But there are trade-offs for lightness. It is rare to find vintage Dansk without chips around the edge where the colored exterior meets the white interior. And those slim handles can be hard to grip and hot to the touch. Copco has saucepans with wood handles that won’t heat up. Descoware split the difference, as it is a third lighter than Le Creuset but has thicker cast-iron construction and wood handles like Copco.
Another reason for vintage cookware’s popularity is price. Brand-new Le Creuset can run several hundred dollars for a good-size Dutch oven. Walker started her Copco collection after finding a frying pan at her local Seattle Goodwill; the same pan would be $40 on Etsy or eBay. A Kobenstyle Dutch oven on Etsy can be $25 to $45, baking pans slightly more. Descoware and Dru Holland start at around $50 for a Dutch oven. And as Walker discovered, local secondhand stores can be a gold mine: Froelich contends that prices for Dansk, for example, remain low because people don’t realize the value of what they have, and sell it cheaply at these shops, where it is scooped up by knowledgeable thrifters. With vintage finds, you can kit out your kitchen for the price of a single new enamel pot.
Many midcentury-modern tchotchkes just sit on the shelf, or come out for a cocktail party. But these pots and pans are the workhorses of the genre. Television shows like Mad Men have sparked a craze for 1960s barware, but much less attention has been paid—so far—to the pots in which the Drapers’ housekeeper, Carla, fixed those unhealthy meals. Khapre, for one, loves the domestic history embedded in vintage pots and pans: “Something that is 30 or 40 years old and still looks so good, available for less than the price of a Starbucks coffee, I cannot resist.” Happy thrifty Thanksgiving!
Alexandra Lange is editor of the culture journalism site Let’s Get Critical and blogs weekly for Design Observer. She is coauthor of Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes. Her most recent story for Gourmet Live, “The Perfect Fork,” chronicled her pursuit of the ultimate dining utensil.