History

The following article was not written for this site. Yikes! The original was here: http://www.youpickedawinner.com/desco_hist.html but that site seems to have gone away. I (Kevin) don’t mean to trample on anyone’s copyrights… but it would be a shame if this info (from a very well written piece) disappeared entirely. So, it’s informative and falls under fair use.

. . .

Descoware was the signature cookware of Julia Child and was featured regularly on her cooking show during the 1960′s.  She praised it highly for its quality and durability.

Descoware originally was known as Bruxelles Ware at its inception.  Manufactured in Oudenaarde, Belgium, it was imported into the United States through the Ufinindo International Corporation of New York beginning in the mid-1940′s (see label below).  By the early 1950′s, the D.E. Sanford Company (D.E.S.Co.) had been established here in the U.S. with branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.  Thus the name Descoware was born.

The gradient red to orange “Flame” pattern was their trademark and soon Descoware became well known as the creme de la creme of cookware.  It seemed you could find a piece in almost every home, whether it was a skillet or Dutch Oven or covered casserole.

By the mid-1950′s, the D.E. Sanford Company had changed its name to the Descoware Corporation, headquartering itself in Los Angeles, and by the mid-1960′s Descoware had become a subsidiary of General Housewares Corporation, also of Los Angeles (yes, the same GHC of Magnalite fame … as well as Wagner Cast Iron, which by this time included the Griswold trademarks as well).

Eventually, increasing business costs and competition from other manufacturers forced GHC to discontinue the importing of wares manufactured in Belgium.  By the late 1960′s, GHC had already begun to expand the Descoware line to include heavy gauge steel enamelware accessory items manufactured in Japan.  By the mid-1970′s, further loss of market share to Le Creuset (who had begun a very aggressive marketing campaign) and other French cookware manufacturers such as Cousances and Staub (another French culinary mainstay), combined with cheaper labor costs and raw materials readily available in Asia, led GHC to shift manufacture of its enameled cast iron line to Japan as well; however, this was short-lived, as the American market was not overly receptive to the new product (known as Finesse), even though it started offering the designer colors so craved by the buying public. The first Finesse products were made in Belgium, then later production moved to Japan.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  Le Creuset’s aggressive marketing campaign eventually won out.  Despite the long-time endorsement of top chefs such as Julia Child who rated Descoware ahead of Le Creuset for its functionality, the fashion-conscious of America were hungry for more color variety and “trendy” designer looks.

By the late 1970′s, GHC, now struggling with profitability due to increased competition with it’s Magnalite Aluminum and Wagner Cast Iron lines, restructured itself and re-focused its energies back on the former two trademarks, which continued to be manufactured in Sidney, OH.  GHC divested itself of the Descoware trademark and sold off the rights and formulas for the patented Descoware enamels to Le Creuset.  It also discontinued the Finesse line.

In addition to gifting the world with the beautiful “flame” design, Descoware also developed and patented the super hard, grey “Glissemaille” coating which makes so many of its pieces stand out not only for durability, but for their simple beauty.

After acquiring the patents, Le Creuset continued to use the Glissemaille for several years, only recently discontinuing it.  Le Creuset also used the Descoware version of the flame coloration with grey interior for a while; however, this was also relatively short lived.  If you look at Le Creuset’s current version of “flame” you will notice that the color is much more fluorescent looking, almost like posterboard.

More about Descoware colors

Originally, the colors available were the Red/Orange “Flame” (gradient), as well as a beautiful Sunny Yellow (solid).  As time progressed, other colors that were released were Antique Gold (solid), Avocado Green (solid), Marigold Yellow (gradient), Sky Blue (gradient), Chocolate Brown (solid), and a very short run of Turquoise (solid) which was released under the Descoware Special line.  (Some of the above colors were also released under the Descoware Special line…the Descoware Special line was so-named because it related to pan sizes and set combinations.)  In the mid-1950′s the “Maple Leaf” pattern was released, which depicted a plucked stem of Red Maple Tree leaves beginning to change into fall color, imposed onto a cream colored background.   Als in the mid-1950′s, other patterned series’ known as Descorama were released.  The most popular and widely recognized Descorama pattern is the Markley series, which features a yellow background with a whimsical pattern of food items and cookware pieces painted on it and signed by the artist (Markley).  Other designs in the Descorama series were Cream colored with Vegetables, Yellow with Vegetables, Cream with Mock Tulips, Blue with Mock Tulips and Yellow with Mock Tulips.  (The latter two patterns are sometimes confused with DRU pieces from Holland, as they look strikingly similar.)

