Psychoanalytics, Pollution and Pans

A mistake

Quite some years ago now, I got very annoyed with an account manager (a very rare occurrence!) of a medium sized supplier of ours (with good reason I felt at the time) but actually, I’ve come to regret it ever since. The story began one February, several years ago when I sent this chap a spreadsheet of all the products that we stocked from his company (somewhere between a hundred and two hundred products, probably), asking him to update the prices. Most of our suppliers increase their prices annually at this time of year. So, it was a sizable piece of work if he didn’t know how to do a LOOKUP* in Excel (and actually, I don’t think he did). He got it wrong multiple times and in the end refused to make any more corrections. Which left the job of updating it down to us.

What I might have done was to just call it a day, bitten the bullet and done the job myself, or better passed to someone in the company who would do it in a fraction of the time it would take me (which in the end is what happened).  But instead, I sent him an acerbic email and then to rub salt into the wound, when I met him at a trade show a few months later, I had another go at him. And whilst I felt perfectly justified in my annoyance at his inability and obduracy, I allowed this feeling to get the better of my nice considerate side (which, dear reader, I’m sure you find hard to believe….) and I indulged in a “perfectly justified” attack, on the poor blighter.

He didn’t take it lying down however, argued back and we have not spoken since. The consequence of this disagreement has meant that I no longer go on the trade stand of that supplier at shows, as I don’t want to be reminded of my actions, which got me precisely nowhere and, of which I am not proud.

As Arthur Brooks says in his book “Love your enemies”, ‘no one has ever had their mind changed by being told that they are an idiot’, and whilst I didn’t go that far, he wasn’t left in any doubt as to my opinion of his work ethic. And that, I think, was a mistake.

The consequence of this fracas is that we are now pretty close to closing the account with this company. At the time, I’d asked them if they had anyone else who could keep us up to date with new products. They offered a telephone contact, but it’s not the same thing as a regular visit from a real human being, and gradually our portfolio of their lines shrank to a point where it’s now become difficult to order from them.

A sad and unsatisfactory end to a situation that I had a significant part in mishandling. Looking on the positive side, these days, however tempted I might be to gratify my frustration, I am the model (of a modern major general) of self-control.

So, my thanks to Bill Smith (not his real name) because I won’t make that mistake again! I shall bite my tongue until the inappropriate “parental” emotions have passed, and I can respond as an “adult” again!** 

* VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP enables one to cross-reference two sets of data, and by means of a common column of values, automatically update one from the other.

** Based on the Transactional Analysis psychoanalytic theory. The theory, in its simplest form, follows that in communication with others we are doing so from any of three ego states (Parent, Adult or Child) and the other person is also responding from one of those three states.

De Buyer

We have been intending to stock De Buyer pans and icing nozzles, it feels since time immemorial but certainly for 5 or 6 years, but somehow, until now, just never got round to listing them.

When Paul Shelley at Haus (one of our existing suppliers who is a delight to deal with) decided to import them I thought now was really time to take action. Well, that was a part of the reason, and a certain amount of persuasion from one or two in the company who found my procrastination irksome.

And so that is indeed what we have done. De Buyer cover two categories that we’re interested in, icing equipment and carbon steel frying pans.

Now despite my love of cake, cake decorating itself, I’ve very little time for. I want to eat the cake, not have to wait whilst someone slaves away creating a work of art that Monet would not have been ashamed of. So, if you’re a cake decorator please forgive my ignorance and lack of couth. I blame this situation, fairly and squarely on my up brining. When my mum made a Victoria Sponge, it had jam and occasionally cream as a filling, a dusting of icing sugar on the top, and it tasted ‘out of this world’ and even when she made chocolate cake (my favourite…to this day.) and there was icing on the top as well as in the middle, it was just laid on with a spatula of some sort.

So, nozzles excite me not at all, but being a broad minded sort, we now stock the De Buyer ones. There are about 20 different styles, with names such as Plain, Star, Log and St Honore, none of which mean anything to me, but I presume they will to you? Although, having said that, they are beautifully made in stainless steel and I feel well engineered, which is the only way I can relate to them. 

In contrast, if you feel so moved, our staff in Reigate and Cobham can give you chapter and verse on the magnificent effects and visual delights that these nozzles can create.  Pop in for a look or a chat on all things nozzle related.  

Far more interesting though, are their frying pans and plancha. These are pretty serious bits of kit. Made of 2.5mm thick mild steel (Carbon Steel, the sort that can rust and should never go anywhere near a dishwasher), they are seriously heavy (similar in weight to Le Creuset’s cast iron pans).

But being steel, heat up a little quicker than cast iron and because of this, retain the heat well. On Tuesday this week the Reigate team used our sample in their Tuesday morning training session, to fry mushrooms, tomatoes and fried eggs.

Pans like these take a little getting used to and need to be seasoned before they will perform at their best (see our article “How to season a Cast Iron, Carbon Steel or Spun Iron Pan”.

Whilst talking of pans without nonstick coatings, I went to a talk last night at the Energy Garden headquarters in Ebury Bridge Road, a 10 minute walk from Victoria. Billed as the RUFA (Running Up For Air) London Panel Event, it was about air quality, particularly in our cities, and the statistic that came out of it that surprised me the most, is that our man-made, “poor air” is the biggest killer worldwide. In the UK, poor air quality (traffic fumes) makes life very difficult for asthma sufferers, but kills a relatively small number every year (here, the main causes of death are dementia, cancer, diabetes and heart disease).  

The reason steel frying pans put me in mind of the issue of air quality, is that iron, in its various forms*, steel (De Buyer), iron (Netherton), cast iron (Le Creuset) are all natural products, with, as far as I know, no nasties in them that can store up long term trouble for the pan user. So, another thing we’ve invented to improve our lives, but have unintentionally ended up giving us problems, are some nonstick coatings. They used to be coated with a substance (PFOA, now banned) that was subsequently found to be carcinogenic.**

So, this is another meander from me, which seems to have crept off topic, for which I sort of apologise, but there again I think it’s worth talking about these things, because, like clean water, clean air, consuming good, unpolluted food (in either the way it’s grown, processed or cooked), are all connected.



So, back to De Buyer steel frying pans. They take a little work to begin with, to get them working as you would want. But, having achieved that, compared to cooking in a coated pan, you are adding nothing foreign to your food, and what’s more, where appropriate, you will be browning / caramelising what you’re cooking, that significantly increases flavours***.  

I’m a great fan of uncoated pans, like Netherton Iron and Demeyere stainless steel, as they do give you better cooked and tastier food as a reward. And should continue to do so for your lifetime and maybe beyond, spreading the environmental impact of its manufacture over many years. Compare this to a nonstick pan, with an inevitably short lifespan, even if it is recycled after its coating has deteriorated.

* the production of cast iron, steel and stainless-steel do of course add to pollution in the air, but once made, uncoated pans are lifetime products, unlike their nonstick coated relatives

** I wrote more extensively about current issues and nonstick pans in my newsletter of 23rd September 2022

***Nonstick surfaces allow less caramelisation because the food doesn’t stay still, and so the heat transmission is significantly less.


My offer this week is 20% off De Buyer Steel Frying Pans or if you prefer a pre-seasoned pan then 20% off Netherton Iron Pans and our Le Creuset Uncoated Frying Pans are for the most part already on offer.

Use code IRON24 if shopping online, or just let us know who you are in Cobham or Reigate.


Shop De Buyer and Netherton Frying Pans


I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful long weekend.


Warm regards


Andrew Bluett-Duncan



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