When my mom and her siblings were cleaning out my grandparents' home, my mother insisted on taking an old, blue enamel 9 x 13 pan, the kind that you can find at Farm & Fleet for under ten bucks.
My grandmother used to layer thinly sliced potatoes, breaded pork chops and onions in the pan. A little bit of water went into the bottom, then it was covered in foil and baked. The end result was melt-in-your-mouth chops, tender steamed potatoes and awesome onions.
Though my mom made the dish often, it never tasted right made in any other pan.
At our Christmas potluck today, my tablemates and I were discussing the fact that it's often hard to duplicate a favorite dish made by a family member, even if the recipe is written down. They always taste a bit different, due to inaccurate measurements in the recipe (how big is a "handful"?), a different pan, or simply missing the person who usually makes it.
I'd described the pan and the dish, and a coworker is also half Sicilian (her other half is Irish, while mine is German - like she said, what was the good Lord thinking?) laughed and said she'd had it growing up as well, as it's a very Sicilian dish.
That led to a conversation about anchovy bread, and sfinchuni, and other wonderful foods.
I actually have everything on hand for the pork dish. Alas, while I have a blue enamel pan (not the pan), it's sized to roast a large turkey, not four chops. Still, I can make do with a ceramic casserole dish.
But as good as it will be, it won't be quite the same.