100 Things to do before I die: The Frying Pan

100 Things To Do Before You Die.

“Life becomes more meaningful when you realize the simple fact you will never get the same moment twice.”

HOW IT STARTED:

 

I attended a funeral.

This funeral was for my then girlfriend’s Aunt, and it was a twelve hour drive away. Our budget did not allow for plane tickets, but a few tanks of gas were doable. This effectively put us in a car together for twenty four hours. I had packed snacks, music, books, and a note pad with some pens and markers. Funerals bring your mortality into focus. Realizing our time is precious brings a sense of urgency and a deeper meaning to time and accomplishments.

You were not born just to work, pay bills and die.

It was during the return trip after a brief period of quiet driving I asked her to get out the pad of paper and to write at the top of it “100 Things to do before I die.” If I said 10 things, you could fill that out with the same trivial bullshit everyone says like “buy the car” or “Help others.” I figured once we got to 30 we would really start to have to think about what you wanted to do, and who you were as a person. 100 important things. Maybe something that seemed impossible. Something to strive for.

On that first list I included things like “Quit smoking” and “Run a Marathon.” I included “Drive a Ferrari” and “Ride a bicycle in France.” I remember we drove past this sign for a State Park called “Big Bone Lick State Park” and we had a great laugh about it. Seeing that sign and being on a lengthy road trip got me to thinking about silly road side attractions. The first one that popped into my mind was the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. I wanted to add visiting an obscure road side attraction as one of my 100 Things, but not the ball of twine. It had to be something more obscure, but something that was probably out there somewhere. The thought came to me, frying pan.

“Put this down, Visit the World’s Largest Frying Pan.” She laughed, and wrote it down.

That was 2003.

Over time that relationship came to an end, but I’ve kept my list. I have added and replaced things as either they became irrelevant, or I accomplished them. Today I am able to cross off another milestone.

 

I have seen the World’s Largest Frying Pan.

 

This is not as simple a task as you would think. A Google search will draw your attention to no less than six implements which make the claim of “World’s Largest Frying Pan.” Six. Fuck. This requires research and judgement. If I say “frying pan” there is an implement that will pop into your head, a shape. This shape is a pan with a lip around it, and a handle bolted to the side which helps you lift it to and from the fire. There is also a “skillet.” A ‘skillet’ is a cast iron frying pan that the handle and the pan are one solid piece. A skillet is a type of frying pan and will become important later. Then the idea of “largest” comes into question. Like trying to find the tallest building. Some of the taller buildings simply put a tall antenna on the roof. So is the top of the roof the part you measure, or the top of the antenna? The thing a pan is used for is cooking, so the size we are going to focus on is the diameter of the useable pan surface, not the length from the end of the handle to the lip. I will concede that a skillet is a type of frying pan, but traditionally a skillet has a shorter handle than that of a pressed, welded or formed frying pan. There are pans that have to be assembled to be used. By ‘assembled’ I do not mean the handle can be removed, because if you turn over a traditional frying pan you can see a screw or a bolt holding the handle on. If the implement, the usable surface, the frying part has to be one piece. Otherwise it is two pans. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.

My findings:

Pan #1 Brandon, Iowa. This is a proper frying pan. 14 feet, 3 inches from the end of the handle to the opposite rim, but we do not care about the length, we want the diameter of the pan itself. This pan is quite small compared to the others.

Pan #2 Long Beach, Washington. The pan measures 9 feet, 6 inches in diameter. The actual pan is gone. What remains is a fiberglass copy of the pan… so this one does not qualify.

Pan #3 Rose Hill, North Carolina. The implement in Rose Hill claims to be a frying pan, but it is not. It is a frying implement. The thing that is there looks nothing like a pan. It has no handle, it has a large spire shaped thing coming out of the middle of it, and it can not be moved around. This one does not qualify.

Pan #4 Pittsfield, Maine. This is a proper frying pan and has the distinction of being the only one coated with a non-stick surface from DuPont. It has a handle. However the pan is only five feet in diameter. This is not the World’s Largest Frying Pan.

Pan #5 London, Kentucky. They lay claim to the “World’s Largest Skillet” and their implement does measure 10’6″ in diameter, however it is more than one piece. Meaning the Pan is multiple pieces which sit together when in use. It is effectively multiple pans. Moreover a ‘skillet’ is a forged or cast implement with it’s handle as part of the body and not bolted on. These are frying pans, not a skillet. This one does not qualify.

This leaves Pan #6. Georgetown, Delaware. 10′ in diameter, 8 inches deep with a bolted on 8′ handle. Originally built in 1950 for use in what was called the DELMARVA Chicken Festival. The festival takes place alternating in DELaware, MARyland, and VirginiA hence the name “DELMARVA.”

Currently the pan is in the care of the Georgetown Historical Society and is housed in the back of a barn which also houses one of the largest collection of horse drawn buggies in the world. That collection includes wagons owned by the Queen of England and Walt Disney. The grounds are impeccably cared for with a number of buildings which contain the buggy collection and some other oddities. There is an entire building dedicated to the history of telephones and their collection is very impressive. Other barns and buildings are filled with other items which I did not explore.

For 16 years I have held a place in my heart for standing in this room and seeing this object, seeking out the truth of where it was, which was the rightful pan to lay claim to the title, and then finding the time in life to dedicate to fulfilling this life goal.

There is a certain pride to be felt in accomplishing a goal included among a list entitled “100 Things I want to do before I die” yet there is also a bit of sadness. To be honest it was as underwhelming as you would think climbing through a dusty, forgotten old barn to look at a big pan would be, but at the same time I was giddy to be there doing it. I felt twelve.

I got choked up in the car as I drove away. Yeah it was a stupid, throw away line I’ve included in my list as a joke, but it brings back those feelings of mortality and enforces the idea that we only get to live each moment once.

I have seen the World’s Largest Frying Pan, and it is awesome.

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