Les Halles! Parisian heaven for cooks and food lovers! Shops and eateries on every corner, each with its own specialty – cheeses, cutlery, pig’s head, onion soup, copper. It’s that last, copper, that I’m hunting. At Dehillerhan, the shop recognized worldwide as copper royalty. I own a paella pan brought from here years ago. But I’ve dreamed of coming here myself to choose a copper item.
The shop’s charm is in its lack of charm. Creaky wooden floors, sturdy shelving tightly packed and piled nearly 2 stories high with equipment of every sort, some beautiful and useful, some just useful, but none just beautiful. Each piece has a purpose. Stockpots big enough to bathe in and stirring spoons the size of canoe paddles, obviously not for home use. Tourists squeeze through the narrow aisles, some calculate prices and squeeze out again, some look at each piece and sigh, others look with purpose. I am one of those. I know what I want – thick copper with sturdy lining to age beautifully while shouldering a bouef bourguinon or coq au vin without toughening the meat. I find it, but continue wandering just for the pleasure of touching each item and listening to the clerks field phone calls in French.
When I put my hand on it, one of the attendants appears at my side, speaking perfect American-English. He climbs a ladder high above the room to mine a shiny, new one, still in its box. Then discusses the best way, the fastest way, and most economical way to get it home. I choose to keep it in my possession. He packs it
in sturdy double bags marked with the colorful chicken logo. And I’m off. It’s cold and rainy enough in Paris to use the pot immediately. But I’m going home to July heat where I will place it on the kitchen counter to admire for a few months.