Mia – November 13, 2017
A few weeks before my parents retired to their North Carolina bungalow, my mom lugged a box of copper pots into my kitchen. “I got these on our honeymoon,” she said, as I hefted the largest of the three weighty pots. “It’s time to pass them along to you, now that you’ll be taking on more of the holiday cooking after we move.”
I arched an eyebrow in her direction, but I knew she was right. From now on, my parents would travel north to spend major holidays with my brother and me and our families, and we would have an “anytime” vacation place in Asheville in exchange.
The pots were familiar, of course. They hung, gleaming, from the rack above my mom’s kitchen window for as long as I can remember. But she only used them occasionally—for a special meal, or when company was coming for dinner.
I suddenly realized I didn’t know anything about them. “What would possess you to shop for cookware on your honeymoon?” I asked.
“These aren’t just any pots, Mia,” my mother said, laughing. “They’re from Georg Jensen and, being copper, are relatively rare.”
Jensen, who died in 1935, was a world-famous Danish silversmith who opened his first shop in Copenhagen in 1904. He was celebrated for his art nouveau jewelry, flatware and hollowware designs and by the 1920s had opened retail shops in London, Berlin and New York. Jensen lived to see his work collected by museums in Denmark and Germany and to inspire the designers who continue to create beautiful pieces under the Jensen name.
As my parents strolled hand-in-hand down Copenhagen’s Strøget pedestrian street in August 1979, my love-struck dad suggested they duck into the Georg Jensen flagship store so he could buy my mom a piece of silver jewelry to commemorate their honeymoon.
She loved the idea of owning her own piece of Danish decorative history. But as she perused the store’s delicate bracelets and brooches, her eye was drawn by the warm glow of a nearby display of Taverna copper pots. They were the work of Jensen master craftsman Henning Koppel, whose tiny HK hallmark graced the bottom of each pot.
My mom had learned that copper pots are excellent cooking vessels because they conduct heat so evenly. The Jensen pots were lined in silver, which struck her as incredibly luxurious, and finished with sleekly modern stainless steel handles.
“Would you mind if I take my silver inside of a set of copper pots?” she asked my dad, who was only too happy to indulge her and to commit on the spot to polishing them after every use.
For almost 40 years, those copper pots have contributed smooth gravies, perfectly simmered Brussels sprouts and creamy mashed potatoes to our Thanksgiving feasts. We love our Danish roots, but Thanksgiving is the quintessential American meal, and there’s no point messing with perfection.
Our only nod to Denmark is a thin slice of squash cake, which shares space on each dessert plate with a piece of pumpkin pie. I’ve started to pull together my recipes for this year’s Thanksgiving meal and am looking forward to welcoming my parents—and assuring them I know my way around a vintage Georg Jensen pot (no sharp utensils to damage that delicate silver lining).
I couldn’t wait to ask Farfar, my new friend at The Danish Home, if he was familiar with Georg Jensen. Sure enough, he told me about his mother’s silverware, a delicate Jensen pattern called Akkeleje, which soon will grace his daughter Kristin’s Thanksgiving table.
That led Farfar to happy stories of holiday meals during his childhood in Denmark and, later, those he shared with his wife and young children in Chicago. But never one to linger too long on the past, he told me how much he loves our American holiday and its emphasis on gratitude.
“I’m lucky,” Farfar said with a wink. “I get to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner twice—here at The Danish Home and again at Kristin’s house.”
Two Thanksgiving meals? What could be better than that?