NOTE: In addition to the above colors/patterns being released under license of the Descoware name, the following colors of enameled cast iron wares were also manufactured at the Oudenaarde foundry, marketed independently or under contract to other brands:  Moss Green (solid color, unmarked), Jadeite green (solid color, unmarked) and Cornflower Blue (solid color, unmarked).

bruxelles-ware

68 Responses to History

  1. Doug says:

    I recently found a cast iron dutch oven at an estate sale stamped on the lid “made in Belgium” also stamped 30 on the opposite side of the lid. It’s 12.5″ in diameter and very heavy. It’s orange in color. Anyone know how old this might be?

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  5. Becky from Iowa says:

    I have a mystery! 4 years ago I saw a “buy it now” sky blue gradient Descoware casserole–fairly large–on Ebay, and in my rush to buy this elusive color, I failed to notice that the Seller hadn’t posted any pictures of the interior. Well, when I received my purchase, I found out why: instead of the usual smooth, shiny grey or cream interior, my casserole has a weird, dull matte black interior–slightly scratched–instead. My heart sank, for it looks all the world like early Teflon… :-(

    Since then, I have periodically Googled, trying in vain to find ANY other Descoware with a similar interior, in hopes that someone knows that this finish wasn’t teflon style, but maybe instead some safer, healthier altenative. No luck! The pan is clearly marked “Descoware”. Do I have nothing more than a very expensive door stopper? I cannot in good conscience use aging non-stick teflon style pans. Thank you!

    • Noel says:

      I am not an expert, but my Descoware also is black interior. My assumption is that since the pieces are enameled cast iron, the the interior is just cast iron without the enamel painted on it. I don’t think it’s a nonstick coating, just the material that’s underneath the enamel on the rest of the pot.

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  9. Martha Callanan says:

    Well, I just hit the Descoware jackpot today! I was recycling some newspapers at my condo complex here in Santa Fe and noticed that someone had placed a lot of items next to the dumpster on a bookcase. I realized that there were several pieces of yellow Descoware there for the taking. They are in pristine condition- three sizes of saute pans with lids, a 2.5 liter saucepan with a lid and a 3 liter Dutch oven with a lid. Free! I just can’t believe my luck! I found my first piece of Descoware, a three liter saucepan with a small saute pan that doubles as a lid for the saute pan in the flame orange color at a garage sale last summer and fell in love. I have a lot of Le Creuset cookware that I bought in France 30 years ago when I spent a year studying cooking at La Varenne in Paris. I’ve used it faithfully all these years, but I have to say I agree with Julia that the Descoware is superior.
    I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Julia Child. She was a neighbor of mine in Cambridge, MA, and she recommended La Varenne when I asked her advice about which school to attend in France. She happened to be on the Board of Advisors. When we were in our last week of the nine month Grand Diplome Course, Julia actually came and spent every morning cooking with us in the kitchen. I’ll never forget how happy we were in her presence. She was a WONDERFUL, kind, funny, thoughtful, and brilliant lady.

  10. Shahonna says:

    Can some one tell me maybe how old this piece is and what this markings mean? It is a yellow dutch oven that is Descoware. It has gray on the inside and the lid has 3 rings and the markings are FE 3 F 18. Thank you.

  11. Lisa says:

    I picked up a large yellow Descoware dutch oven at and estate sale today, it is white on the inside, and still has the original sticker on it, never used. How do I tell how old it is. I have pictures of it, if that will help.

  12. Barbara says:

    I am now using my mom’s Descoware skillets, and I’m loving them. I read on another site that some of the older enamelware, particularly the orange, yellow, and red ones, may have lead and/or cadmium in the enamel. The article didn’t refer to any particular brands. My Descoware has the grey interior so I think they should be safe, but can you tell me whether they are free from these undesirable contaminants?

  13. Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this web site needs a lot more attention.

