When a friend gave me a gift of a cast iron pan, I was very appreciative. She’s a great cook and she swore by her great-grandmother’s hand-me-down cast iron pan.
Apparently it had been in the family since they migrated east from the great plains in the 1800’s where they used to cook scorpions in their cast iron pans over an open flame when Billy the Kid came for dinner. I don’t actually know if that’s true, but it made for a good story. Anyway, I am not a great cook so I thought anything that could make me a better cook was worth a try. Emboldened by my new gear, I was all ready to take my pan out for a sear when my friend stopped me and told me there was something I had to do first.
“You have to season the pan,” she advised.
I had no idea what she was talking about. I know all about the change of seasons. I’m very adept at giving season’s greetings. And I know when something is out of season. But when it came to seasoning pans, I didn’t have a clue.
“Are we winter-proofing it?” I wondered. “Doing some spring cleaning? Falling back? Springing ahead? Help me out here.”
She chuckled. “When you season a cast iron pan you coat it with cooking oil to make it non-stick.”
“Ah, okay, that sounds simple enough,” I replied. “Is that it?”
“No, there’s more.”
I listened as she gave me a laundry list of cast iron pan rules. Don’t use soap to wash it. Don’t let water sit in it. Don’t let it air dry. Don’t boil water in it. Don’t use it in the microwave. Don’t cook flaky fish in it. Don’t use a metal spatula. I started to tune her out when she got to the part about not feeding it after midnight or it would turn into a gremlin.
I started to tune her out when she got to the part about not feeding it after midnight or it would turn into a gremlin.
This was not turning out to be the wonder tool I thought it was going to be. As much as I wanted to be a better cook, the one thing I did not need was a complicated frying pan. I already had a high-maintenance dog and a high-maintenance husband. I didn’t need a high-maintenance cooking appliance to boot. I knew exactly the way this would go down. First would come the seasoning, then the special drying towels, and then the next thing I knew, I’d have to buy the pan fancy cooking oils and shower it with expensive gifts just to get it to make a stupid grilled cheese sandwich. No thanks.
As my friend rattled on about her grandmother’s cast iron pan, I wondered who’s idea it was to bring this thing back into fashion anyway. What was wrong with good old Teflon? So what if her grandmother cooked on a cast iron pan. That didn’t make it better. It just made it older. Her grandmother also cleaned her clothes on a washboard and didn’t have email. Who wants that?
I could see that this cast iron pan was going to take over my life. Today the kitchen… tomorrow the world. I loved the idea of a cast iron pan, but it was clear I was going to have to simplify the whole process.
“All of that sounds great,” I said to her. “But I think there’s really only one thing I need to do,” I said.
“What’s that?” she wondered.
“Get take out.”
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