In the Hands of a Master, a Saucepan Can Be Deadly…

Yes, it is true–anything can be a weapon, including a saucepan.

And while it is true that the lady pictured here, 70-year-old Ellen Basinski of Elyria, Ohio, did use her favorite anodized aluminum Emeril Lagasse saucepan to defend herself and her home from four would-be burglars yesterday, she did not actually kill any of them with it.

She only injured one of them.

I guess they should be lucky that she didn’t favor Lodge cast iron skillets, or Le Creuset because I can guarantee you, that one of those wielded by even the least stout of Grandmas would certainly put a hurting on someone.

In the hands of a healthy, muscular woman such as myself–a cast iron pan could easily kill.

One good blow to any part of the head could crush a skull or break a neck.

I won’t even go into the lethal possibilities of being on the wrong side of a Chinese cleaver or a long French chef’s knife.

Even a pair of chopsticks, if wielded with precision and malicious intent can be fatal.

I applaud Mrs. Basinski for her resourcefulness, determination and grit in the face of four admittedly incompetent criminals. However, if the foursome had been armed with anything–knives or worse, a handgun, she may well have paid for her temerity with her life.

And a few dollars are never worth that.

Although, I do understand her instinct to not give in to the demands of criminals. While I will give money away to those who need it, either when asked or just by giving when I see a need, I am not so apt to want to acquiesce to the impositions of those who try to bully anyone they perceive as weaker than they are. And that is one of the lessons that is apparent in this story–criminals favor easy targets. When the seemingly helpless old woman turned out to have access to a makeshift weapon and the will and strength to use it, they quit the scene rather than continue to contend with her.

But, she is still lucky they were not armed.

When I read the story to Zak, Morganna, and Brittany, they shook their heads. In addition to applauding the Xena-like prowess of Mrs. Basinski, they all had one thing to say–hopefully no one would have the temerity to attempt a home invasion while Morganna, Brittany and I were in the kitchen. Since all three of us grew up in tough parts of a city (and me half in the city and half in the country where I had access to all sorts of deadly things like guns, knives, woodworking tools, farming implements and chainsaws), our first instinct would be to fight with whatever was handy.

And in my kitchen, that includes lots of cast iron skillets, a steel rolling pin and a Chinese cleaver sharp enough to shave with.

Zak said we would be the culinary equivalent of “The Heroic Trio”, which he dubbed “The Anti-Heroic Trio.”

Note: The photo of our heroine above is from The Cleveland Plain Dealer


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  1. Have you ever heard of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mystery novels? It’s essentially Murder She Wrote but with a young bakery owner as a heroine. In one (I think Blueberry Muffin Murder) she actually apprehends a killer using an cast iron pan!

    Comment by Zebe912 — February 26, 2009 #

  2. Actually, she’s just lucky, period. 4 on 1? I wouldn’t take that with a bat. While she was swinging, one of the others could have easily just knocked her down.

    911 is your friend, folks.

    Comment by The Bad Yogi — February 26, 2009 #

  3. Thinking about how the would-be-bandits would explain one cracked head I started to laugh. Then sober thoughts occurred that in these trying times more and more of these things are going to happen and we do need to be careful. However, they should know that old age and treachery out rank youth and stupidity. Yea to the lady and her killer saucepan.

    Comment by Maureen — February 27, 2009 #

  4. “I picked up the saucepan and smacked him right on the head,” she said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Lady, why did you do that?’ And I hit him again.”

    *Why did you do that*?? That was what got me laughing. He’s just innocently robbing this old lady’s house, and she’s mean enough to smack him with a pan! Can you believe the manners these days?

    Comment by Christy — February 27, 2009 #

  5. She was on Good Morning America today and Emeril told her he’d send her a whole new set of pots and pans. The police took the one she used on the burglar as evidence.