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  14. Pinky McTuscadero says:

    Quick question about design changes – I’m looking into buying my first Descoware pieces because I love vintage, quality things (ok AND making soups). I’ve found myself partial to the flame orange and the maple leaf designs in particular…. For the orange, it seems like some pieces have a white interior and others, gray (Glissemaille I suppose?). Was the gray coating an option on certain pieces (like nonstick coatings today), or does a white interior identify something as an older piece? Also thanks in advance, this site has been a great help – as an aside it would be so nice to see a true timeline of when different products/colors/designs were available by era (if anyone has that info!)

  15. Fran says:

    I am still using a large flame descoware fry pan with wooden handle that I bought in the late 60′s. It is somewhat dull on the outside and has lost its shine on the inside, but it cooks as well today as it did when I bought it. Just isn’t as pretty. Cast iron lasts forever.

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  17. Vicki says:

    I have a small one cup Descoware pot, it is white and has vegetables on it, it came with a lig and trivet to set on, there are pour spouts on both sides. Does anyone know what this piece is? Did they make childrens sets?

  18. A says:

    Hi. I found a set of 4 Descoware tin canisters and was wondering if you know anything about them. I also found two Descoware flame red/orange cast iron piece.

    • A says:

      Nevermind. I misread the name. They are Decoware canisters. But I did get Descoware orange/red cookware. They need to be cleaned but are beautiful. I also have a Maple Leaf tea kettle that’s been in the family for a long time.

  19. Marty Meyer says:

    Just picked up the prettiest little enameled marigold-color Descoware Belgium 8 inch skillet SK-20 A, with a perfect wood handle — still has its hanging ring on the end. The inside was scorched, so I took some Barkeepers Friend and a soft cloth — no abrasives — and it looks brand new. Didn’t even have to rub hard — just beautiful.

    A nice little stir fry for me tonight!! The price at the tag sale at the church? 25 cents.

  20. Tiffany says:

    I just found a wonderful little yellow dutch oven today at a consignment store for $14. I think it could be late 40′s pre-Descoware (Bruxelles Ware)?! I would really like to know how old it is, but I can’t seem to find anything out online other than this website. The lid is stamped “Made in Belguim” and the bottom has the “Made in Belguim” indentations, but no other markings are visible. I have seem designs from the 50′s and later and mine seems to pre-date those designs. Any ideas? It is light yellow (citron?) with a white enamel inside and shell-like handles, with grooves. The lid has a very smail little handle, not like the larger lid grip handles I have seen on other Descoware items. The enamel is just slightly chipped around the handles, but it is really good shape for it’s age! Actually, it’s just like the one posted on the site below, except mine isn’t chipped as bad.

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/104550676/enamel-dutch-oven-sunny-yellow-belguim

    I appreciate anything you can tell me. Thanks!!

    • The region near Brussels had dozens (maybe hundreds) of cast iron foundries dating back a couple hundred years. World War II was a BIG disruption for manufacturing in that area. The products were pretty ordinary for their time and maker’s marks were scarce. No one knew the longevity at the time would be somewhat rare today. D.E. Sanford starting importing after the war. Sad, but the only sure mark was paper labels.

      • kathy says:

        I also have enamel ware stamped with Made in Belgium and no other markings except E or EF on the lids. They are yellow and orange and white inside with short handles (possibly made for a wooden handle to attach?) Anyway, I have a 1.5 quart saucepan-orange with lid, a 9″ fry pan with lid, orange, an 11″ fry pan with lid, FE 28 Made in Belgium inside the lid the bottom says Descoware. There were some extra small saucepan lids I don’t have pans to fit to. These came from my husband’s grandparents home. I don’t think his grandmother used them, she was an antique collector. I would like to sell them. Is there any market for them?

  21. Jan Miller says:

    My 90 yr old Mother-in-law just passed away. We went through her things and I found this dirty ol pot that looked interesting stuck in a deep shelf. I just spent 2 hours cleaning it up with a brillo pad and Bon Ami cleanser. It says Descoware made in Belguim. It has 3-C with a 12 under it, then a FE stamped into the enamel. The lid has 12 made in Belguim. It is a dutch oven with the orange/red color. Does anyone know how old this pot is and what do these numbers mean? I’m thrilled to have this little treasure.

