a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Nov, 2016

A bit about a very vintage dutch oven

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Back in the 1930s, an order of nuns moved to my neighbourhood, long before it was really even a neighbourhood. In fact, the eldest remaining nun in the order is 104 years old (!) and when she moved here she described it like living in the country. The woods of Westboro, can you imagine?

For many years the nuns ran a school on one end of the block, in the same building they lived and prayed. In the late 1980s they built a larger building on the other end of the block. In the beginning, it was used as temporary housing for single travelling Catholic women who needed a place to stay. Ten years ago the remaining nuns of the order sold their original house and moved into the newer building. That building is now to be sold and the remaining nuns are moving out this month.

This past weekend, the nuns had a massive moving sale. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Everything was up for grabs, right down to their knitting needles, feather dusters, staplers, watering cans, and laundry baskets. The sale started on Friday, which is when I dropped by the first time. The place was packed with neighbours, shoppers, all shoulder to shoulder, rummaging through the lifetime accumulation of this group women who’d given their lives to God and to their charitable work.

It was all feeling a bit strange to me but I gravitated to the kitchen. I’ve always been attracted to domestic items of days gone by and the secret history they’ve absorbed. There were stacks of trays, pot and pans, cutting boards, and cooking utensils. Among all of this kitchen chaos I spotted a large, oval dutch oven. It called to me. It was totally old school, heavy, with a lid. I figured it must be at least 50 years old but there were no markings on it. If there had been, they were worn away after years of heavy use.

My very vintage dutch oven

It was ten bucks. (!) I bought it and I am quite pleased with myself. How many hands have touched it? How many meals has it provided? I can’t even fathom.

I wanted to speak to one of the nuns – one that I’ve gotten to know recently – and say a proper goodbye so I returned Saturday, pretty much on a whim. I wasn’t really expecting to buy anything, but I shoved some money in my pocket just in case. (Clearly, I was fooling myself.) A good friend had texted me some photos of three mid-century chairs she’d grabbed. (Three chairs for $36!) So I was half-looking for something similar. I did find a sturdy wooden chair to replace our old office chair. It was $8, I gave them ten. I know the money will be going to a good purpose.

I did eventually find Sister Yvette to say goodbye. I asked her how she was feeling. She told me it was a mixed blessing, that it was wonderful to feel the love of her community but hard to say goodbye and close this chapter. Then, her eyes lit up for a moment. “I have something for you,” she said. She went into the next room and returned with a box. It was a Christmas puzzle, a snowman. I was so pleased and surprised. I thanked her, shook her hand, and went home. I’ve already decided that it’s going to be a holiday project. I will think of her as I put the pieces together.

5 Responses to "A bit about a very vintage dutch oven"

1 | joy

November 21st, 2016 at 5:12 pm


lovely story :)

2 | Katie

November 21st, 2016 at 7:03 pm


Congratulations! Wonderful find. I love old stuff for the stories trapped in them, and my musings about them.

3 | Brenda A

November 21st, 2016 at 7:35 pm


Love that tale.

4 | Anne

November 24th, 2016 at 11:24 pm


Lovely story, and a great choice Andrea! Sorry I missed the sale. :-(

5 | Melissa

November 28th, 2016 at 4:02 pm


I’m so disappointed I missed the sale!! :(
Glad to hear there was a good turn out.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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