“I think I’ll write about the Wonder Pot,” I told my office-mate today.
“Wonder Pot? What’s that?” she replied.
How the mighty have fallen. The Wonder Pot, once a staple component in any new immigrant to Israel’s aliya kit, has been relegated to the footnotes of cookery history, with even native Israelis referring to any old bundt pan as a “seer pele”. But any old bunt pan is not a Wonder Pot, as one can plainly see from this picture right here.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia
First of all, it is a lot more unattractive than a bundt pan – and the photos doesn’t show the rusty heat dispersal ring resting between the burner and the pot – really one of the things that put me off using the Wonder Pot for several months when first I arrived in the early 80s. It seemed like a throwback to the 50s, which it was, and not in a good way.
But, in those dark pre-microwave days, other people kept raving about this miraculous stove-top oven that allowed one to bake cakes and casseroles without an oven. In fact, you could bake ding-dang anything in a Wonder Pot, as long as you didn’t mind an entire table laid out with ring after ring of circular fare. And if you weren’t sure what to make, you could always refer to Sybil Zimmerman’s best-seller The Wonders Of a Wonder Pot, a bookshelf standard at the time, along with the Moosewood Cookbook.
More images of the Wonder Pot and other bits of Israeli kitchenalia (yes, there really is such a word) may be found here.
So what happened to the wonderous Wonder Pot? Israelis got baking ovens, says celebrity chef and cookbook author Phyllis Glazer. “As fuel became more available and ovens became more available people realized they could make greater quantities in faster time, instead of slow-cooking on the stove top. And it also became associated with the austerity regime (tzena) and poor people.”
“Personally, I have very fond memories of the Wonder Pot,” Glazer says. “I never saw anything like it before I came to Israel. It was revolutionary for me, coming from the United States. I didn’t see it as primitive! For me, it was a very interesting scientific thing.”
In a recent wonder(pot)ful developlment, a new housewares store called “Seer Pele” has opened in Jerusalem’s Talpiot industrial zone. So the legacy of the Wonder Pot lives on (even though young Israelis think it’s a bundt pan).