Once upon a time, there was a woman who owned a lot of pots and pans. She didn’t exactly enjoy cooking, but what she liked less than cooking was trying to cook with the wrong equipment… so somehow she had ended up with a lot of stuff.
This would not be a problem, except that her kitchen — indeed, her entire house — was very small, and couldn’t hold all the pots, pans, spatulas, and ladles that she had acquired over the years.
It so happened that this woman had a son, and he hated clutter. He was always trying to neaten his mother’s kitchen, putting the pots away. Trying and failing: “Darn! I can’t shut this cabinet door, now that all the mixing bowls are behind it,” he would complain.
“Now you know why they were always out on the counter,” his mother would reply.
But this didn’t stop him. Every time he was home, even for just a few days, he would try to put pots in the cupboard, or in a cabinet, or anywhere out of sight. And this would always work … until it was time to cook dinner, and nobody could find the big pasta pot.
“Ugh, it’s at the bottom of this huge stack,” he would say. “Do I have to pull them all out?”
“No,” his mother would reply. “Only if you want pasta. How did it get there, anyway? I always leave it out on the stove.”
And so they both grumbled, and pots would clatter to the floor, and no one was happy. Not even Daddy, who was trying to write software for equipment that people had donated to his Museum of Obsolete Computing Formats.
Then one day the son came up with a scheme. “Mom,” he said, “Someday soon I’ll be moving out to my own apartment, and I’m afraid I won’t have anything to cook with, and I might starve to death. What shall I do?”
“No son of mine can be allowed to starve to death!” said the mom. And she pulled out the pot she always used for cooking hard-boiled eggs, and gave it to her son.
“Wow, thanks, Mom, but don’t you need this?” he said, tucking the pot into a box he had set up in a corner of the living room.
“It’s all right, I have plenty of other pots I can use for boiling eggs,” she replied. “Just be sure you use it in good health.”
A few days passed, during which nobody starved to death. Then the son spoke up again. “Say, Mom,” he said, “You know what goes great with the start of fall? Mulled cider. I’d like to make some for you, but I don’t know which pot to use.”
“Try this one,” said the mother, taking one from a stack on the kitchen table. “It’s just the right size.”
The son made some mulled cider, and everyone enjoyed it. Then he said, “You know, I’d love to be able to make some for friends at my new apartment, whenever I get one, and mulled cider would be just the thing. Do you have another pot like this one?”
“Oh, just take that one. I haven’t used it since the last time you were here and made mulled cider.”
So the mulled-cider pot went into the box.
A few more days went by, and the weather turned cold. “Mom, you remember how you always made stew for us, when we came in out of the snow? Those are some of my fondest memories!”
“Here,” said the mother, digging out her stew pot and handing it over. “You might as well have it, nowadays I only make stew when you and your brother are here, anyway.”
By the end of a month, the son had collected many different sizes of pot, plus some mixing bowls, a roasting pan, the waffle iron, and both the meat and the candy thermometers.
As he drove away to his new home, Mom stood in the doorway and said, “I hate to admit it, but it really is easier to find things in the kitchen, now that I’ve given so much away. What a lucky coincidence that he needed all those pots just when I was thinking of getting rid of them!”