    • Mark says:

      The size ‘C’ is 2.75 quarts to brim, the orange-red color is their signature color and was produced from 1940′s thru 1970′s, and I want to say that FE stands for ferris or iron, but this you can check on. The size ‘C’ is the smallest size that I find usable . . and so you have a nice piece. Cleaning stains from interior, do this only periodically . . fill with warm water about 3/4 to top, add 1/3 cup of bleach and mix. With lid on, place in 200 F oven for 30 minutes, lift lid and take a peak. Unless enamel really scorched, most stains should be removed or may need a few more minutes. Pour out and rinse with warm water and dry. Enjoy.

  22. Connie says:

    I was looking at the bottom on desoware i thought i would google it see where is came from.and started reading history wow, It was given to me about 5 year ago for helping being caregiver , from their daughter not knowing nothing about i love it.and still in great shape :)

  23. Patt says:

    I bought my descoware from the Speigel catalogue in the early 1970s. I have the orange flame set. It was the only thing I had in my “hope chest” when I got married. I remember dumping some of my first suppers because of a lack of wrist strength. I too have had some trouble with chipping & flaking these past 5 years. Pretty good for 40 year old pots & pans! I had no idea that these were a favorite of Julia Child!

  24. ron says:

    I have a Discoware from belgium that has been chipped can it be repaired ????? I thought this was even older then the 40,,need HELP ron

  25. sheila Stewart says:

    I was at a small town fair over the weekend and shopped at a church rummage sale. I found the wonderful flame red bean pot by Descoware. I was hesitant to ask the price on this pot, but it was very dusty, so I thought if too high I could negotiate the asking price. To my shock when I asked the price they said 75 cents. I bought it in a hurry and took it home to wash it. To my surprise it was in excellent condition and appeared to have been used, maybe once! No chips, cracks, fade and no crazing. I will be forever greatful for passing through that small town and stopping at a rummage sale to buy such a wonderful piece of cookware!

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  27. Lynn Ritsch says:

    I have a Orange Descoware dutch oven that was my grandmothers. It has been pitted on the bottom of the pan. Is there anyway to smooth out or refinish the bottom? I am not sure why this happened but it seems to make things stick.

    • Mark says:

      Unfortunately once the bottom of pan, pot, or skillet is no longer smooth to touch, stuff will stick to surface making more difficult to clean, and surface will discolor more quickly. To be honest with you, enamel surfaces that are no longer glassy smooth to touch are irreparably damaged and I do not use them for cooking anymore. I have a beautiful turquoise descoware oval dutch oven where cleaning efforts by previous owner so abraided the interior cooking surface . . that it is forever damaged for cooking. It does sit on an island in our kitchen and we keep wrapped cookies, candy bars, etc., in it. So all is not completely lost.

  28. Barbara Camp says:

    Has anyone had a fry pan with ribbed bottom? There is no place for a marking but I think it is Descoware. It is 22 cm and in flame. TIA

    • Rebecca says:

      Yes, I have two fry pans, both Red Flame (looks orange) with a grid-like ribbed bottom, 12 inch and 9 1/2 inch, with wooded screw-on handles. I bought them for a ‘song’ at a thrift store. Such a deal! Marked clearly Descoware, tho. Love these pans, but they are heavy, and I have to be in the mood to wrestle with them! Have other pieces, too. Julia Child was right.

    • Terina says:

      Does this have the word “France” on the underside of the handle? If so, it is likely unmarked early Le Creuset/Cousance. I have–in addition to my beloved Descoware–a set of three small lemon-curd yellow fry pans, the smaller two marked Le Creuset in the iron with heat rings, and the larger one with a ribbed bottom and no brand name, but it is clearly part of the same set. I also have a Cousances oval roaster with a ribbed bottom that bears the AC mark associated with Cousances pieces. Hope this helps!

    • There was an unenaled series made in the early seventies, but it did include the name on the bottom. You can see it here (about the third picture in): http://descoware.com/cookware-enamel-antique-gold

  29. Christina Hornsby says:

    My father’s family did a lot of traveling through Europe after WWII, one of his aunts especially. We’ve had the pieces she purchased in Belgium sitting in a crate in our storage. I have since unearthed them and pulled out a skillet and the Dutch oven for my self and the rest will be used by my brother. It’s amazing that I’m cooking with pots and pans older than my parents!

