Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cast Iron

I am still a pretty mediocre cook, but I have gotten much better than I used to be. Our family is very blessed that we have an old-fashioned “Leave It to Beaver” lifestyle. Mr. Blessed is able to come home for lunch. What would have been unremarkable for my great-grandmother’s generation is almost unheard of for my own. This means I get to prepare three interesting, nutritious, and frugal meals each day, seven days a week. It is certainly practice!

I have developed quite particular taste in cookware. I threw out all of my non-stick cookware and now only use cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans. And, oh, how I love my cast iron!

I think I have such devotion because my first pan was so entirely hard to use at first. Lodge claims that their cast iron is pre-seasoned but that is balderdash. I tried seasoning using their instructions, but it just wasn’t working. I will admit, Gentle Reader, that my first cast iron pan had me in tears. I would coat it with a thin coat of shortening and bake it for hours in our oven, smoking our apartment up miserably. Nothing I did would work. The surface would turn black in patches, not glassy the way I thought it was supposed to. But I persevered. I cooked nothing but sausages in it for the first four times or so (much to the delight of Mr. Blessed). I continued seasoning it in the oven over night, trying low heat as if I were cooking a turkey, and high heat if I could steal 30 minutes here or there. Finally, after several months, the pan transformed, taking on a hard, beautiful gloss. It cleaned up quickly and effortlessly. I no longer saw traces of brown on the paper towel when I lightly greased it for storage. I felt such accomplishment!

My second pan I have allowed to mellow on its own, as I am more confident in the process. It has taken much longer to season, however, and it still doesn’t have the super gloss of my first pan. However, the process of using cast iron and watching it season is actually quite psychically rewarding. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, and a funny sense of devotion. I truly love my cast iron pans, and can’t wait to add more to the collection. I am even excited about decorating our kitchen with cast iron pieces. I think that cast iron frustrates a lot of people, and it tends to get discarded easily. Taking old cast iron and breathing new life into it is a great way to reach back to our past, to a time when cookware had more personality.

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