Betsy Lindell and her sister Paige Lindell opened the secondhand cookware store Seasoned (1016 N. Broad St., 860-604-4650; www.free-the-food.com) in Mid-City. Betsy Lindell, who also works in the movie industry as a boom operator, now runs the store after her sister left the state earlier this year. Lindell buys most of the shop's vintage ware from local estate sales, but also deals in consignment and buys and trades some items. Lindell spoke to Gambit about what vintage cookware has taught her.
Why used cookware?
Lindell: My sister and I both love to entertain. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy going out to eat as much as I enjoy being around people who are chefs. My sister is a chef, and I find (chefs) inspiring. The idea is to pull together the best resources from people's kitchens in New Orleans.
A lot of brands used to be made in the U.S., so there's just better quality. There was more care at every stage of manufacturing; I think older things just have a higher level of craftsmanship — people used their stuff longer and (it was) better made.
I'm just amazed at the stewardship of things in people's kitchens; it's like being a guest in people's houses and getting the opportunity to see how they cook and live. I'm just blown away by the richness of the cooking culture here. People's zest for entertaining, the amazing things they have for entertaining — serving pieces, glassware. The care that they give home-cooked meals and the presentation of it exceeds what you'd see in a restaurant, just the tenderness and that personality. It makes me wish I were at those parties.
In what condition do items arrive?
L: We have some appliances that are 60 years old. I tell people, "If it stops working in a week, you can bring it back." If it stops working in a year, it's led a good life.
We lightly clean everything. I look for things that have been really well-cared for by the previous owners. I look for items that were made with high quality and have endured the test of time. With (cast iron) a lot of the time, it's orange, rusty — really rusty. The important thing is that they're not pitted, because the rust you can get rid of.
I have a lot of cast iron that needs seasoning, and I've tried everything. I've tried just soaking it in vinegar, I've tried burning it over a campfire and I've used a power tool with a metal brush. I've tried electrolysis using a car charger and a bin full of water with some washing soda in it. It's really simple, it's just creating polarity ... it works by line of light and it will create an attraction and clean the pot completely. People (use) it for things that are old that they want to take care of, because there's nothing abrasive ... and it doesn't hurt the pan. It was a little scary the first time; I thought I would electrocute myself.
After you clean off the old gunk and rust, you just cover it with shortening and bake it. You can do it in an oven or over a fire.
What's the New Orleans antique circuit like?
L: I don't consider myself an antiques dealer. Going to these estate sales, I've found that people are so competitive. I kind of keep my head down; I get there early and I bring a book. People show up early and there's a line out the door first thing in the morning. It's kind of a hard community to break into. I'm slightly intimidated by the level of expertise; I come at it much more from a cook's perspective and an artistic perspective and I have to trust that people like my taste. I try to buy things that are functional and beautiful, but I never go for what is collectible. That really separates me from (antiques dealers). My relationships (are) with a few sellers, and they kind of know me as the kitchen lady now.