  30. Pete Phillips says:

    I have a large roasting pan that is marked FE40, but does not have the Descoware label on it. Is this Descoware. I was told that some of the early ones didn’t.
    Pete

  31. Cheryl Rielly says:

    I have a small dutch oven that was my mothers, I’m sure it was a wedding present or something. She never added to the set. I love this cookwear and have a couple of other pieces from another brand. I will definitely be looking for this from now on. Any recommendations on the best places to find it?????

  32. Holly Tomey says:

    I have an orange flame Descoware pot that was my grandmother’s. She died in 1973 and my mom used it and loved it until she passed away as well in 2004. The enamel has been worn through to the iron, can I still use it? Can I have it re-enameled? It means so much to me and I would love to be able to cook with it.

    • Mark says:

      There is a place in Canada that will re-enamel completely any piece you send them. They are not set-up to do touch-ups, but will re-enamel entire pieces. They start by removing all enamel from piece and then a two-coat re-enamel process. They charge approximately $10.00/inch. So if for example a dutch oven is 9 inches diameter or long, not including handles, you would pay $90.00 plus shipping and handling. Last I am familiar, they offer choice of three colors If you are interested, I can email you their web-site.

      • Jon Fightlin says:

        Need to know the company that refinishes Descoware. Thanks

      • Henry Kelly says:

        Hello Mark, that outfit in Canada that does re-enameling of cast iron cookware..Could you forward their address..Great info on Descoware. My wife has used a 9 inch skillet for over 40 years and it needs a refurb..Many thanks and Happy Holidays, Hank Kelly

    • June McEldowney says:

      Of course you can still use it! The beauty of this type of cookware is that nothing is toxic. When the finish is chipped, the cast iron is revealed, and cast iron cooks just fine.

  33. Julie says:

    I just brought home from my mom’s an 8″ yellow pan with a wooden handle that my mom bought in Hawaii in 1959- she bought 4 of them and had used only the one that I remember from childhood; the others were just stored on a high shelf, cuz, hey, these things NEVER wear out! So mine is brand new- and I am so excited to have it! Sentimental memories and great cooking.

  34. Sean says:

    I have a Descoware pot (Dutch oven) which is about 12″ Diameter, 3″ high, sky blue with a white interior. It was my mother’s and probably was new in 1970. It’s a great tool but unfortunately, there is some crazing and some chips appearing in the enamel inside. Does anyone know if there is any place that can repair the enamel?

  35. Karen says:

    I have finally used my descoware oval roaster last night! I have had this for years, coming from my mother-in-law, and just had it stored in my cabinet because of sentimental reasons! What a treat my family enjoyed last night, pot roast and vegetables from the oven. I am going to make more use out of this cookware, that is for sure. I will be looking for more Descoware soon…

  36. Victoria says:

    I never thought about my cookware until I started seeing the Le Creuset in stores, I have had my Descoware pot and a yellow & grey fry pan with a wooden handle since my grandma passed in 1975. She always bought nice cookware and I have alot of it because my mom didn’t like the heavy stuff and gave it to me. But those are the only 2 pieces I have of Descoware.

  37. Lorie says:

    Today my husband and I went to an auction an we purchased a yellow oblong oval enameled piece of cast iron cookware. I was so excited to find this site and to discover all the history that goes along with it. All though no one seems to talk about this specific piece. I am anxious to know if anyone can tell me more specifics about it. I absolutely love to cook for my family of six and can’t wait to try out this piece!

  38. Carole says:

    I followed some autions on eBay for Descoware but could never get a Dutch oven for a bargain price. Just this last week I happened on a large and small set of green Descoware Dutch ovens (without lids) and matching small skillet and saucepan in the local Goodwill. The ovens are marked 1-B 6 and 2-E 10. Both are also marked F-E Belgium. I don’t know what the markings mean. I got these pieces, which cleaned up very nicely, with glass lids that fit well, all for under $20. I am thrilled with them and leave them on display in my kitchen.

