your culinary story will live on!
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. I was not ready to throw away my double boiler years ago until someone used the lower pan to remove ashes from the fireplace. It warped and could not be used. Just think! For once I threw something away without saving it “just in case”!!! I would use the microwave now, too.


  4. I still have my double boiler, but I had to stop using it years ago. It turns out I have aluminum poisoning, and it wasn’t good to keep adding it to my system. I love the memories that came with it, though. My Mom used it for so many things.


  5. I too have an idli making vessel which belonged to mother’s grandmother 😊 I don’t make idlis in them because it is big for us. But I use it as a container. I don’t want to forget it.


  6. Thank you for this ode to double boilers – you must keep it just so that it continues to prompt family storytelling!
    My mother did not have a double boiler, but she DID teach me how to make white sauce as the base for the cheese sauce in macaroni and cheese. We never ate boxed mac and cheese!! For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter family gatherings, I am now the person whose macaroni and cheese my nieces and nephews look forward to eating; this isn’t something I could have foreseen back when my mother was patiently giving me different cooking lessons😁.


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