    Comment by artcargirl — February 27, 2009 #

  6. ….I’ve thought of this before, the only weapons in my house are in the kitchen (since golf was given up). I use heavy French and German ware (yes, Le
    Creuset), but if an intruder entered and I was able to reach it, the weapon with the deadliest potential is a German schnitzel pounder…very heavy, perfectly balanced etc. It would be fatal!

    Sad we sometimes think like this…I am alone most of the time….

    Comment by mac — February 27, 2009 #

  7. “Criminals favor easy targets.”

    I would amend that to say, predators favor targets who will not defend themselves. It’s helpful to try and put yourself in the shoes of a psychopathic predator (and psychopaths are at a generally constant percentage of the population): they have no empathy, are physiologically incapable of empathy, and truly enjoy watching you suffer. That’s difficult for people like us who feel others’ pain without having to think about it, but it’s the only way we can come about finding a solution to this very personal problem.

    The “submission position” was extremely popular in the 90s among liberal intellectuals who believed that owning of a handgun was the hallmark of brutal barbarism in American culture. If an individual is well trained and ready to use a handgun in her self-defense, then might she be able to use it to preserve her life in the event of a violent attack? If her would-be predatory murderers feared that she might have killed them, might they have moved on to a target that they thought was less likely to fight back?

    (If a man wants to violently rape a woman, is it okay for her to shoot him, or should she submit to his demands?)

    This is a lesson that more liberals are learning every day. (Google John Henderson — The lesson is: your life and your livelihood are worth defending. Violence ceases to be a “social problem” when you’re looking down the barrel of the wrong end of a gun. At that point, it’s personal, not social, and it’s about you, an individual whose life and livelihood are inherently worth saving from psychopathic predators.

    It was the “submit, be weak, don’t fight back” position that kept me from being a liberal in the 90s. From the people that always claimed to be enlightened and superior, it was, to me, an obvious effort to be militantly stupid from a position of safety and prestige, from people whose greatest fear was the possibility of being humiliated among his peers. I think their position was incredibly out-of-touch and elite, something the liberal class always claimed they were not.

    Barbara, you clearly get it, and I laud you for it. The liberals who don’t get it tell me that I, a gay man, should submit and be weak to conservative rednecks who might want to kill me. ( Maybe that may help some liberals see why I don’t see them as “enlightened” at all.

    Comment by Jim — February 28, 2009 #

  8. A bit late to the post, but this made me smile. My own grandmother, who at the time was in her sixties and a rather petite woman, was in a similar situation. My aunt had an abusive husband and one day she came to my grandmother’s house to escape him. He followed and broke the door down to get at her. Now my grandmother is from southern central Tennessee and she has big ole cast iron skillets for making fried chicken, biscuits & gravy, and cornbread. She picked up her biggest skillet and started beating him with it. Blood was shed and he fled for his life. I think the only thing that saved him from a crushed skull was that she was so short and couldn’t properly get at his head.

    He never bothered my aunt or grandmother ever again. 😀

    Comment by Benjamin — March 4, 2009 #

  9. Jim–I hear you. And yeah, I have had my arguments with other liberals (I consider myself liberal to the point that I might as well call myself a socialist, except I favor citizen’s right to bear arms) over issues very similar to what you describe. I am of the opinion that there are times when submission will save your life, but most of the time, you are better off fighting, making noise, fighting some more and then fleeing. I taught my first daughter this, and plan to teach the little one the same thing. When your instincts tell you to fight or flee–listen to them. The gut knows–as I suspect you know, Jim.

    Benjamin–your story brought a smile to me. I, too, once lived in an abusive situation and have been beaten and nearly killed by a spouse. (Not Zak, just so everyone knows–he helped get mw away from the abuser.) And I only wish that I had been able to flee to someone who had as much gumption as your grandmother. Actually, my Gram did have that much gumption–she’d have done the same thing had my husband had the temerity to seek me out at her house, but he didn’t. And besides, by the time I did flee, she had become too frail for pan-slinging.

    But the story of your grandmother made me smile–thank you so much for sharing.

    And better late than never!

    Comment by Barbara — March 4, 2009 #

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