  39. Mrs Reed says:

    Has anyone heard of a descoware teakettle from Belgium with a maple leaf design? I have one, but I can”t find a picture or any mention of one.

  40. Rachel says:

    Lucky me! I just found a (FE 8) 2.5 roaster and lid for $10 and a (FE 7) casserole dish for $4 in beautiful condition. I found them at a thrift shop. I guess another man’s junk is another’s treasure. I have several size pots and pans that I have found that way! I use them ALL the time. Julia Child was a very smart woman!

    • jackie barnett says:

      I just got into antiques, and was wondering where you found your info on Descoware. I have some pieces i cant find. Your help would be so much appreciated.

  41. Nancy says:

    I’m a real new comer to this type of cookware. I live near Christchurch New Zealand and found a brown cast iron sauce pan (M/80-D 20) in a garage sale. I have since found out it is Descoware by the E and back to front F on it.
    Can anyone tell me what all the numbers mean?
    Thanks

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  43. Karen says:

    I used to work for Descoware Corp. and D. E Sanford in Los Angeles in the late sixties and let me tell you, what a joy it was. The people there, including all the other manufacturers’ reps, were so good at what they did and were so kind. I had just about every piece of Descoware that was ever made and in all the different colors. I still have quite a few pieces and have no intention of parting with them. Started out with the Flame and the Yellow. They eventually made other colors. Their chief competitor was Le Crueset. D. E. Sanford was the manufacturer rep for KitchenAid, among others. What deals we got at that time! I wish I had invested in some of the better KitchenAid products that were made at the time. I am sure they would still be good.

    • Hi Karen! I would love to hear more about your time at Descoware. You are Nancy’s mother, maybe?

    • dominic says:

      since you worked there I ask: do you remember anything made in pink?
      i have a pink dutch oven not marked but the same one was on RubyLane & the seller is sure it’s Descoware. She called the color Dusty Rose. I can’t find mention of this color anywhere or a similar oven made by anyone. any thoughts?
      thanks for your contribution! dom

  44. Emily says:

    I have been absolutely fascinated with induction cooking for over 10 years, but I am not certain if LeCreuset or Descoware or Cousance can be used. Can someone please help me with this before I purchase more of these items? I know that cast iron is acceptable, but I don’t know if all of these three brands basis is cast iron.

  45. Eugene West says:

    A pal encoraged me to check out this site, brill post, fanstatic read… keep up the cool work!

  46. Carin says:

    My great grandparents lived in Belgium and had many children including my grandmother. I am of the second generation born in America.

    Amazingly, I do not recall any of my many aunts nor my mother cooking in bright orange/red or yellow colored cookware.

    While shopping on EBAY for affordable recycled Le Creuset, I discovered Descoware. I was quite amazed when I realized that Descoware was made in Belgium and used by Julia Child during many of her episodes of The French Chef.

    One of my favorites pieces of Descoware is the three quart flame bean pot that sits upon Julia Child’s stove now within the Smithonian Institute.

    Each time I cook in one of my Descoware pieces, I appreciate its fine quality and my Belgium heritage!

    Horray for Descoware and Julia Child!!

    • Shannon says:

      I will say that I have been to Belgium only once, but I had some of the best food of my life there, actually even much better than much French food, with wonderful attention to detail and technique. So it is not a surprise that descoware was made in Belgium. I am beginning to think this is a country with an underappreciated culinary legacy. I am buying my first descoware, maybe I can recreate some yummy dishes from my time there.

  47. Nancy says:

    At our beach house we have always had the “flame” Descoware round enameled cast iron pot and lid. My mother worked in the test kitchens of General Foods in the late 60′s and early 70′s, which is how she procured it (along with a Kitchen Aid still in use today). We all love cooking with it!

  48. Teresa says:

    Coincidence, or not, while in Cape May NJ, this past week, we went to see Julie and Julia-and loved it! The following morning, I was rummaging through an antique store and found an oval casserole of unknown origin(to me), but because it was in decent shape and from Belgium, it picked it up for $8! When I arrived home from our vacation, I looked it up and found that this was Julia Child’s preferred cookware. Last night I made some delicious roasted veggies that cooked and browned beautifully in my new(old) cookware!

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